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updated: 9/15/2012 6:16 PM

Prospect puts its best foot forward

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By Michael Eaken
Daily Herald Correspondent

If the Prospect girls cross country team was looking for a boost, it certainly got one on Saturday at the Bill Dortch/Harry Carlson Libertyville Invitational.

Senior Brooke Wolfe (18:09) and senior Lauren Poplawski (19:00) finished third and sixth, respectively, in helping Prospect nip defending Class 3A state champion New Trier 40-45 in the 10-team field at Adler Park.

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"It's certainly a nice win," said Prospect coach Dave Wurster. "We're just trying to work on what we do, but it is nice to finally get first."

New Trier senior Courtney Ackerman torched the field by taking first in a course-record time of 17:12. She finished 24 seconds in front of sophomore teammate Mimi Smith (17:34).

Last week Ackerman won the First to the Finish Line race in Peoria in an impressive 16:45, and the Trevians senior kept rolling on Saturday on the hilly Libertyville course.

"Right now I'm feeling really good," said Ackerman who has placed her name on the short list for individual state contenders along with Lake Park senior Kaylee Flanagan and Glenbard West junior Madeline Perez. "But I don't want to look too far ahead. I just want to take it one race at a time."

Wolfe stayed with lead pack through the first mile, then fell off the torrid pace set by Ackerman. But the Prospect senior hung tough in pacing the Knights' attack.

"It's really exciting," said Wolfe. "We looked really good as a team and we're working on closing the gap. We're aiming for state and we haven't reached our peak yet."

The Knights' pack kept the pressure on with sophomore Ellen Siefke (19:14), junior Katrina Leeney (19:22), and junior Rachel Henk (19:26) taking eighth, 11th, and 12th.

Last year, New Trier finished 20 points in front of Prospect at Libertyville, so Saturday's victory definitely gave the Knights a shot of confidence.

"We knew coming in that New Trier was really good," said Poplawski. "It gave us a lot motivation. We've been focusing on the back pack and they executed today."

New Trier went wire to wire without a loss in its state championship run last season, but the Trevians have yet to win a major invitational this fall. They finished second to Glenbard West at Hinsdale Central Invitational and then second behind Naperville North at the First to the Finish Invite.

New Trier was without all-state runner Jessica Ackerman on Saturday, so the Trevians are not pushing the panic button yet.

"A lot of teams are looking great, and Prospect looked good today," said Courtney Ackerman. "But we're going to keep looking toward November and give our best that day. It doesn't matter up until that point."

Junior Kathleen Keene (18:52) aided New Trier with a fifth-place finish.

Libertyville sophomore Kristi Del Prato continued to impress on Saturday, taking fourth place and leading the Wildcats to a fourth-place team finish with 99 points.

Del Prato was a Class 3A state qualifier last season, and the sophomore used that experience on Saturday as she chased the lead pack.

"I was trying to hang onto the pack for as long as I could," said Del Prato, who says she's feeling more comfortable this season. "I just want to see what I can do. I kind of know what everything is about this year."

Libertyville is still missing senior Nicole Jaffke, who is out with an injury. But senior Carly Stewart (19:57), senior Abigail Toohey (20:03), and freshman Hannah Manetsch (20:06) stepped up by taking 21st, 24th, and 25th place.

Lockport (56 points) finished third, with Highland Park (168 points) and Deerfield (186 points) and Wheeling (186 points) taking fifth through seventh place.

Richard Springs Memorial Invitational: Lake Park senior Kaylee Flanagan continued her roll by taking first in an amazing 16:21 at the Richard Springs Memorial Invitational at Detweiller Park in Peoria.

The Lancers senior set a course record, eclipsing the state record set by Woodstock's Kayla Beattie (16:22) at the 2010 Class 2A state meet.

"This is like a mock state meet," said Flanagan. "I just wanted to go out fast because that is what it is going to be like at state."

Junior Madeline Perez (16:29) and sophomore Lisa Luczak (17:00) finished second and fifth in leading Glenbard West to an impressive first-place team finish with 115 points.

The Hilltoppers had five girls finish in the top 42 in taking the top honors in the loaded 53-team field that featured seven of the top 15 teams in the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches poll.

Last week, No. 2 Glenbard West finished second to No. 3 Lake Park at the Lancers Invitational. But Caitlyn Reick (18:05) returned to the lineup this week and aided the Hilltoppers with a 33rd-place finish.

Senior Samantha Montalbano (17:40) took 15th and teamed with Flanagan to help Lake Park take second with 142 points.

Palatine senior Tess Wasowicz (17:20) took seventh place, and junior Jessica Lincoln (17:44) and junior Liz Cox (17:56) added 18th and 22nd place to pace the fifth-ranked Pirates to a third-place finish with 142 points

St. Viator senior Hanna Winter (17:39) ran to an impressive 14th-place finish in leading the Lions to 20th place.

Schaumburg sophomore Caroline Kurdej (17:42) took 17th place as No. 11 Schaumburg finished 13th.

• Dave Cox contributed to this report.

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