That was how Glenbard West's Lisa Luczak described her Saturday at St. James Farm in Warrenville. The weather was great. Her team ran well and she topped the Flight 2 field with a personal-best time of 16:54 on the 2.95-mile course.
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All that was missing was a team title for the Hilltoppers, who came ever so close before falling one point short of defending Class 3A champion New Trier, which topped the 31-team Wheaton North Falcon Classic field with a score of 31 points. Rounding out the top five were Glenbard West (32), a pair of Wisconsin high schools (Neenah at 34 and Arrowhead at 35) and Lake Park (46).
"This is a beautiful course, we had perfect weather and the competition was great," said Luczak, a sophomore. "I went out smart and then worked my way up. I felt amazing and ran my pace my way."
Several Hilltoppers ran the way they wanted to, and even with No, 1 runner Madeline Perez not as sharp as usual, the team looks primed for a strong charge toward state. In a loaded top flight Perez took eighth in 17:11 in a race won by New Trier's Courtney Ackerman in a blazing time of 16:25. It was Ackerman's second championship flight title at the Falcon Classic, making her the fifth runner in the meet's 29 years to accomplish the feat.
"This was a stacked field. You don't get much better than this," said Perez, who was 15th in the state last year as the Hilltoppers placed sixth as a team downstate. "The time was not my greatest today, but state's still a month away. I was really proud of all the girls today. We know if everyone runs their best we can finish (the season) really well."
York's Emma Fischer was third in the top flight and helped the Dukes take sixth in the team standings with a score of 58, while Wheaton Warrenville South placed seventh (63) and Naperville Central eighth. Naperville North managed to take 12th despite having most of its top runners competing at a different meet in Minnesota, and Benet Academy finished 14th.
The Tigers, who took second in Class 3A to New Trier in 2011, showed off their depth with solid efforts throughout the seven flights. Hope Schmelzle was 13th in the top flight for WW South, while teammate Mary Erdman was second to the Hilltoppers' Kate Majewski in Flight 7.
The Huskies, meanwhile, filled out their lineup with young runners getting a chance to experience a big varsity meet. Freshman Allison Ray topped the Flight 6 field and fellow rookie Jenny Gibson was eighth in Flight 3.
"Our top group is in Minnesota, but I couldn't be any prouder of this group here today," Naperville North coach Joanna Wilson said. "We wanted to get a lot of young runners a chance to race at the varsity level. We showed we have a lot of leadership and depth on this team."
The host Falcons took 21st in the team standings, while Glenbard South was 20th, Waubonsie Valley 25th and Neuqua Valley 27th. In Flight 1, Raiders freshman Diane Lipa took 11th and Benet's Audrey Blasek was 16th.
Lake Park, a top 10 team in 3A in 2011, was paced on Saturday by a win from Rachel Garippo in Flight 4 and Nicole Alfano's third-place showing in Flight 6. Naperville Central freshman Ellie Marcet had a strong effort while finishing eighth in the second flight.