Nursing a bothersome foot injury, Lauren Van Vlierbergen entered Saturday's Fox Valley Conference meet without any great expectations.
The talented Jacobs sophomore got much more than she bargained for.
Van Vlierbergen cruised to a first-place finish with a 3-mile time of 18:01.6 at Woodstock's Emricson Park.
Van Vlierbergen's efforts also catapulted the Golden Eagles to the team title with a score of 50 points.
"The only time I have actually run during the last two weeks was (Friday)," said Van Vlierbergen, who will not run at next week's regionals because of the injury. "I have been doing a lot of cross training. I have been swimming and doing a lot of elipiticals and cardio work. I just wanted to run today and didn't expect to win. I ran without any pain and it was very satisfying."
Van Vlierbergen got plenty of assistance from her teammates as four other Golden Eagles placed in the Top 20. Sam Baran finished eighth followed by Alex Lorenz (10th), Kayla Giuliano (11th) and Tori Tamburrino (20th).
"Lauren ran awesome," said Jacobs coach Kevin Christian. "She is a tough kid and ran great with a severe injury. The whole team ran awesome. We thought a realistic goal was to win conference and the girls stepped up and got the job done."
Crystal Lake Central, led by Sami Staples' fourth-place effort, was second with a score of 69.
Cary-Grove, led by a fifth-place finish from Talia Duzey, was third with a score of 100.
"I have a knee injury which has bothered me, but I feel I ran well," said Duzey. "I have never run this course and it was a very tough course. I feel good about finishing fifth."
Following Duzey for the Trojans were Sarah Englund (18th), Gretchen Price (19th), Maggie Lundin (25th) and Sarah Riley (33rd).
"Finishing where we did was a good accomplishment," said Cary-Grove coach Mark Anderson. "It would have taken a wing and prayer to beat Jacobs and Central. We got four all-conference kids and Talia really ran well. Sarah Riley would have finished higher but she has been sick. Overall the kids stepped up and ran well."
Crystal Lake South, led by a 21st place finish from Malgorzata Waz, placed fifth with a score of 161.
Grayslake Central, sixth with 171 points, placed two runners in the Top 25. Elsie Rehberg placed 12th and Korina Gomez finished 13th for the Rams.
Huntley, paced by a top 25 finish by Kate Mitchell (16th), placed ninth.
Dundee-Crown finished 11th with a score of 271. Jade Franz was the top Charger runner with a 41st place finish.
Grayslake North's 12th place finish with a score 319 was paced by Brooklynn Hisle, who was 35th.
Hampshire placed 13th with a score of 335. The Whip-Purs' top runner was Natalia Sztukowski, who was 46th.