Palatine senior Tess Wasowicz isn't used to playing follow the leader.
It turned out to be a successful strategy Saturday morning in the Class 3A Grant girls cross country regional at Camp Henry Horner Park in Ingleside. Wasowicz didn't take the lead until late in the 3-mile race but she crossed the line first in 18:16.61 to lead the Pirates to the team title with a 35-55 victory over Mid-Suburban League rival Barrington and freshman runnerup Lauren Conroy.
"We could have done a little better as a team, but we really put it together and learned a lot from our race last week," Wasowicz said of the Pirates' close MSL title win over the Fillies. "We were all driven for our teammates more than past races. That's what made the difference in the race today and we finished the way we can."
Wasowicz spent most of the race in comfortable striking distance of Conroy (18:23.37), the MSL champion, before making her move in the last 400 meters.
"This week I was more prepared to be racing with other girls," Wasowicz said. "I was more prepared to still be in control without controlling the race by being in front."
Juniors Jessica Lincoln (18:47.96), Cassidy McPherson (18:59.76) and Liz Cox (19:18.66) finished 4-6-11 and sophomore Amy Kieliszewski (19:27.55) was 13th lead the Pirates into next Saturday's Schaumburg sectional at Busse Woods. A healthy McPherson, who ran with the flu last week, made a big difference.
"We definitely made some strides in the right direction," said Palatine coach Joe Parks. "We ran better as a whole. We had a better look, a better feel and we packed it up better."
Supporting Conroy for Barrington were junior Caroline Reynolds (19:13.77) in eighth, seniors Rachel Simon (19:16.62) and Rebecca Batliner (19:19.38) in 10th and 12th and junior Kristen Patino (20:17.38) in 23rd. Lake Zurich took third with 86 points as junior Meaghan Gelinas (19:33.87), sophomore Katie Fabbrini (19:43.03) and senior Angela Ufheil (19:59.37) finished 14th through 16th.
Cary-Grove took fourth as a team with sophomore Talia Duzey (18:51.24) finishing fifth.
"It was really a pretty good race with a lot of hard competition out here," said Duzey, who missed making state by less than a second last year. "I felt like I did all I could and this is a really tough course. I feel pretty confident after staying up with the lead pack and running with a lot of pretty good girls."
Senior Maddie Lundin, sophomore Gretchen Price, freshman Sarah Riley and senior Sarah Englund finished 18th through 26th for the Trojans.
Grant claimed the seventh and final team qualifying spot with an impressive finish by junior Lindsey Lewis. She ran 12th for most of the race but passed three runners just before the chute to take seventh in 19:13.13.
"At the end I knew I would pass some girls," Lewis said of her third trip to the sectional. "I just wanted to run calm and make sure I saved my best race for next week. It's going to be close and anything can happen, but this is the most confident I've been going to sectionals."
Crystal Lake South took seventh as a team as junior Malgorazata Waz finished 28th. Sophomore Jade Franz took 34th to lead four individual qualifiers from Dundee-Crown and Round Lake senior Bianca Ortega qualified in 35th.