Prospect senior Brooke Wolfe has pretty much owned the Busse Woods course during her four-year career, winning a pair of Mid-Suburban League girls cross country titles, plus several regional and sectional races.
But a creaky hip had slowed the Knights senior this season. Until, that is, Saturday's Class 3A Schaumburg sectional.
Wolfe was back in winning form, coming from behind in the final mile to win in 17:44. She held off challenges from Buffalo Grove's Kaitlyn Ko (17:48), Schaumburg sophomore Caroline Kurdej (17:51), Cary-Grove sophomore Talia Duzey (17:51), and Palatine senior Tess Wasowicz (17:52).
"She runs great at Busse," said Prospect coach Dave Wurster of Wolfe. "Brooke went out a little faster than I anticipated, but she put herself in it. It was nice to see her finish with a fast kick."
Palatine was also looking pretty impressive.
The Pirates pushed the pace early and didn't back down in placing five runners in the top 21 to capture the team title with an impressive 70 points on a crisp, clear fall morning.
"We executed what we wanted to do," said Palatine coach Joe Parks, whose team won its 16th sectional title. "This year we have a little more depth and they are working together."
Barrington (103 points) took second followed by Prospect (116 points), as Schaumburg (162 points) and surprising Warren (178 points) held on to secure fourth and fifth place. The top five teams advanced to Saturday's Class 3A state meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria at 1 p.m.
Ko led the individual qualifiers followed by Duzey, McHenry sophomore Lauren Opatrny (sixth place), Fremd senior Kelly Breen (ninth place), Libertyville sophomore Kristi Del Prato (12th place), Lake Forest senior Helen Schlachtenhaufen (15th place), and Mundelein senior Ellie Palacios (17th place).
But Wolfe, who dropped out of the MSL race two-weeks ago, was able to recapture her past magic and close the door with a kick that sealed the victory.
"I knew she was coming back," said Kurdej who was part of the lead pack early in the second mile, "but I think she caught everyone by surprise -- good for her."
Wolfe hung close to the lead pack early, and shifted gears in the final mile, pulling away in the final 300 meter.
"I'm really happy, it was definitely a bummer not being able to race," said Wolfe who missed a chunk of the season with sore hip. "I just wanted to stay on the girls, and then give it my all the final mile."
Palatine seemed to put all its chips down early and was sitting in good position with just a mile remaining. Wasowicz and junior Jessica Lincoln (18:05) set the tone by taking fifth and 10th place.
Junior Cassidy McPherson (18:14) and junior Liz Cox (18:19) then added 16th and 18th place, followed by sophomore Amy Kieliszewski (18:35).
"It's really coming together at the right time," said Wasowicz. "We just ran incredible."
"We wanted to all stick together," said Lincoln. "We are working for what we want to accomplish at state. This definitely gives us some confidence that we can actually pull this off."
Junior Carly Reynolds (17:58) gave Barrington a charge by taking eighth place. Sophomore Lauren Conroy (18:07) and senior Rebecca Batliner (18:13) added 11th and 14th place, followed by senior Rachel Simon (18:28) in 20th place to pace the second-place Fillies.
"It's a very cohesive team," said Barrington coach Deb Revolta. "They weren't afraid to go out, they were in good position from the beginning and gutted it out at the finish."
Reynolds, a junior, has put up an impressive season for Barrington.
"We're really excited," said Reynolds, "Our whole goal is to peak at state, and the key is we are working together."
Wolfe got strong suppoer from senior Lauren Poplawski (17:53) in sixth. Sophomore Hannah Getschman (18:43) took 23rd place as the Knights continues their climb from a fifth-place MSL finish.
Kurdej once again was up front for Schaumburg. The Saxons sophomore was sitting in second place early in the second mile before finishing third. Sophomore Ali Gutt (18:12) was 13th for Schaumburg.
"Oh my gosh we were holding our breaths the whole time, it was pretty intense," said Kurdej of the Saxons' wait to verify their spot at state. "We all had a common goal and that was to make it to Peoria."
Senior Kelly Breen (18:03) ran another outstanding race, finishing in ninth place, but it wasn't enough to advance a Fremd team that finished a disappointing 6 points in back of Warren for the final team qualifying spot.
Ko charged to an early lead at the beginning, but the Buffalo Grove freshman could not answer Wolfe's final surge with 300 meters remaining.
The Bison freshman, who'd won the Libertyville regional, once again flashed her talent on Saturday and used one final burst at the 200-meter mark to grab second place.
"I just wanted to go out there and do my best," Ko said. "I just wanted to stay with the lead pack. It feels good to make state."
Fenton sectional: Hannah Winter and Meghan Carroll provided a 1-2 individual finish to help St. Viator win in dominant fashion and earn a spot in the Class 2A state championship race.
Shannon Cooney (fifth), Dominique LoVerde (sixth) and Katie Malek (eighth) also counted toward the Lions' 22-point team total.
Chicago Jones placed second at 58 points.