Diane Lipa more than made the most of her return engagement at Reed-Keppler Park in West Chicago on Saturday morning.
One week after an uncharacteristically poor performance at the Class 2A Wheaton Academy girls cross country regional, the Glenbard South freshman shaved 74 seconds off her time to solidify a first in Raiders program history: consecutive team trips to the state tournament.
Defending state champion Yorkville (33 points) had four runners in the top eight to dominate the Warriors' sectional team race, but Lipa finished runner-up to power the Raiders' team second-place result with 68 points.
"Last week I did not have a good week," Lipa said after finishing second to Yorkville freshman Skylar Bollinger with a time of 17 minutes, 49.1 seconds. "Hopefully, I will be up there for state."
Monica Byrne is the Raiders' senior leader.
"I think as a team we're much better than we were last year," said Byrne, who posted the Raiders' fourth-fastest time. "The teamwork pays off."
"Last year we were just happy to make it to state," added Glenbard South coach Brian Webb, whose squad finished 19th last year.
Jayme Schlenker augmented the Lipa runner-up performance with a sixth-place showing for the Raiders.
Montini and St. Francis also punched team tickets to the state meet in Peoria this Saturday.
The Broncos' third team appearance in as many years was made possible by twin anchors Brittany Fisher and Theresa Connelly.
The former edged her senior teammate by one spot by touring the 3-mile course in 18:27.4, good for ninth overall.
"We were really strong to go to state for the third (straight) time," Fisher said.
St. Francis girls qualified for the grandest stage for the fifth time in the last six years as Kate Roback earned a fourth consecutive state berth in leading the Spartans' latest downstate edition.
"Mentally, we all knew when we had to do specific things," Roback said. "As a team, we were a little more nervous (about qualifying)."
But their fears proved unfounded as the Spartans were easily in front of Lemont for the final team berth.
In the boys race it was a virtual replica of last week as well.
Glenbard South produced the top-two finishers for the second straight week as John Wold and Joe Singleton were in a league of their own.
Wold continues his impressive return from a foot injury by blowing away the field in 14:32.4, while fellow junior Singleton was runner-up.
But the Raiders (43 points) must solve a way to get past Yorkville as a team to realize their state aspirations as the Foxes (36) won the team title for a second consecutive weekend.
"My goal was to drop 20 seconds (from my regional time)," Wold said. "I wasn't as conservative as I was last week. I couldn't stop smiling the whole time during the race."
Junior Andrew Hallet led St. Francis' state bus for the second consecutive weekend with his 15:51 clocking.
"As a team, I wasn't sure we were going to make it," the St. Charles resident said. "I definitely wanted to run faster than I did last week."
Aurora Central Catholic had an additional element of incentive to earn its first Class 2A team berth.
"We would have been knocked back down to 1A (if we did not qualify as a team today)," ACC coach Troy Kerber said. "We want to stay in 2A. We feel that's where we belong."
Matt Meyers' resolve was a critical factor for the Chargers earning their keep in the middle-tier division.
The senior turned in the lowest performance by an ACC runner by almost a minute to help the Chargers snare the final team berth.
"I wanted the whole team to go down," Meyers said after his 10th-place overall finish. "If everyone ran their hardest, everything would fall into place."
The Chargers, who also received counting scores from Matt Knapp, Javier Montelongo, Adrian Alviar and Patrick Lefevre, were comfortably in front of Riverside-Brookfield for the fifth slot.
Earlier that morning, Liz Karina and Jenna Koerner earned at-large berths for the ACC girls squad, which finished ninth overall.
The Chargers' duo was the top-two individual qualifiers.
"I was running next to some Montini girls," said Karina, a freshman. "I was pretty sure that I could make it. Me and Jenna have been going back and forth this year."
Koerner, a state track qualifier last spring, earned a second straight trip as an at-large contender.
"I kind of hit a slump in the middle of the year," the senior said. "I wasn't going to let it go today."
Kara Kalisz became the first two-time state qualifier in Rosary history with her at-large qualifying time.
The Royals were 10th as a team, but the senior added to her resume as the only athlete in program history to make the state cut.
"I am very superstitious," Kalisz said of her pre-race routine. "I was really scared that I wasn't going to make it. I tried to do what I did last year."