Shari Hayes couldn't believe the good news she was hearing.
"We won?" the St. Charles North girls cross country coach asked Saturday after the Leavey Invite at LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve.
"I'm shocked we won. I thought Jacobs won. We did really well."
The North Stars scored 77 points to finish 12 ahead of runner-up Jacobs. Geneva (120), St. Charles East (126) and York (140) rounded out the top five.
Senior Ashley England led the North Stars with a third-place finish in 18:22 trailing only Jacobs junior Lauren VanVlierbergen (18:03) and St. Charles East junior Torree Scull (18:17).
England found herself around 10th place halfway through the race and made a strong charge to take third.
"That was a really good race for her. She was a little disappointed in her time but I think all the times were high today," Hayes said, noting that the start line was moved back.
"Ashley has a lot of goals. She wants to run Division I next year. In order to run Division I you have to be seen, I think she's trying to be seen."
Senior Kaylee Wessel, the North Stars' No. 3 runner last year, moved up to the second spot Saturday and finished eighth overall.
"She had a really nice meet, she was competitive today, she has really improved a lot," Hayes said.
Freshman Madison Kaufmann stepped into the North Stars lineup and was their third finisher in 15th place in 19:21. Senior Audrey Blankenship continued her climb by running a 19:29.9 to place 24th and sophomore Nina Olshever was right behind in 19:43.3 for 27th. Olshever has been under the weather and is normally the team's second runner.
Sophomore McKenzie Altmayer led third-place Geneva in fifth place in 18:35, one second from fourth. Senior Kathryn Adelman placed 12th in 19:16 and sophomore Emma McSpadden 20th in 19:28.
Vikings coach Bob Thomson was encouraged especially because a couple of his normal lead runners, Brooke Nusser and, finished back but both have just started running recently from off-season injuries.
Batavia took seventh place led by sophomore Dakota Roman in sixth in 18:53. Junior Miranda Rea finished 13th.
Scull led the way for the host Saints. She and VanVlierbergen were side-by-side for the first half of the race.
VanVlierbergen pulled away in the second half of the race to win in 18:03 to Scull's 18:17.
"Just toward the end I got a really sick feeling," Scull said. "My stomach felt nauseous, my legs hurt. I'm just getting over being sick. It was kind of hot, I guess that affected it."
Scull, already a two-time Upstate Eight Conference River Division champ, knows VanVlierbergen well.
"I saw her at state track this year, she was in the 4x8 relay and so was I and I watched her do the mile," Scull said. "She's a really good runner."
Jeslaine Thompson and Anastasia Honea were the next two Saints in finishing 21st and 22nd, respectively.
VanVlierbergen claimed the individual title after taking second in the race a year ago to Emma Fisher from York. She also was a runner-up in her only other race this season, last Saturday's County Meet.
So pulling ahead of Scull and taking this year's crown pleased VanVlierbergen even though she actually ran a better time last year.
"It was a lot slower this year," VanVlierbergen said. "I think our first mile was a little too slow. I wanted to get a little bit of a faster time but it's still great to win."
Jacobs nearly had the team win too. Halfway through the race the Eagles were in good position before the North Stars overtook them.
Freshman Kathryn VanVlierbergen took 14th and senior Kayla Giuliano 16 for Jacobs.
"I'm really excited," VanVlierbergen said. "Everybody did so good and we're looking forward to having a good season. We really want to get the whole team downstate this year. I think we have what it takes. If we are healthy we should easily make it downstate."
Montini senior Brittany Fisher also has hopes of being on a state team after helping her team to 10th place in state as a freshman and third last year.
Fisher got her season off to a good start by finishing fourth Saturday in 18:34.
"I like to get out of front and maintain a good speed from there," said Fisher who found a spot behind VanVlierbergen and Scull for most of the race. "They kind of passed me and I let them pace me and it helps to get through the race. I want to break my pr 18 minutes this year, and I want to help my team get downstate again."