Patiently, Palatine extends good start
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Palatine's girls cross country team sure has started the season with a bang.
The Pirates took first at Hinsdale Central's Invite and at the Richards Springs Invite in the first three weeks.
Despite not having their best performance on Saturday, the Pirates kept rolling. They overcame two false starts at the beginning of the race, placing five runners in the top 27 in claiming the team title of their own Palatine Invitational with 106 points on sunny and warm Saturday at Deer Grove East.
Two-time defending meet champion Assumption (Kentucky) took second with 118 points, followed by Ohio's Centerville and an up-and-coming Wheaton Warrenville South team (they tied at 144 points), and Kentucky's Daviess County (186).
"We didn't run our best race today," said Palatine coach Joe Parks, whose team is currently ranked No. 2 in the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches poll. "We hung around and pulled it out at the end … we'll take it."
Daviess County senior Whitney O'Bryan (17:20), who has placed third the past three years at the Kentucky Class AAA state meet, won the individual title. Next were Buffalo Grove sophomore Kaitlyn Ko (17:25) and Yorkville sophomore Skyler Bollinger (17:31). Centerville sophomore Lainey Studebaker (17:47) took fourth, followed by McHenry junior Lauren Opatrny (l7:54).
Ko battled O'Bryan and Bollinger the first 2 miles before O'Bryan pulled away in the final mile.
"She (O'Bryan) kind of took the lead and I didn't have a move for that," said Ko. "It was good test today, and I am happy with the way my season has been progressing."
Ko is coming off three consecutive invite titles, and the sophomore built on that with a solid performance on Saturday and put herself up with the elite runners in Illinois.
"There is definitely a new confidence this year," said Buffalo Grove coach Sarah Farrell of Ko, who finished 22nd in Class 3A last season. "She knows what to expect when she gets to the line. She has been running strong all season and I just think it going to get better."
Palatine has had better meets this season, including its victory in Peoria last week, but thanks to a few new faces the Pirates were able to secure a victory.
Junior Kara Burton (18:15), who place 43rd in Peoria last week, finishing as the Pirates seventh runner, took charge on Saturday with a 15th-place finish. Sophomore Kelly O'Brien (18:16) stepped up with a 17th-place finish; next was junior Amy Kieliszewski (18:19) in 21st.
"We're really excited this year because we do have such a great pack," said Burton. "We are always mixing up our order, everybody is contributing. We really wanted to do well on our home course."
Senior Liz Cox (18:26) and senior Cassidy McPherson (18:28) completed the scoring for the Pirates in 26th and 27th.
"It was not our best race," added O'Brien. "We worked together with what we could. It has been an exciting start, but we are just trying to stay humble."
Assumption was missing its top two runners from last year's squad; both are working their way back from injury. But Assumption still had two runners place in the top 10.
Freshman Sara Atkins (18:04) and freshman Allison McGrath (18:16) injected a bit of energy into the Wheaton Warrenville South attack. They finished ninth and 18th in leading the Tigers.
"When I saw the finish I was determined to get a medal," said Atkins. "I felt great after the race."
Both Atkins and McGrath were were competing in their varsity invitational.
"I kind of surprised myself," said McGrath. "I felt really happy that we ran our hardest."
Defending Class 2A state champion Yorkville (200 points) took sixth place, followed by Lyons Township (253 points), Barrington (257 points), Missouri Lee Summit West (264 points), and Downers Grove North (283 points).
Prospect freshman Brooke Wilson (18:00) jumped to early lead before finishing seventh.
"I wanted to get out fast because I knew the competition was really good," said Wilson. "I was a little surprised by how I did."
Barrington's Caroline Reynolds just missed a state medal last season finishing 30th in Class 3A, but the Fillies senior is coming on strong this season. She finished in 18:08 and placed 13th on Saturday.
"I really happy with my finish in this race, but I'm still looking for improvement," said Reynolds. "The team is working together really well, and this is just another step in our season."
Sophomore Grace Maletich (18:20) continued to pace Downers Grove North, finishing in 22nd place.
"It has been a great season so far," said Maletich, who finished 10th in Peoria last week. "It was a bit of a setback time-wise today, but I am looking to come back strong."
Senior Nicole Alfano (18:23) led Lake Park by taking 25th place. Last year Alfano was the fifth runner for a Lake Park team that took second in Class 3A. But the Lancers graduated 6 of their top 7, and Alfano has taken over the leadership of a much younger team.
"It's been tough, because last year there were four of us than ran every race together," said Alfano. "But it has been fun seeing the younger runners improving each week this year."
Cary-Grove junior Morgan Schulz (18:14) finished 14th to pace the Trojans.
St. Viator senior Meghan Carroll (18:38) finished 7th in Peoria last week, but the Lion senior was battling an injury this week and finished 32nd.
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