Bouncing back after receiving a bit of bad news earlier in the week, Schaumburg's girls cross country team literally showed its togetherness while capturing the 12th annual Flyin' Hawk Invitational title Saturday morning in Bartlett.
Ali Gutt (4th, 18:36), Erin Falsey (5th, 18:40), Elie O'Connell (6th, 18:40.8), and Caroline Kurdej (8th, 18:48.9) all cracked the top 10 and lifted the Saxons to a 50-82 team triumph over runner-up St. Charles North.
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"We wanted to run a good team race together today," said Falsey. "That was our goal from the start. We've had a rough start to our season but this is a step in the right direction."
Senior Debra Sodimu was Schaumburg's fifth scoring runner in 27th place (19:58.8).
"Just the other day our fifth runner, Paige Schackelton, suffered a stress fracture," said Saxons coach Jason Beer. "She's a senior and a real hard worker and it's tough but I think the girls rallied around that.
"Our top four have been outstanding all season," added Beer. "Right now, our main focus is closing that gap between our fifth and fourth (runners). We just need to use this as momentum and keep closing those gaps."
Jacobs junior Lauren Van Vlierbergen cruised to her second straight individual title at Bartlett, completing the 3-mile Sunrise Park course in a time of 17:28.9, more than 30 seconds ahead of her closest competitor.
"I tried to take it out pretty fast today," said Van Vlierbergen, who finished seventh in the Class 3A state meet last season.
The strategy paid off.
"She has been sitting back too much in races and letting people dictate the first mile and a half," said Jacobs coach Kevin Christian, whose team was third in the team standings (101 points). "She needs to get used to going out fast and today was the day to try that out.
"This was almost 40 seconds faster than last year here," added Christian. "She went after it right away which is what we wanted."
Lauren's younger sister, freshman Kathryn, was Jacobs' No. 2 runner in 16th place (19:22), followed by teammates Alexandra Lorenz (23rd), Kayla Giuliano (25th) and Courtney Eubanks (36th).
Second-place St. Charles North was led by seniors Ashley England (17:59.1) and Audrey Blankenship (18:44.6), who finished second and seventh, respectively.
"We started off the race pretty fast and then she (Van Vlierbergen) kind of pulled away," said England. "She's so good but it's nice to have people to chase. This is a hard race especially after Peoria last week, and we had a hard week of training -- by far the hardest we've ever had."
"We really pushed them hard this week to get them ready for the postseason," said North Stars coach Shari Hayes, whose team competed without senior Kaylee Wessel and freshman Madison Kaufmann.
"I thought Audrey ran a great race," said Hayes. "She's usually our fourth (runner). We were missing our second runner (Wessel) and fifth runner (Kaufmann) but I felt the girls did a pretty good job."
Fifth-place Streamwood had a pair of top-15 finishers in juniors Addie Kelly (11th) and Gabby Juarez (14th), while Bartlett junior Jess Wittmayer cracked the top 20 (20th).
Batavia's Dakota Roman (3rd, 18:31.1), Waubonsie Valley's Allison Wilson (9th, 18:55.1), and Conant's Zoe Shoro (10th, 19:07.8) rounded out the top 10.