Palatine knew it would have its hands full at the Mid-Suburban West triangular hosted by Hoffman Estates on Thursday, but the Pirates were able to meet the challenge.
Palatine is ranked No. 2 in the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches poll, but the Pirates were put to the test by another couple of elite teams, No. 11 Hoffman Estates and No. 12 Schaumburg.
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Sophomore Kelly O'Brien (18:42) gave Palatine a big lift in the final mile, finishing second and helping the Pirates to a pair of victories. Palatine beat Hoffman 24-35 and also edged Schaumburg 27-32, with Hoffman Estates picking up a victory over Schaumburg 26-30 in a three-way battle that wasn't decided until the final mile.
"It was definitely a tough run," said Palatine coach Joe Parks, whose team locked up the MSL West title with its two victories. "O'Brien kind of kicked it in gear that last mile and gave us some momentum."
Hoffman Estate senior Solome Haile took control of the race early and didn't back down in winning the individual title in 18:35.
"I was just working on staying focused and relaxed in that first mile," said Haile of her victory. "I picked it up in the final mile. Being my final race on this course, I knew it was time to go."
O'Brien set the tone for Palatine, and was followed by senior Liz Cox (18:57), junior Amy Kieliszewski (19:02), Cassidy McPherson (19:07) and sophomore Sabina Yosif (19:16), who went 7-through-10 to nail down the victory for the Pirates.
"There was a lot of pressure to pass some girls that last mile, especially with the race being so tight," said O'Brien. "I was happy the rest of the girls also moved. It feels good to get the West title."
Haile was followed by junior Alondra Aguirre (18:46), who took fourth place to power Hoffman.
Sophomore Yazmin Nunez (19:19) ran a strong race to finish 11th, followed by Meagan Biddle (19:36) who took 14th place for Hoffman Estates.
"We came out and ran well," said Hoffman coach Kirk Macnider. "Today we saw pieces of the puzzle coming together. The girls are locked in, and the pieces are there."
Junior Caroline Kurdej (18:45) paced Schaumburg finishing in the third place. Junior Erin Falsey (18:50) and freshman Ellie O'Connell (18:50) placed fifth and sixth for the Saxons.
"It was fun to watch," said Schaumburg coach Jason Beer of the intense three-way battle. "I very happy with where our team is, and it is using these meets to build momentum going forward."