By the time runners get to the old school house on the Leroy Oakes cross country course in St. Charles, there's not much time left to make a move.
Geneva, however, did plenty of damage in that final stretch Saturday morning at the St. Charles North Invitational.
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The Vikings' No. 4 and 5 runners, freshmen Gabby Thomson and Emma Ehrhardt, along with junior Brooke Nusser in the No. 3 spot, pushed hard at the end to help key the latest strong Geneva performance.
Geneva's 87 points trailed only Hinsdale Central's 71 to take second place, not far ahead of Minooka (92) and St. Charles North (96).
Kathryn Adelman (7th, 18:28), Emma McSpadden (13th, 18:47), Nusser (21st), Thomson (22nd) and Ehrhardt (24th) ran hard over that final stretch and in the process passed up runners from both St. Charles North and Minooka which ended up playing a big difference in the second through fourth spots in the team standings.
"The St. Charles North coach (Shari Hayes) said, 'Your kids really had a great finish and beat us up at the finish,'" Geneva coach Bob Thomson said. "We preach that. We don't want them saving it throughout the race to look good at the finish line, but those are points. You lose by 1 and let someone go by you, that's not a good thing. Basically just don't leave anything out there. It can make a difference."
Saturday's runner-up finish follows Geneva team titles the previous two weeks at Kaneland and Sterling. The Vikings did it without McKenzie Altmeyer, who has been the team's second or third runner.
"I was very encouraged by the fact we could do as well as we did missing one of our runners," Thomson said. "I think it's great today. Hinsdale Central is a great team and ranked ahead of us and we don't have to worry about them in conference, regional and sectional. To run against them in a meet like this and know the only way we'll face them again is at state, it was nice from the standpoint today to beat the competition that matters most to us."
That would be St. Charles North who defeated Geneva to start the season on the same course at the Leavey Invitational.
As happy as Thomson was with the Vikings' finish, Hayes didn't like to see the final few hundred yards by her runners.
"We have to be stronger at the finish but overall I'm OK with the way we ran," Hayes said. "I think they are still tired. They have been working really hard the last two weeks and they didn't have anything left."
Ashley England finished third in the race in 17:55. That was 30 seconds behind the winner, Hinsdale Central freshman Alexa Haff, despite running at less than 100 percent.
"Her hip is bothering her I think from the increase of training we've done the last few weeks, and it was bothering her when she was running," Hayes said. "She was disappointed with how she ran. I think she ran well."
Others in St. Charles North's top five were: Kaylee Wessel (14th, 18:54), Audrey Blankenship (20th, 19:05), Nina Olshever (29th, 19:22) and Allie Chen (31st, 19:35).
Metea Valley finished fifth in the 15-team field with 121 points, Batavia was seventh with 156, Streamwood eighth at 181, Cary-Grove ninth with 267 and Burlington Central 10th at 283.
Sophomore Dakota Roman finished in the top 10 for Batavia with her time of 18:36 for ninth.
Like all the runners in the field, Neuqua Valley senior Kendall Cast and Streamwood junior Gabby Juarez battled wet conditions. Each of them seemed to handle it fine, Cast taking second in 17:52 and Juarez fifth in 18:25.
"It was slippery in a few places," Cast said. "It didn't affect me too much."
"Most parts were damp and slippery but it was still manageable especially going up the hills," Jaurez said.
Cast ran with Haff as front-runners through the first mile and three-quarters before the Red Devil freshman pulled ahead.
"We raced at Hinsdale Central and the same thing happened," Cast said.
The second-place finish continued a pattern for Cast who also was the runner-up the previous two weeks at Downers Grove South and Aurora Central Catholic.
"I liked the competition," Cast said. "It was really good. I wouldn't have been able to run as good of a time today without all these good runners."
Freshman Leana Goldman was second for the Mustangs and 10th overall in 18:40.
Juarez cut over 40 seconds off her previous best time on a course she said she always looks forward to running.
"We raced here three or four times last year so I'm really familiar with it, it helps a lot. It's my favorite," Juarez said. "The nature is really pretty. I like that but I also get faster times here. I was focusing more on keeping a good pace and going from there instead of going out too fast and dying."
Saturday was just the second race of the season for Juarez who ran a 19:18 last week at Bartlett's Flying Hawk.
"In the beginning of the season I was anemic," Jaurez said. "I've been taking iron pills, that's been helping my recovery. Hopefully by conference and regionals I'll be feeling good."