With Wilmot Mountain not far away, the hilly 3-mile Fox River State Park course is probably more suited for skiing than distance running.
But area girls cross country teams took the challenge Saturday morning at the Pat Harland Invitational hosted by Antioch just over the state line in Silver Lake, Wis.
Crystal Lake South's young squad was very impressive as the Gators rolled to the championship of the 15-team meet by a comfortable 46-104 score over runner-up Grayslake Central.
Individually, Marengo junior Kitty Allen (16th in Class 2A in 2012) was the class of the field as she rolled to first place in 19:16.69 to easily outdistance second-place finisher Erin Wagner (19:48.14) of Prairie Ridge.
Lakes sophomore Kortney Schardt (20:09) placed third to help carry the Eagles to third place in the final standings by a narrow 110-120 margin over fourth-place Prairie Ridge.
Warren was solid with a fifth-place score of 154 points while the host Sequoits placed seventh with 190 points.
Crystal Lake South's push for the team crown was led by the youthful group of freshman Caitlin Bruzzini in fourth, junior Kiley Britten in sixth, freshman Debra Tomlinson in seventh, sophomore Andi Kobrick in 11th, and freshman Ann Lewandowski in 18th.
"It's always nice to win, and we haven't been used to competing at that top end so it's a lot of new experiences," said Crystal Lake South coach Ken Greenfield. "All of them have been really consistent all year and getting better and all of the top seven were running pretty much every day together this summer. So as we get to the end you are starting to see the training kick in."
Grayslake Central's trio of freshman Megan Girmscheid (13th), sophomore Umaiyal Sridas (14th), and senior Korina Gomez (16th) set the tone for the Rams Saturday under the warm and humid running conditions.
Grayslake Central has been without the services of key senior Jamie Brew (50th in Class 2A) since early this season due to a badly sprained knee at the Lake County meet. The Rams hope she can return to the team as close to 100 percent healthy as possible by the time regionals roll around in three weeks.
"Korina (Gomez) just had an off day today and she might have gone out a little too aggressive," said Grayslake Central coach Jimmy Centella. "We had a good top three and the top two ran amazing. They worked their way up the whole race and they finished strong."
Schardt pushed herself the whole way on the hilly course to hold on for third place before collapsing in exhaustion at the finish line.
"It was a really humid day, but I pushed through it," said Schardt. "I just imagined that the hills weren't there and I just pushed through them."
Besides Schardt leading their pack, the Eagles also had solid performances Saturday from junior teammates Ashley Espinosa in 21st, Nicole Towne in 22nd, and Liz Thompson in 29th.
"Our No. 2, 3, and 4 runners used to have a big space between them but now they're together so that is a positive," said Lakes coach Keith West. "Overall she (Schardt) has been consistent, she's a smart runner, and once she has a position she keeps it and she won't fall back."
Warren senior Greta Doden has proven to be a great front-runner for the Blue Devils as she placed fifth in 20:19. Warren also got a 20th from Michelle Klimt and a 23rd from Tori Nelsen.
"We had a nice pack right after Doden and we're missing a couple of girls with injuries," said Warren coach Brett Heimstead. "She (Doden) is a senior this year and she played volleyball for her first two years so she's just a great senior leader and she has great character and a great attitude every day."
Junior Andie Shine placed 10th for Prairie Ridge followed by Grayslake North freshman Camryn Cowperthwaite in 15th and Antioch No. 1 runner Ashley LaPointe in 19th.
Antioch freshman Tessa Furlong placed 24th to outdistance Grayslake Central's Emma Mitchiner (25th), Grayslake North's Erin Parro (26th), and CLS's Malgorzata Waz (27th). CLS's Morgan Szmutko (30th) edged Prairie Ridge's Ashley Duda (31st).
"She (Cowperthwaite) is doing very well, she came in talented and I'm pleased to have her on the team," said Grayslake North coach Brandon Boyd. "She keeps improving, she bounced back really well after an injury recently, and we're happy with how she's doing."