The last thing St. Charles North senior Ashley England wanted as she approached the finish line Saturday at the Class 3A Wheaton North regional at St. James Farm was to be looking over her shoulder.
So England made sure she took a big enough lead she didn't have to.
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England won the regional championship with a time of 17:37, 20 seconds ahead of runner-up Torree Scull from St. Charles East.
That was a far different ending than a week ago at the Upstate Eight Conference race when England watched Geneva's McKenzie Altmayer pass her in the final steps to win the conference title.
"I knew what I wanted to do," England said. "I had it in my mind all week after being beaten by a second last week by a girl who was behind. I knew I had to go out and get the lead and I had to get a big enough lead to the finish line because I don't have the best sprint. I focused on it a lot in practice and I just had to come out and do it."
England added the regional championship to her victory to start the year at the Elgin Invitational. She's been consistent this fall at the front of the North Stars' lineup, and her teammates followed with a tight pack Saturday: Nina Olshever (10th, 18:44), Kaylee Wessel (11th, 18:48), Madison Kaufmann (13th, 18:52) and Allie Chen (14th, 18:55).
"We raced really well," England said. "We had a lot of PRs. We had to get mentally back into it after not placing top three (at the UEC). It paid off a lot because we ran really well today."
The strong day from the North Stars wasn't quite enough to topple Geneva for the team title. The Vikings scored 42 points to beat St. Charles North's 49.
"The whole point of this is to be in the top five and move on but with our girls winning it it's nice to bring a plaque in," Geneva coach Bob Thomson said. "That goes in the hallway forever and ever."
The Vikings got the plaque thanks to a 4-5-6-7 finish from Kathryn Adelman, Altmayer, Brooke Nusser and Emma McSpadden.
Running without two of their usual top seven, the Vikings' fifth score came from Sydney Geils in 20th.
"We had a little bit bigger gap but it was still enough we didn't have to worry about," Thomson said. "Next week we don't want to have a gap like that.
"We've been priding ourselves in having under a minute with our top five. I think it's going to take under a minute (at sectionals) and if we're fortunate enough to make it to state it will take 40, 50 seconds."
Scull led the Saints to third place (67 points).
"I've been really sick the last couple weeks and I felt really good today and I'm thankful to God. It's been pretty hard the last couple weeks.
"Especially conference I've never felt so bad. I was pretty discouraged after that. Today my goal was not to go out as hard so hopefully I could work on the end of my race. And it worked. At the end I was able to sprint my last 100 and it felt so good."
Corrin Adams (ninth), Lauren Towne (15th) and Anastacia Honea (19th) all placed in the top 20 for the Saints while their five through seven runners were all freshmen.
Streamwood (95 points), Wheaton North (114) and Bartlett (161) earned the final three spots to next week's sectional at Waubonsie Valley. Sabres coach Dennis Lau had a lot to like, starting with Gabby Juarez taking third overall just one second behind Scull.
"That was the goal," Lau said of running with Scull. "Now that you are up there you have to start running with the girls. The goal at the end of the day is we want to make it to state. You have to start zoning in on some of the girls. She challenged Torree all the way to the end. She didn't wait until the end to start her kick."
Lau also has hopes of Addie Kelly qualifying for state individually after the junior took eighth in 18:37.
"I want you to race the full three miles," Lau said. "Same with Addie. We want her with the leaders. That was exactly the plan. Addie and Gabby we really want to see them make it through. The sectional course is not going to be about time, it's going to be about place."
Lau said Samantha Harding is getting healthy, and the junior ran an 18:49 to take 12th.
"Sam is starting to build confidence," Lau said. "She went from the high 19s to (18:49) today. We're starting tapering, the girls are getting healthier now, they are getting confidence now, they are peaking at the right time. This is great. These girls are doing their home work, they are working hard, and it is starting to pay off."
Kathleen McGivern (16th, 18:57) and Jill Humecke (18th, 19:06) paced Wheaton North while Jess Wittmayer finished 17th in 19:02 to lead Bartlett.