Host Libertyville was more than ready to welcome the girls cross country state series onto its home course Saturday afternoon.
The Wildcats captured the championship of their own nine-team Class 3A regional on the 3-mile Adler Memorial Park course by a comfortable 40-66 margin over runner-up Warren with their great depth from top to bottom getting the job done.
Sophomore individual champion Kaitlyn Ko (18:56.55) helped carry Buffalo Grove to third place by a score of 80-95 over Deerfield.
Fifth-place Mundelein's young squad (136 points) also earned a berth to the rugged Schaumburg sectional next Saturday at Busse Woods while Zion-Benton (146 points) captured the sixth and final spot.
Libertyville's outstanding duo of freshman Emily Olson (19:08) in second and senior Ali Urbanski (19:22) in third helped set the tone for the Wildcats with excellent support from teammates Sara Pirih in ninth, Kristi Del Prato in 10th, Audrey Paglia in 16th, Gina Palmieri in 19th, and Mia Bertaud in 24th.
"We ran really well today, and we held one of our top seven runners (Hannah Manetsch) out today," said Libertyville coach Bill Etnyre. "It makes me happy that Emily (Olson) came back and ran a great race, and she's a freshman so she's going to be one to watch."
Warren looks like it is peaking at just the right time as the Blue Devils pack was led by the trio of Becky Haight in sixth, Greta Doden in seventh, and Michelle Klimt in 11th. Warren's top-five was rounded out by Tori Nelsen in 20th and Sammi Jo Nixon in 22nd.
"Our plan was to be a little more aggressive than we were at the conference meet and we did a great job of moving up through the race," said Warren coach Brett Heimstead, whose team went downstate last year. "Our top five really showed something I thought we were capable of doing all year and they finally showed it today."
Ko's performance puts her in a good position headed into the sectional as Ko placed 22nd in the state in Class 3A as a freshman.
"I wasn't really going for a p.r. today because I've been having some problems with my feet and plantar facetious," said Ko. "I know it (sectionals) is kind of similar to our conference (Mid-Suburban League) so I want to just run my race and get to state."
Buffalo Grove's pack also featured Natalie Lezama (12th), Megan Gardner (14th), Natalie Fitch (25th), and Katie Geraghty (28th).
"I'm not a fan of this course because of some of the uneven surfaces with the rocks and terrain, but they ran a smart race," said Buffalo Grove coach Sara Farrell. "She (Ko) has had a phenomenal season so far, she's very confident, and I'm hoping for top five at state if she stays healthy."
Mundelein's push for the sectional meet was led by the tandem of Emily Schlebecker (15th), and Kelsey Loar (18th). Abigail Grein added a 26th-place run for the Mustangs followed by teammates Jackie Shannon (32nd), and Marissa Richards (45th).
"She (Schlebecker) came here straight from taking the ACT today and she still took 15th so she showed great leadership between athletics and academics today," said Mundelein coach Christy DeVitto. "Kelsey (Loar) looked great today and they have a good running strategy with one another."
Stevenson's team finished out of the top-six teams for a berth to the sectionals. But the Patriots' did have an outstanding eighth-place finish from sophomore Jessica Philipp, who reached sectionals as an at-large individual. Julide Ozmeral also earned an individual trip to sectionals for the Pats in 29th.
"She's (Philipp) a sophomore and she didn't run cross country last year," said first-year Stevenson coach Maureen LeVanti. "She looked good today and it's a competitive sectional so I think she's capable of performing well in that meet."