Vernon Hills just couldn't be stopped.
The Cougars entered Saturday's Class 2A Burlington Central regional having won the North Suburban Conference meet last week and ranked third in the state in one poll.
The Cougars maintained their roll, winning the regional title with 34 points, easily outpacing defending regional champ Crystal Lake Central. The Tigers finished second with 62 points, just ahead of Kaneland, which took third.
Vernon Hills wrapped up the second, third, and fourth individual spots behind the Tigers' Ryan Pitner.
With the sun breaking through the clouds as the boys' race started, the runners appeared to have no difficulty handling the winding course laid out around Rocket Hill.
Kyle Whitney led the Cougars' parade, finishing second in 15:42. Teammates Tyler Smith and Shane Williamson finished right behind him. In all, the Cougars placed 4 runners in the top 7, with Ryan Williams also finishing high.
Pitner's winning time of 15:26.1 was nearly 16 seconds better than the runner-up. Whitney also had second place all to himself, but the next 5 runners were tightly bunched. Smith edged teammate Williamson by 1.3 seconds, with Sycamore's Adam Millburg another 2.7 seconds back.
Kaneland was led by Kyle Carter, who finished 10th and Nathaniel Kucera, who finished 14th overall.
The host Rockets took the sixth and final qualifying spot for Saturday's Belvidere sectional. Clay Musial was the Rockets' top finisher, taking 9th place. But the day belonged to Vernon Hills.
"We knew we'd have to run hard today," said Cougars coach Mark Whitney. "There are some good teams in this meet. Crystal Lake Central's a great squad. I'm just really proud of all our guys.
"I was really impressed with the way we were able to pack four guys up front. That was more than I expected. So to have us finish like that, and to have our 4 or 5 guys finish that high. They kept it real tight. That was our plan and we were able to execute it."
Hampshire and Carmel finished out of the money, but each advanced one individual runner to the sectional. Hampshire's Jack Oury and Carmel's Anthony Gattuso were among the top 5 finishers not affiliated with one of the 6 qualifying teams.
Prairie Ridge and Lake Forest also qualified for the sectional