While the location of their biggest meet of the year might not be the first choice for cross country coaches and runners, it won't take away from the excitement Saturday when the area Class 3A teams gather at Waubonsie Valley High School for the sectional meet.
Unlike past years, qualifying for state will come at a school campus instead of Leroy Oakes or St. James Farm. Nobody seems to enjoy the move, but it's also not going to dampen the thrill for the teams who finish in the top five and punch their tickets to next weekend's state meet in Peoria.
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The top seven individuals not on the state-qualifying teams also will advance to state at Detweiller Park.
Fresh off her victory at the Class 3A Wheaton North regional last week, St. Charles North's Ashley England could be one of those -- though she also has high hopes to qualify with her team after the North Stars took second at regionals.
"It feels really good that I am really getting there (to my peak) and I can hit my goal hopefully of all-state," England said. "I want to hit 17:30."
England ran a 17:37 at regional, the latest in what's been a stellar senior season that came after countless hours of hard work this summer.
"Summer training we put in a lot more miles, we did a lot more long runs instead of shorter faster runs," England said. "That really helped. I'm not a sprinter, I'm not a track person, the distance helped me a lot to get in shape. I don't want to get out too early, but definitely after that second mile I want to get a good enough lead that nobody can catch me."
Team-wise, St. Charles North could be in quite a battle with its cross-town friends at St. Charles East for one of the five spots to go to state. According to Dyestat's rankings, the Saints are the fifth-ranked team in the sectional with the North Stars sixth.
Last week at the Wheaton North regional, the North Stars finished ahead of the Saints, 49-67. Nina Olshever, Kaylee Wessel, Madison Kaufmann and Allie Chen supported England running an 11-second split to place 10th through 14th, respectively.
For the Saints, Torree Scull finish second overall after spending time recently getting her health checked out.
"We're not sure what's going on," Scull said. "I had tests done, I won't find out for a few weeks so I have to push through."
Wheaton Warrenville South, Jacobs and Benet are other teams the North Stars and Saints figure to be fighting for their state spots.
Geneva looks good in its quest to get back to state, ranked just behind the No. 1 team in the state, Naperville North, and Naperville Central in the sectional field.
Running last week without Gabby Thompson and Emma Ehrhardt, the Vikings still won the regional title.
"We hope to have both back," Geneva coach Bob Thomson said.
If those two return along with Kathryn Adelman, McKenzie Altmayer, Brooke Nusser and Emma McSpadden -- who all finished in the top seven at the regional -- the Vikings should not only advance to state but also get a look at how they compare to Illinois' best against Naperville North.
Individually, Dakota Roman should have the best chance to represent Batavia. The sophomore has been the Bulldogs' lead runner all fall and took 11th last Saturday at the West Chicago regional.
Class 2A: Dyestat has Kaneland as the No. 3 team at the Belvidere sectional behind Crystal Lake Central and Woodstock, though the fourth-place team Vernon Hills and sixth-place team Lake Forest both finished ahead of the Knights last week at the Class 2A Burlington Central regional.
Last year's Class 2A state champion Victoria Clinton ran a 19:01 for Kaneland to take 11th at the regional. Brianna Bower paced Kaneland in sixth in 18:42.
Sydney Strang (19th, 19:56), Erika Carlson (20th, 19:58) and Aislinn Lodwig (22nd, 19:58) rounded out the Knights' top five.
Wheaton Academy and Rosary are seeded fourth and fifth, respectively, at the Wheaton Academy sectional.
Class A: Aurora Central Catholic enters the Lisle sectional as the No. 3 ranked team. Sophomore Karina Liz (18:38) and junior Irene Crown (18:45) led the Chargers with a 1-2 finish last week at the Aurora Christian regional, which ACC won with 36 points.
Class 3A: St. Charles East coach Chris Bosworth breaks down the Class 3A Waubonsie Valley sectional like this:
"There's seven or eight schools for five spots," Bosworth said.
Bosworth's team is in the middle of its best season in ages, winning the Upstate Eight Conference River Division by a point over Batavia two weeks ago and following with the Class 3A Wheaton North regional title last week.
The Saints look like one of the favorites to take one of the five state spots entering the sectional but they will need to run one of their better races of the fall with the likes of Batavia, Marmion, Naperville Central, Jacobs and St. Charles North all trying to nose their way in.
Wheaton Warrenville South enters as the team to beat with Naperville North next.
Max Rowland ran a 15:30 to take third overall and lead the Saints at regional. The senior has shaken off a midseason slump with several strong races recently.
"He's had two clunker races," Bosworth said. "When he's on he's run a 15:08, when he's off 16:20. There's no in-between. Last three races he's been strong. We've figured out what he needs to do to race. He's on a nice roll."
Mark Sciurba, Lucas Werner, Mike Gerkin, Will Muckian, Jack Rzpecki and Mike Skora made up the rest of the Saints' regional lineup.
"The program is going up in a big way," Bosworth said. "It's nice."
Marmion moved out of the West Chicago regional in fourth place, one spot ahead of Batavia. Running without Eric Lifka who could be back for the sectional, John Graft (fifth), Brady Bobbitt (14th), Ethan Young (20th) and Charlie Zimmer (22nd) led the Cadets at the regional.
Batavia is ranked third by Dyestat in the sectional field but hasn't quite been able to put everything together at the same time this fall. Coach Mike DiDomenico needs a healthy lineup Saturday. His top two runners at regional were junior Ryan Wieties with a 15:56 for 13th and senior Chris Orlow in 15th.
No area program has been as consistent at getting to state as St. Charles North.
The North Stars enter Saturday in a strange position for them -- as an underdog. They will need a surprise to finish in the top five. Dyestat has them ranked No. 8 with Marmion seventh and Jacobs sixth, all trying to finish ahead of one of those schools in the top five that includes Batavia, St. Charles East and Naperville Central.
"We need to have a great race," North Stars coach Kevin Harrington said. "We haven't had that race yet this year. And we need another team or two not to have their best race."
Seniors Nathan Klair and Kevin Davis have been running well enough to make it to state as individuals if the team misses out.
"Our seniors have done a nice job to keep that torch going," Harrington said. "There's also the reality if five other teams are better than you, it is what it is. I'd expect we'd be going down to Detweiller with somebody. I'd certainly rather have 12 kids and a bus. That's the ultimate goal."
Class 2A: Kaneland, third at the Burlington Central regional last week, should be in quite a battle at Belvidere according to Dyestat. The Knights are ranked fifth, led by seniors Kyle Carter and Nathaniel Kucera, 10th and 14th, respectively last week at regionals where Kaneland took third.
Aurora Central Catholic seniors Javier Montelongo and Matt Knapp qualified individually for the Wheaton Academy sectional.
Class A: Mooseheart junior Wal Khat won last week's Class A Aurora Christian regional in 15:19 and heads to the Lisle sectional. Aurora Christian freshman Tanner Chada also qualified by taking second in 15:38.