Geneva coach Bob Thomson had a good idea of just what teams were up against with No. 1 Naperville North part of the field Saturday at the Class 3A Waubonsie Valley girls cross country sectional.
"Dyestat or somebody said this race is going to be for second place, and next week at state will be for second place," Thomson said.
The Huskies certainly looked the part of a state favorite Saturday, placing the second, third, eighth, ninth and 12th runners for a 34-point total, or 58 better than runner-up Naperville Central.
Senior Maria McDaniel, junior Elly DeTurris, freshman Claire Hamilton, sophomore Kate Shannon and sophomore Judy Pendergast turned in those finishes, respectively.
"It was a very, very good race," Huskies coach Dan Iverson said. "I think the girls really took a step forward today. I think we can get better next week and that's all you can ask for. We aim to be at our best right now."
Only Jacobs junior Lauren Van Vlierbergen finished ahead of McDaniel and DeTurris, running a 17:49 to McDaniel's 18:01 to win the race.
"It wouldn't have surprised me if another girl or two would have been up there with them," Iverson said. "To finish not too far back of her (Van Vlierbergen) was pretty good."
The Huskies return to Detweiller Park for next week's state meet in position to defend their 2012 state championship. They ran Detweiller earlier this year and won the title at the First to Finish meet.
"We won it two months ago and I think we're better now than we were then," Iverson said. "But so are other teams. We'll see what we can do."
Naperville Central's one through four runners all finished between 10th and 19th led by junior Katie Hoffman with an 18:25.7. Emily White took 14th, Ellie Marcet 16th and Maggie McClowry 19th in 18:50 for a 25-second split.
Geneva also turned in a low split to key its third-place finish with 111 points, just nine back of the Redhawks.
Sophomore McKenzie Altmayer ran an 18:40 to take 16th and lead the Vikings, with teammates Kathryn Adelman (18th, 18:49), Emma McSpadden (21st, 18:56) and Brooke Nusser (22nd, 19:01) all within 21 seconds of Altmayer.
"The top four girls ran really well together," Thomson said. "There are a lot of close abilities there.
"Brooke and Emma have been really consistent. It's nice to see them all working together. It's nice when you are on a crowded course like this -- when it's not crowded it's easy to find your teammates even if you are 10 yards apart -- but now you've got a lot of athletes as good as you and now it's hard to find your teammates. You want to find them and it's good to stay together."
Gabby Thomson, after missing last week with an illness, returned to the Geneva lineup with its fifth score of 19:25.
"Gabby helped today," Bob Thomson said. "It was good to have her back. Hopefully she felt better.
"(Taking third place) kind of played out like we thought it would."
Wheaton Warrenville South scored 115 points and St. Charles North 145 to earn the last two state berths. The North Stars finished 37 points ahead of sixth-place St. Charles East.
Freshman Allison McGrath ran an 18:13 to lead the Tigers in fifth place.
St. Charles North senior Ashley England finished one spot ahead of McGrath in fourth.
England had an interesting race. For the first mile she stayed with the leader Van Vlierbergen. She then fell back to around 10th as the runners had to navigate a hill.
Earlier this year the finishing part of a race proved a challenge for England but on Saturday she used the final mile to pass about six runners and take fourth.
"We definitely worked on it (my kick) every day in practice," England said. "That was a big help. I knew I had done it before and I could do it.
"It was a rough middle, it's a rough course. I'm not so good at hills so I knew I had to pick it up in other places the time and place I lost on the hill."
Sophomore Nina Olshever ran a 19:13 to take 26th and senior Kaylee Wessel a 19:17 for 29th for the North Stars.
The top seven individuals not on a qualifying team also advanced to state. Van Vlierbergen, a junior at Jacobs, more than earned her spot by winning the race by 12 seconds.
After running with England for the first mile, Van Vlierbergen took command in the second mile and never looked back.
"I wanted to stay with everybody and see what our pace was around the mile or mile and a half and then I was going to try to push the pace a little," Van Vlierbergen said. "I think that's about what I did.
"I've never won a sectional before so I'm pretty excited."
Van Vlierbergen enjoyed the challenge early in the race but by the second half she was running by herself again, something she has gotten used to.
"It was good to have competition with me," Van Vlierbergen said. "I've been running a lot of races, like our regional wasn't that good. So now we've got a lot of good teams here. I didn't know where they were (the runners behind her). I didn't want to turn around and look but people were telling me I had a 50-yard lead. I kind of wish I could have been pushed a little more."
Van Vlierbergren had the ninth-best at-large time as a freshman at sectional and didn't make it to state. She qualified for state last year and took seventh, and three of the runners who finished ahead of her at state have graduated making next weekend full of possibilities.
"There's going to be a lot of good runners," Van Vlierbergen said. "I'm just hoping to get a good time."
Streamwood junior Gabby Juarez was the second-fastest of the individual qualifiers with her 18:14 for sixth.
Out of the lineup early in the season while trying to get her health back to 100 percent, Jaurez has been on a roll since returning and continued it with an excellent race Saturday.
"I'm a new runner now," Juarez said. "That (qualifying for state) was the goal ultimately and I made it. I'm extremely happy."
Jaurez saved her best for the second half of the race. In 20th place at the mile, Jaurez picked off runners over the final two miles just as her coach had game-planned.
"For the first mile my coach told me it's flat, don't go crazy because it's better to pass people later," Jaurez said. "My coaches told me where I was and where I needed to be. It was very muddy but you just have to give yourself space and make sure you don't slip."
Jaurez said her practice runs at Waubonsie Valley this week paid off.
"It's (the course) new to us but we came here a few times to practice so we wouldn't run blind," Jaurez said. "That really helped because there were no surprises for me."
Metea Valley senior Kendall Cast took seventh, St. Charles East junior Torree Scull 11th and West Aurora freshman Taylor Truckenbrod 15th in 18:38 to all qualify for state.
Batavia had two individual qualifiers. Dakota Roman ran an 18:33 to take 13th, giving her a little more breathing room than her freshman year when she also qualified for state as the last individual by .3 seconds.
"She ran great," Batavia coach Chad Hillman said. "She has been battling some hip stuff all week. She did awesome considering that. That's where we talked about finishing.
"She had that (sectional) experience and understanding how tight and understands how every single place and every tenth of a second matters."
Batavia junior Miranda Rea also made it in 24th in 19:09.
"It's her first year running cross country, she ran track last year, she has really taken to it," Hillman said. "She's a really smart racer. Knows exactly what she can get out of herself. She put herself in a good position."