The vagaries of the girls cross country schedule have been such that defending Class 3A champion Naperville North and Glenbard West, third last year, have yet to face off in a traditional scoring invitational.
The schools' lone joint appearance was at the Wheaton North flighted meet, which New Trier captured.
But the schools, both of whom entered the season nationally ranked, are on a collision course this Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
Glenbard West, which boasts the all-time state-record holder, reigning individual champion Madeline Perez, and Naperville North, which features five underclassmen among its top seven runners, cruised to sectional titles over the weekend at Lake Park and Waubonsie Valley, respectively.
Perez, who also claimed the state track and field championships at 1,600 and 3,200 meters last spring, has won consecutive postseason titles after missing almost the entire season with a nagging calf injury.
"The main goal is to stay relaxed for the entire week," Perez said. "I am doing everything I can to bring the (team) state championship to Glenbard West. I know Naperville North will be ready to defend themselves quite well. I'm not where I was at this time last season. This will be the first time we will go toe to toe."
The Hilltoppers also have all-state returnees Lisa Luczak and Lindsay Graham, a transfer from Glenbard East, to combat the Huskies.
But Naperville North has a combat-tested squad, despite its most unusual collection of athletes--in terms of their year in school.
Naperville North coach Dan Iverson had underclassmen Claire Hamilton, Kate Shannon and Judy Pendergast bolster senior Maria McDaniel and junior Elly DeTurris with top-12 finishes Saturday at Waubonsie Valley.
McDaniel was runner-up, with DeTurris' third-place result further anchoring the Huskies' pursuit of another state championship.
"(McDaniel) has actually seemed to have found herself," Iverson said of his only senior in the top seven. "It's a nice time for her to be running at her very best."
Glenbard West, though, will have three state-known commodities in Perez, Luczak and Graham.
In addition Grace Rogers and Janie Naholz have given the Hilltoppers exceptional depth during their run to the West Suburban Silver title and back-to-back postseason triumphs.
"We are focusing on ourselves and getting better," Glenbard West coach Paul Hass said. "You never can tell how you match up (with Naperville North. Iverson) has a great pack. We are running the best we have the whole season."
Hass also has Perez regaining her peerless form at the right time.
"Madeline is up to the challenge," Hass said. "I have said it before: I would never bet against Madeline Perez."
Naperville Central and Wheaton Warrenville South also advanced out of Waubonsie Valley.
Downers Grove South, Hinsdale Central, Neuqua Valley and Downers Grove North made the state cut as well.
In the girls Class 2A finals Glenbard South and Montini punched return tickets to the state finals out of Wheaton Academy.
Perez is not the only returning state champion from the area.
Like the Hilltoppers' senior, John Wold has not lost a postseason race since placing fourth at the boys Class 2A state finals two years ago.
The Glenbard South senior swept both state preliminaries at Wheaton Academy the last two weekends.
"I think (Wold) is in better shape than he was last year," Glenbard South coach Doug Gorski said. "He is trying to break 14 (minutes)."
Glenbard South also received a much-needed boost with the return of fellow all-stater Joe Singleton last week at the sectional.
"We're trying for the top five," Gorski said of the Raiders' primary team goal.
Wheaton Academy and Benet, making its first appearance in Class 2A, also are state bound out of the Warriors' sectional.
Fenton is also poised for another state run.
For the area Class 3A boys teams headed to state, Wheaton Warrenville South has grand ambitions after consecutive titles in as many weekends.
Luke Schroer and Nolan McKenna were the Tigers' front-runners Saturday at Waubonsie Valley.
"We have very good confidence," Schroer said after finishing runner-up to Wheaton North senior Joseph Emmanuel at the sectional. "We are definitely going to go after it. If we're going to do it any year (place as a team), it's going to be this year."
McKenna has been the Tigers' leader the last two years; the Iowa State-bound senior was third at Waubonsie Valley.
"I just want to run my best and help my team out as much as possible," McKenna said.
Fellow DuPage Valley Conference members Naperville North, Wheaton North and Naperville Central all qualified for the state meet in Aurora last Saturday.
New Trier stunned 28-time state champion York last week at Lake Park to hand the Dukes their first tournament loss of the season.
At the Hinsdale Central sectional the host Red Devils, ranked second to defending state champion York for the bulk of the season, cruised to the title over league member Downers North.
Neuqua Valley snared the final bid out of Hinsdale Central to advance to the state championship for the 13th consecutive season.
"I like our spirit," Neuqua Valley coach Paul Vandersteen said. "I don't see any of the kids folding under the pressure, if you will."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.