PEORIA -- It was easy to feel great on Saturday after finishing third if you were Madeline Perez. There was this little thing called the Class 3A championship that you, a senior, led your Glenbard West Hilltoppers to at the same time.
"To be honest, winning (as a team) was my No. 1 goal going into this season, so, frankly, everything else is out the window," said Perez, who captured the individual crown last year. "We accomplished it and I couldn't be more happy.
"The team was the ultimate goal. We weren't ranked No. 1, but I knew in my heart -- I saw that these girls have been doing throughout the season, how we've been progressing. I'm just so proud of every single one of them."
Cross country championships are won in the pack, and Perez was quick to point out Glenbard West's quartet of Grace Rogers, Jamie Nabholz, Kathryn Kenwood and Megan Ozog, who finished fourth through seventh, respectively, in the title race.
"Those four were our 'wolf pack,' and if not for them, we wouldn't have brought home this championship this year," Perez said. "Their work back in the pack is really what our team is."
The Hilltoppers scored 75 points, beating runner-up Naperville North by 37 points, with each Hilltopper outplacing her counterpart. With Perez third, Lisa Luczak seventh and Lindsay Graham 14th, Glenbard West was 11 points ahead of Naperville North after the top three from each. Rogers, a sophomore, expanded the lead 18 points by finishing 16th.
"We want to be close to each other," Rogers said. "I just pushed as hard as I could. I couldn't tell where I was, but I was passing runners. The goal is to keep moving."
The first state cross country title for the Hilltoppers' girls team, it follows the school's boys title by a mere 53 years. The boys captured the state crown in 1960.
Perez was beaten to the finish line by only New Trier's Mimi Smith and Hinsdale Central's Alexa Haff.
Naperville North was led by junior Elly DeTurris, followed by Maria McDaniel and Claire Hamilton. The problem for the Huskies was the presence of a Hilltopper directly ahead on each occasion.
Neuqua Valley, led by Claire Costelloe, finished 10th, while Wheaton Warrenville South was 12th, paced by Sara Atkins.
Glenbard South captured second place in Class 2A, its 130 points 26 behind winner Yorkville. Sophomore Diane Lipa led the way, finishing third individually and second in team scoring.
"I'm amazed," Lipa said. "I had no clue I'd be that far up there. And my team did so well. It's just been a fabulous day. We were coming in high hopes after last year's disappointment (a tie for third with Montini). We wanted to get on that podium."
Lipa moved out quicker than she did last year as a freshman, when she was caught in traffic for the first mile, and that paid off with a finishing time of 17:15 and valuable points for the Raiders.
With junior Rebecca Sippel fourth in the team race, the Raiders built an edge that third-place Vernon Hills couldn't catch. Yorkville took the 2A team title, sweeping the girls and boys races.