It went down to the wire for the team trophies trophies Saturday afternoon in the Class 2A boys cross country state meet.
And in the case of No. 3-ranked Vernon Hills, the seeds held up exactly as planned as the Cougars brought home the third-place hardware at historic Detweiller Park.
Unheralded Yorkville had just enough speed and depth on the 3-mile course to capture the championship of the super-close 27-team meet with 119 points while second-ranked Illiana Christian barely nipped the Cougars 134-136 for runner-up honors. Defending champion Chicago Jones had to settle for fourth place this time around with 166 points.
Vernon Hills' push for a trophy was led by senior standout Kyle Whitney with a season-best, eighth-place time of 15:05.
Freshman teammate Shane Williamson made the most of his first appearance downstate with a 27th-place finish, just missing the all-state (top 25) team.
Junior teammates Rob Williams (40th place) and Tyler Smith (42nd place) hit the finish line very close together while senior teammate Nick Webber closed out the Cougars' top-five scoring pack in 78th place. Senior teammates Eric Doerhoefer (104th), and Ben Mohrdieck (110th) rounded out Vernon Hills' state meet squad.
"It was very close -- we're just super happy to come home with a third-place finish, and we knew it was going to come down to every single place," said Vernon Hills coach Mark Whitney, who ran college cross country and track at North Carolina. "This was a true team effort. We passed a lot of guys in the last mile, and that was our plan."
Mark Whitney was beaming with pride about his son Kyle, who came through big-time as the Cougars' No. 1 runner once again on Saturday. Vernon Hills seems to have a bright future with Williams ready to lead its pack for many years to come.
"(Kyle) ran a great race, and it was definitely his best race of the season. For him to place in the top 10 is a pretty big accomplishment so I'm really happy for him," said Mark Whitney. "Him (Williamson) being able to compete at this level as a freshman is very big, and he doesn't perform like a freshman."
Kyle Whitney was also elated following the awards ceremony as the Cougars' squad realized that all of their hard work and dedication really did pay off in the end.
"This is what we've worked for this entire season and summer and our work paid off today," said Kyle Whitney, who is currently looking at Drake and North Central College. "We wanted to finish off the season with some hardware and we did it."
After qualifying for state by tying for fifth place at sectionals with Prairie Ridge, Grayslake Central ran to a 17th-place finish Saturday with a logjam of teams in the middle of the pack. The Rams wound up beating both Prairie Ridge (21st), and fourth-place sectional team Kaneland (22nd).
Grayslake Central was led by sophomore Jack Battaglia in 53rd, junior Max Brunk in 77th, and senior Kevin Orozco in 126th. Junior Suneed Ahmed placed 132nd for the Rams while sophomore teammate Danny Vincent placed 145th.
"I thought we ran well and our sophomores and juniors really ran well on a day that the times weren't that fast," said Grayslake Central coach Jimmy Centella. "We were only (28 points) out of 11th place so there was a lot of parity with those middle teams and we beat both Kaneland and Prairie Ridge out of our sectional."
Class 3A: Hinsdale Central rolled to the championship of the 26-team meet at Detweiller Park by a comfortable 99-144 count over runner-up Downers Grove North.
Making its sixth straight appearance in the state meet, Lake Zurich placed 20th with 478 points.
The Bears were led by senior Dave Brown in 62nd place and freshman Matt Pereira in 69th place. Senior teammates Will Llanos (130th) and Austin Kuehr (144th) rounded out the top-four pack for Lake Zurich.
"When you work as hard as they do, you have to be proud of whatever accomplishments you get," said Lake Zurich coach J.B. Hansen. "We got out a little slow and as a result we were never in the race. But you still have to happy with what they accomplished this year."
Brown ran a tough race in setting the tone for Lake Zurich, and Pereira who has been a pleasant surprise this season, struggled early but came on strong at the end.
Pereira offers Lake Zurich plenty of hope; the Bears freshman was LZ's top runner during the postseason, including a sixth-place finish at the Schaumburg sectional.
"The first mile was really tough because I got boxed in," said Pereira. "It was a great season overall, and individually I'm looking to improve next year."
Libertyville's Pat Humen was the top finisher from the Lake County area with a 46th-place run as an individual at-large qualifier.
Humen, who played soccer for the Wildcats his first year, capped a strong senior campaign by gutting out a 46th place finish, crossing the finish line in 15:14.
"It's a great race and he's a special runner," said Libertyville coach assistant coach Ben Zollo of Humen's first state meet experience. "He had a huge kick at the end and he ran a smart race and kept clawing his way up. We are really proud of him."
Warren sophomore at-large qualifier Dustin Macuiba placed 141st.