There were a lot of young runners making some pretty huge contributions to their girls cross country teams Wednesday afternoon at the Lake County/Art Campbell Invitational.
Led by freshman teammates Melissa Manetsch (fifth) and Avryl Johnson (eighth) Libertyville ran to the championship of the 18-team meet on the 3-mile Lakewood Forest Preserve course 82-91 over runner-up Lake Forest.
Vernon Hills locked up third place with 122 points as the Cougars toppled Warren (136 points) in fourth, Lake Zurich (140 points) in fifth, Grant (145 points) in sixth, and Stevenson (153 points) in seventh in a tightly-knit pack of teams.
Lakes junior Kortney Schardt was the individual champion in 18:21 as she pulled away from Vernon Hills junior Vivian Overbeck down the final stretch to win by seven seconds.
"I was in second place until about 150 meters to go and I just pushed it really hard and gave it all I had," said Schardt, who placed 77th in Class 2A as a freshman. "Our team is smaller this year, but it's really powerful and I think we have big things in store this year."
Besides Manetsch and Johnson, Libertyville got a 10th-place run from sophomore Audrey Paglia, a 29th from senior Kristi Del Prato, and a 30th from junior Sarah Pirih.
Libertyville coach Bill Etnyre was very happy with his young runners Wednesday, but not too surprised with the success that they enjoyed.
"Audrey (Paglia) came on really well at the end of last season and they (Manetsch and Johnson) ran summer camp with us the last two summers so we knew they were on their way," Etnyre said. "They did enough to hold on today and help us win and the team is looking good."
After placing third in Class 2A last year, Vernon Hills is still loaded with talent and experience this season, with Overbeck being followed by junior teammate Shannon Skeoch in 11th place Wednesday.
Vernon Hills freshman Lauren Katz moved up about 10 places in the second half of the race to place 25th as the Cougars third runner followed closely by senior teammate Samantha Hershman in 27th.
"I was happy with the way we ran because we've had a couple of rough weeks of practice," said Vernon Hills coach Suzanne Curry, who was really impressed with the first high school meet by Katz. "I expect us to close the gap between two and five as the season goes on so this is a good starting point."
Warren was led by senior Becky Haight is seventh with good support from the pack of teammates Emily Jahn in 24th, Michelle Klimt in 31st, and Elizabeth Abundes in 34th.
"We looked great, we competed the way we wanted to, and you can't ask for anything more than that," said Warren coach Brett Heimstead. "She (Haight) is a fourth-year (varsity) senior ready to have another great season, and we have great senior leadership on this team."
Lake Zurich's pack was led by the trio of Nicole Syverson in 12th, Laura McNair in 19th, and Caitlin Shepard in 20th. The Bears are poised to make a run at back-to-back North Suburban Conference championships later this fall.
Grant's effort was led by the trio of Madison Romig (15th), Rachael Temple (21st), and Brooke Drabek (23rd). Lauren Troemel placed 33rd for the Bulldogs.
"Our top four ran pretty close together, and Madison (Romig) looked good today," said Grant coach Jeff Durlak. "Our other girls behind her (Romig) looked good too, and for the first race we looked fine."
Stevenson was paced by the duo of freshman Isabelle Sparreo in fourth and junior Jessica Philipp in 14th.
"They raced well, especially for having a fairly young group," said Stevenson assistant coach Kendra Hutchinson. "It was fantastic, we knew she (Sparreo) could do it, she went out fast, and she kept a fast pace."
Grayslake Central was led by the tandem of Megan Girmscheid in 16th and Lura Wuandt in 18th. Ashley Espinosa was Lakes' No. 2 runner in 36th place while Abby Grein (41st) led Mundelein.