Prospect's Brooke Wilson has high expectations for this season, especially when it comes to having a big end-of-season girls cross country run.
So with one eye on the future and one eye on the present, the Knights senior took another step forward on Saturday.
With a bit of fall in the air and beneath a slate-gray sky, Wilson covered the 3-mile Deer Grove East course by earning a second-place finish in 17:02.1 at the Palatine Invitational.
Louisville Male High School junior Kaitlyn Lacy came from behind to nip Wilson at the finish to win the title in 17:02.
"Last year I won a bunch of races and hit some fast times early, but I was a little worn out at the end of the season," said Wilson, who despite her weariness still secured third place in the Class 3A state meet. "This year I'm taking it a little bit easier earlier, so I'll be more physically and mentally ready at the end."
Lacy saw an opening at the finish, zigging to the right when Wilson zagged to left.
"I just had to push it through and go for it," said Lacy, who finished second in Class 3A at the Kentucky state meet last season.
"I felt good at the finish," said Wilson, who started her surge with 700 meters remaining but couldn't shake the Kentucky junior. "It was a good race and I'm in the shape I want to be in at this point."
Barrington's Jocelyn Long is also eyeing a deep postseason run, and the Fillies junior is right on schedule to have one.
Long, who finished fifth in Class 3A last season, stuck with the lead pack for over 2 miles before crossing the line in 17:08.5 with a third-place finish.
"I definitely expected the competition to be steep, it always is here," said Long of the quality field. "I just wanted to go out and give it my all and push myself."
Long has definitely shot off to a quick start, having won both the St. Charles Invitational and the First to the Finish Invitational.
"It wasn't my best race today, but I know I have way more coming," said Long.
Stevenson junior Isabelle Sparreo, the defending Palatine Invitational champion, used a strong second-half surge to finish in 17:08.9 with fourth place.
"Around the second mile, I started building," said Sparreo, who closed the gap quickly with leaders. "I think if I would have stayed with them earlier I could have finished a bit better."
Sparreo rebounded nicely from a 13th-place finish at the Richard Spring Invite last weekend and seemed to run with a bit more urgency on Saturday.
"Last weekend I did not run my best race," said Sparreo. "Going into this race, I knew I had to push myself -- there was great competition."
Yorkville, the four-time defending Class 2A champions, cruised to the team title with 73 points, placing five girls in the top 24.
Sophomore Nicole Greyer (17:29.6) powered the Foxes with a sixth-place finish.
Lyons Township finished a distant second with 162 points, followed by Hersey (199), Palatine (204), and Prospect (206).
Hersey is a team on the rise, and the ascent continued Saturday. Senior Sarah Harden (17:50.2) led the effort with a 13th-place finish, followed by senior Hailey Bowes (17:58.4) and sophomore Teagan Beckley (18:21.3) in 18th and 29th place.
Those three have definitely lifted Hersey recently, including in a big win over Prospect in a Mid-Suburban dual Thursday. They had no letdown Saturday.
"We had a really hard race on Thursday, so I wasn't expecting too much today," said Harden. "It gives us a boost in confidence and I think we are getting our pack closer."
Palatine was not far off pace with senior Danya Lloyd (18:04.6) taking 22nd place in propelling the Pirates to a fourth-place finish.
Sophomore Liz Lechowicz (18:17) contributed a 26th-place finish as the Pirates continue to quietly move up.
"It definitely was a team race, and we all tried to put in as much as we could," said Lloyd. "We're all really excited about our potential and we are confident in how we are running."
Prospect also flashed its collective potential with a fifth-place finish.
Wilson set the tone, followed by solid effort from sophomore Marissa Valentini (18:26.4) and sophomore Jenna Baltes (18:38.1) in 31st and 36th.
"The team is definitely feeling motivated," said Wilson. "Today was a good opportunity to go out and race really hard."
Sophomore Kendall Roberts (18:30.6) finished 32nd, adding to Sparreo's fourth-place finish in helping Stevenson to a ninth-place finish.
Junior Lauren Katz (18:00.3) finished 20th in pacing Vernon Hills to a 10th-place team finish. Sophomore Payton Makowskyj (18:20.1) added a 27th-place finish for the Cougars.
"I was definitely expecting a large pack going out and I just wanted to stay up there with them," said Katz. "The team is continuing to progress and this race experience can only help us going into the state series."
Cary-Grove freshman Allison Drage (17:44.2) had an impressive run in earning a ninth place finish.