PEORIA -- Wheaton Warrenville South sophomore Kaitlyn Nenninger wanted a cross country race at Peoria's Detweiller Park on Saturday to help erase her 2016 Class 3A meet.
The Tigers -- and particularly Nenninger -- certainly will remember what happened.
Nenninger's significantly improved effort on the annual state course -- and her willingness to give that little extra -- was among the key factors in the Tigers winning Peoria Notre Dame's Richard Spring Invitational over defending champion Glenbard West on a sixth-runner tiebreaker after both teams scored 128 points. Third-place Palatine also was close with 131.
"We were all incredibly happy," Nenninger said. "We were in a pack, one after the other. The way we performed is how we want to run each race."
The top two finishers at 2016 state, Glenbard West sophomore Katelynne Hart won this 3.0-mile race in 16:35.5 and senior Lindsey Payne was second in 17:12.7. Junior Katie Hohe was fifth in 17:38.5 and the Hilltoppers' other top-five finishers were junior Chloe Connolly and senior Claire Kenwood in 34th and 86th.
The Tigers' top five were eighth-place sophomore Mia Rucoba in 18:04.1, freshman Samantha Poglitsch in 20th, and junior Laurel Moneysmith, Nenninger and freshman Becca Hauenstein in 31st, 33rd and 36th -- 1.7 seconds apart.
Video race reviewers told WW South coach Rob Harvey afterward that Nenninger's track-like lean for 18:38.5 by 0.2 seconds earned the tie that the Tigers won with junior Sarah Kulkarni's 46th.
Nenninger was 191st at 2016 state in 19:27.
"After state last year I knew I wanted to do my hardest on this course," Nenninger said. "I had a lot of trouble because I hit a wall at the end, but I saw Laurel Moneysmith and I wasn't going to let the distance between us increase. That's what got me to lean and kick forward."
"To have a 71-team invitational decided by 3 points (and a tiebreaker), that's amazing," Harvey said. "It's just a good message for our fifth, sixth, seventh kids. On any day, they're going to be important and that's why it's a team sport."
Hart probably would have beat her 2016 title time of 16:31 and perhaps challenged the 15:54 girls course record if not for hot temperatures. Her mile splits were 5:21 followed by 5:37s.
"It's a tough decision to make. I didn't want to go for it today but I can hope for it later on (at state Nov. 4)," Hart said. "I didn't know how fast I wanted to go out or am I going too slow. I think overall it ended up being fine."
"Katelynne just pushed it and tried some different things and Lindsey Payne ran really well today given the heat," Glenbard West coach Paul Hass said.
"We had some good performances and hats off to Wheaton South, which ran very well. Sometimes you run well and come up a little bit short and that's about as short as you can get -- in a tie."
York was sixth with junior Sarah May 11th in 18:07.8 and senior Erin Davies 26th. Neuqua Valley was ninth with sophomore Julia Rushing and senior Keara Ginell 22nd and 24th. They also were among 20 state-ranked teams, 10 from 3A.
May, who was 18th at 2016 state, showed she is determined to bounce back from an adversity-filled track season.
"I definitely want to have a strong season and show what I really can do," May said.
"I got out how I wanted, which was nice. I started to feel it a little bit at the end and a girl was going to pass me. My coach yelled and then I ran and passed the girl and another girl."
Waubonsie Valley sophomore Ashley Heidenrich was 27th in 18:36.4 -- a personal best by 21 seconds.
"I was more aggressive at the start, which was a goal," Heidenrich said. "It was a great race and I really am glad that my team did well. I thank God for just a great day out here."
Before Saturday's Richard Spring Invite at Detweiller Park, Naperville Central senior Thomas Shigalis had never completed 3 miles in less than 15 minutes.
Shigalis had run 15:01 twice, including the annual Detweiller at Dark race July 28. He might have at the Hornet-Red Devil Invite Sept. 2, but an ankle injury forced him to drop out.
"You just see the (finish) time come down and you're just like, 'Aw man. I just don't have enough energy to get there,' " Shigalis said. "I just made sure I had enough."
Even with the hot temperatures, Shigalis finished with seconds to spare. He was seventh in 14:53.4, one of eight sub-15:00 efforts.
"It's about time I cracked 15:00," Shigalis said. "I'm really confident to do well in my next race because I ran well in these conditions."
Junior Zach Kinne was third in 14:39.4 and senior Ryan Kennedy 19th to lead champion Neuqua Valley, which won 112-119 over Wheaton Warrenville South. The Tigers were led by juniors Scott Maison and Sean Maison and sophomore Billy Hauenstein in 18th, 20th and 21st.
York seniors Sean MacGregor and Tim Stevenson were 10th and 11th in 15:02.3 and 15:04.2. Lake Park senior Colin Kirkham was 13th in 15:07.1.
The Dukes, still competing without senior all-stater Charlie Kern, were seventh and Naperville Central 11th in a field with five top-10 ranked Class 3A teams and 11 in the top 25. Nine other ranked 2A and 1A programs were among the 64 teams, too.
"Because of the heat, we were very, very conservative," Neuqua coach Paul Vandersteen said. "I was impressed with how we finished. Our pack was 5:05 (at 1 mile) and passed probably 50-60 guys. I kind of wished (now) they had gone out in 5:00, but it is what it is. The state meet is not won in the middle of September."
Neuqua senior Danny Winek and juniors Chris Keeley and Michael Madiol were 30th, 32nd and 37th with a four-second split. Winek, who ran at postseason national meets with Neuqua teammates in 2015, missed all of last season with a two stress fractures in his sacrum. Ankle tendinitis limited him to one track race.
"It's a big confidence booster to come back and run with the guys this year," Winek said. "It really makes me realize I kind of took it for granted not getting hurt my sophomore and freshman year. Having the ability to run and not hurt just feels good."
The Tigers, six points ahead of third-place Hersey, improved from fifth last year. They should keep improving as projected top-five runner John Keys recovers from illness. Sophomores Jacob Kluckhohn and Danny Zeller were 28th and 42nd.
"We could have done better with our packing," Scott Maison said. "I didn't have much left in my legs and a couple of kids passed me at the end and I wasn't too happy about that. I was going for a top-10 finish so 16th is not that bad."