It was a close race down to the finish, but the Grayslake Central girls cross country team came through Saturday morning in Antioch's Pat Harland Invitational.
The Rams navigated Fox River Park's challenging 3-mile course in far southern Wisconsin to hold off runner-up Burlington Central by a 72-82 margin. Warren was a close third with 87 points, while the host Sequoits placed sixth with 126 points. Crystal Lake South's top team was running at Peoria, but the Gators (228) still placed eighth.
Without two of its top three runners, Grayslake North placed 10th.
Grayslake Central's winning combination featured Maura Fitzgerald in eighth, Abby Tonkery in ninth, Mali Chiodi in 16th, Vanessa Olmos in 19th, M.K. Drevline in 20th and Amy Moore in 21st.
"They looked pretty strong. We have a really good pack team," Grayslake Central coach Jimmy Centella said. "It's nice to finally have a nice day to run. We had a breakout performance today, and this is the time we want to start turning it on."
Warren is starting to show progress. The Blue Devils were led by Ashley Kachurik (seventh), Jessica DePalma (10th), Taylor Latza (17th) and Morgan Liebau (22nd).
"Ashley (Kachurik) did really well, and she's put together some really good workouts back to back," Warren coach Brett Heimstead said. "Jessica DePalma has been running really well lately, and Taylor has been running with a broken arm since the first meet of the season."
Antioch juniors Natalie Hill and Izzy Mateja placed 13th and 18th, respectively. Natalie Svarc was 29th.
"Izzy Mateja is closing the gap on Natalie, so it was good to see her do that," Antioch coach Chris Bailey said.
Grayslake North was without Carol Riss and Gabby Conceicao, but sophomore Kelli Tosic had a third-place showing in 19:24 behind Prairie Ridge's Chelsea Gale and Marian Central's Siobhan Stoll.
"It's a tough course, but the conditions were really nice with the cool air," Tosic said. "We're gradually building up, and as long as we stay with each other and support each other I think we'll do good."
Grayslake North coach Anthony DeStephano is optimistic about the remainder of the season.
" (Tosic) looked strong. We're hoping she can get a little stronger in the end because she will see those two girls (Gale and Stoll) at sectionals," DeStephano said. "We're just taking some extra precautions to get at full strength so they can do well at the conference meet."
Crystal Lake South was led by Laina Driver in 24th place. Warren's Hailey Smith placed 32nd, just ahead of Antioch's Chloe Hampson (33rd) and Grayslake Central's Greta Ruhlmann (34th).