Wheaton Warrenville South junior Laurel Moneysmith gladly approaches her third Class 3A girls cross country meet Nov. 4 in Peoria with more responsibility.
"I'm more of a leader figure because I'm one of the oldest. It's such an honor," Moneysmith said. "Freshman, sophomore year the team was talented, but since we're all so close (in times) it's really cool."
Although their two top runners graduated to NCAA Division I programs, the Tigers continued to excel Saturday by winning the Lake Park sectional 51-73 over Glenbard West to qualify for the state meet for the 10th straight year. Fourth-place York also advanced with a top-five finish.
Sophomore Katelynne Hart, who hopes to become Glenbard West's first multiple individual state champion, won in 16:28.62 for 3.0 miles.
The Tigers were led by freshman Sam Poglitsch's 17:21.48 and sophomore Mia Rucoba in fourth and seventh, respectively. Sophomore Haley Ansiel, Moneysmith, sophomore Kaitlyn Nenninger and junior Sarah Kulkarni were 11th through 18th with a seven-second split.
"It's very easy to run all the numbers and compare yourself to everybody else, but the great thing about this team is we worry about ourselves," WW South coach Rob Harvey said. "If we're us, we're a really, really good team. It's fun to watch. I don't think we've had the same (finishing) order in a meet."
Hart won by 26.02 seconds with Payne third in 16:57.00 and junior Katie Hohe sixth. Hart won 2016 state in 16:31 with Payne second for the second straight year in 16:34.
"Last year there were girls I was worried about and this year it's not different. I've just got to run my race at state," Hart said. "I'd love to (get a personal record), I'd love to come back and do what I did last year, but I'm still a sophomore and lots of things to come."
Junior all-stater Sarah May was eighth for York, making its fourth straight trip. Senior Erin Davies has run at state the past three years.
"It's like a different experience every year and I'm super excited to go down with the team," Davies said. "As a freshman I couldn't even imagine going down to state."
Glenbard East senior Katie Schaefer and Willowbrook junior Victoria Palma were 10th and 18th to reach state for the first time. They were the second and fifth of seven advancing individuals not among the five qualifying teams.
Junior Will O'Brien typified the tough day Glenbard West experienced at the 2016 sectionals.
"The first opening stretch felt great but after that, having a 104 degree fever is not good to run with," O'Brien said.
The Hilltoppers advanced to state for the first time since 2014 by winning the sectional 58-67 over WW South -- their first sectional title since 1977 -- in a battle of projected top-five state contenders after the Tigers won the regional.
York was third to reach state as a team for the 54th straight season. Sixth-place Wheaton North was edged by New Trier 155-156 for the final team qualifying spot.
Glenbard West juniors Rory Cavan and Stephen Moody finished 3-4 in 14:50.27 and 14:52.61. O'Brien, 138th in 2016, was 12th and junior Ian Repking and senior Cam Benes 19th and 20th.
"It's just going to be exciting having the greatest competition in the state," said O'Brien, 138th in 2016. "Just PRs for the whole team and high goals is what we have."
All five ran at sectionals last year when the Hilltoppers were sixth, 116 points from fifth.
"We knew we had a lot of talent coming back so the goals have been high all season," Glenbard West coach Kyle Nugent said. "I don't know if we thought we'd beat Wheaton South (Saturday), but we knew we'd be right with them."
WW South junior Sean Maison was fifth in 14:54.37 and sophomore Billy Hauenstein seventh with junior Scott Maison and sophomore Jacob Kluckhohn 14th and 15th.
The Tigers, eighth at 2016 state, are seeking their first state trophy.
"We didn't win but that's all right, just fuel to the fire. Glenbard West ran amazing," Sean Maison said. "We still have big goals. Nothing has changed."
York senior all-stater Sean MacGregor was seventh and senior Tim Stevenson 13th. It was the season debut for senior all-stater Charlie Kern, who was 39th and the Dukes' No. 5 finisher after battling illness all season.
"I've been running with the team for about a week now," Kern said. "No matter how I did I was just incredibly grateful to be back with them. I missed them so much."
"For him to be here today is a sign of things starting to turn around," said York coach Charlie Kern, his father. "It's also a great testament to what a powerful human being he is. A few weeks ago he really can't get off the couch and now he runs in a sectional championship and helps his team."
Wheaton North senior Joey Simon and Lake Park senior Colin Kirkham were 16th and 18th as the fourth and sixth advancing individuals.
Simon, a 2017 state track finalist for 800 meters, returned to cross country after two seasons of playing soccer.
"I wanted to see if I could get better for track and I like running," Simon said. "It's more bitter than sweet for sure (without the team qualifying). Break 15 minutes, that's the goal."
Kirkham returns to state cross country after taking 118th as a sophomore.
"It's good stuff," Kirkham said. "It's going to be warmer (than Saturday). It's going to be faster. It's going to be a good time."