Barrington senior Joceyln Long saved her best for last on Saturday at the Class 3A Hoffman Estates girls cross-country sectional.
On a chilly fall morning at the Busse Woods course, Long broke away early from Schaumburg senior Maddie Marasco and Libertyville senior Melissa Manetsch.
The Fillies' senior then found an extra gear in the final 400 meters to run to her second consecutive sectional title, crossing the line in 16:57.
Marasco (17:00) and Manetsch (17:02) weren't far behind in securing second and third place but couldn't match Long's final kick.
"I knew they were there the entire time, they are such tough competitors," said Long, who kept Marasco and Manetsch at arm's length in the final mile. "I just kept pushing. The last 400 meters I knew I had to believe in myself and what I had left. I wanted to be at my best at the end and that definitely showed today."
Long's strong run propelled Barrington to its first sectional title since the Fillies won back-to-back crowns in 2002 and 2003.
The Fillies placed five runners in the top 38 spots to easily outdistance second-place Prospect (126 points).
Stevenson (132 points) took third followed by Cary-Grove (144 points) and Palatine (168 points).
All five teams advanced to the Class 3A state meet on Nov. 4 at Detweiller Park in Peoria. The race begins at 1 p.m.
"It's been a long time," said Barrington coach Debbie Revolta of her team's sectional drought. "I'm really happy for the kids, they worked hard all year."
Marasco, who won the Mid-Suburban League title, and Manetsch, who won the North Suburban League title, definitely gave Long a challenge.
The pair shadowed Long's pace the entire race but could not answer in their final surges.
"She has an amazing kick," said Marasco, who qualified for the state meet as an individual. "I just knew I had to stay close and if I was going to make a move, I would have to make it sooner, keep it close and kick as hard as I could at the end."
But Long didn't flinch in the three-way battle. She held steady and displayed her closing speed to secure the victory.
"That was the game plan," Revolta added. "When they made their moves, she had to match it and then use what the best part of her race is -- the kick at the end."
Long doubled her pleasure by combining with freshman Molly Fitzpatrick (17:41), who took fifth place, in pushing the Fillies to the victory.
"I'm so excited," said Long of Fillies' strong postseason run that also included an MSL title and a Palatine regional title. "It has been a great run and the sectional victory is a huge accomplishment."
Sophomore Alyssa Norris (18:13) aided the Fillies' drive by taking 15th place and a pair of freshmen sealed the victory. Katherine Shein (18:41) and Anne Berquist (18:42) teamed up to take 36th and 38th place.
"They held it together," said Revolta of the Fillies' back pack. "They all had to get out and battle and that's what they did today."
Prospect was also dealing with a bit of a drought. The Knights won back-to-back MSL titles in 2015 and 2016 but missed qualifying for the state meet by posting a pair of sixth-place finishes the past two seasons.
But the Knights, who finished second in the MSL this year, finished the deal on Saturday with their second- place finish.
"It's a sweet relief," said Prospect coach Pete Wintermute of the Knights' run. "I don't know if it wipes it totally away. Those other teams were really darn good. As a coach you just wish those girls could experience what these girls will experience next week -- it's what you train for."
Junior Marissa Valentini (18:13) and senior Mikayla Olsen (18:17) set the tone by leading an early charge and finishing in 14th and 17th place respectively.
"It's something we've been working for all season," said Valentini, who has helped to key a late-season surge by the Knights. "We worked as a team and got it done today."
Freshman Reese Lettow (18:40), junior Julia O'Grady (18:41) and sophomore Emily Hubbard (18:48) led the second wave by securing 33rd, 35th and 42nd place to push the Knights run to state.
"I'm kind of in disbelief," added Olsen, whose team was aided by a 35-second split between its top five runners. "You keep saying the past two years it's going to be our year. This year, it finally happened."
Cary-Grove has made a nice postseason charge, including a Fox Valley Conference title and second-place finish at the Palatine regional.
The young Trojans took another step forward with their fourth-place finish on Saturday, earning their first state appearance since 2005.
"It's far beyond what we thought at the beginning of the season," said Cary-Grove coach Mark Anderson of his team's march to Peoria. "We just had to focus on ourselves today and let everything fall into place. We just wanted to run our race."
And that's what they did.
Sophomore Allison Drage (18:02) rebounded from some early-season iron issues to secure 11th place.
"It was like a nightmare before, but now I'm back," said Drage, whose fifth-place regional run set her up for her big sectional performance. "This is an incredible day. I've had patience and it all came together today."
A trio of freshmen then kept the line moving as Ellie Miller (18:30), Delaney Blohm (18:39) and Morgan Dieschbourg (18:40) connected to finish 26th, 31st, and 32nd.
But it was senior Libby Hansen (19:10) who keyed the victory by securing a critical 60th place, cementing the Trojans push to state.
"She stepped up big when we needed it," added Anderson of the lone senior runner on a squad that features three sophomore and three freshmen.
Palatine also came together on the right day.
The Pirates had been running strong early in the season but a few injuries derailed the Pirates' attack.
On Saturday, freshman Anne Marie Jordan (17:58) led the way with a ninth-place finish to help the Pirates to their 18th consecutive state finals appearance.
"We're still not running like we want to be but obviously the goal is to get down to state," said Palatine coach Joe Parks of the Pirates' run. "We'll take it."
Junior Kate Lechowicz (18:19) aided the Pirates' drive with an 18th place finish.
Senior Lauryn Simons (18:46) and Liz Lechowicz (19:10) hung strong after fading after a fast start to secure 39th and 59th place for the Pirates.
"It's so amazing," Jordan added. "Not everyone has been having their best races lately due to injuries and things like that but today we all ran for each other and that was huge."
Senior Jaclyn Frank (19:12) returned after missing the regional to provide the final nail by taking 61st place.
"Without her (Frank) we probably would not have advanced," Parks added.