On your marks, get set, and it was go time as Vernon Hills' girls cross country team went after another top-three trophy Saturday morning in the 39th annual high school state meet.
The Class 2A competition was tough as usual on the damp, 3-mile Detweiller Park course, but the third-ranked Cougars did in fact bring home their fourth third-place trophy since 2013, including three in a row now.
Top-ranked Dunlap captured the championship of the 25-team meet with 72 points while No.-2 ranked Belvidere North was able to hold off determined Vernon Hills 95-111 for runner-up honors.
Lakes and freshman sensation Brooke Stromsland (17:15) placed ninth in the huge field as Stromsland broke Kortney Schardt's school record by 10 seconds on her way to fourth place.
Vernon Hills' ever-consistent performance was led by lone senior Lauren Katz, who placed 11th to earn her third placement on the all-state (top 25) team.
Sophomore Carly Sear just missed the all-state team with a 28th-place finish. She was followed closely by junior teammates Leah Wilkowski (40th), Ryan Schofield (41st) and Katie Wilkowski (47th). Juniors Hannah Ray (69th), and Payton Makowskyj (70th) rounded out the Cougars' squad.
"I think we had the motivation all season to prove ourselves again, and we were able to get the job done today," said Katz, who will run cross country and track at Illinois next year. "The coaches give us the best training and the best attitude, and they keep the team going. We have a great group of girls to keep the program going for years to come."
Vernon Hills coach Suzanne Curry will miss the presence of front-runner Katz, but she still has an abundance of depth and talent to fall back on going forward.
"It's pretty special year after year, especially for this junior class -- that is all they know is a third-place trophy," Curry said. "We got our split down under a minute which we were hoping to do, Carly Sear had a season p.r., and she has just been steady all season long."
After Stromsland's fantastic finish, Lakes got a 58th from sophomore Olivia Schmitt, an 88th from junior Megan Knuettel and a 95th from freshman Alex Bryant. Junior Morgan Gillespie (122nd) was the Eagles' fifth runner.
"The girls ran great, and it was just a fantastic day today," said Lakes coach Keith West, whose team will have all seven runners returning next year. "Brooke came through with a school record today with that 17:15, and she was just outstanding from the get-go."
Grayslake North's individual qualifiers were pretty impressive with sophomore Kellic Tosic taking 35th, and junior teammate Caroline Riss placing 56th.
The Class 3A meet was a bit of a struggle for Stevenson as the Patriots placed 15th amongst the huge field of runners at Detweiller Park.
Naperville North captured the team title over Yorkville 87-117, while Lyons (184) took home third place.
It was a fantastic finish Saturday afternoon for Libertyville senior Melissa Manetsch as she placed eighth in 16:44 to earn a place on the all-state squad.
Libertyville senior teammate Nora Tucker had a good day under the damp conditions to place 33rd as an individual qualifier while Stevenson was led by senior Isabelle Sparreo's 40th-place finish.
The Patriots also got a 65th-place run from junior Natalie Sorenson, and a 116th-place finish from Natalie Sparreo.
Round Lake sophomore Fatima Giron placed 102nd after becoming the first girl in school history to qualify for the state meet in cross country.