Girls cross country: Lake Forest edges Vernon Hills for NSC crown
A few surprises along the way made the North Suburban Conference girls cross country meet particularly competitive.
Lake Forest held off Vernon Hills 51-66 to take first place in the rugged 12-team meet at Lakewood Forest Preserve on Saturday morning, while the battle for third place was also a close one.
Stevenson held on for third place by a 94-102 margin over fourth-place Grant, while Lakes (110) was right on the Bulldogs' heels in fifth place. Host Lake Zurich was a close sixth with 121 points, while rival squad Libertyville placed sixth with 121 points.
With a lot of people focusing on other runners as potential champions, Saturday turned out to be Lake Zurich senior Caitlin Shepard's day. Shepard conquered the elements -- race-time temperature of 38 degrees -- to win easily, covering the three-moile layout in 17:09.20.
Stevenson sophomore Isabelle Sparreo was second (17:16), as she outdistanced third-place finisher Vivian Overbeck of Vernon Hills by 14 seconds.
Overbeck also placed third in the NSC last fall as a junior. Vernon Hills sophomore Lauren Katz stepped to the forefront for the Cougars, as she took fifth. Her freshman teammate Payton Makowskyj was a key runner in 15th place. Freshman Hannah Ray also shined for Vernon Hills, placing 17th, while senior Shannon Skeoch (26th) and freshman Ryan Schofield (27th) also earned all-conference honors for the Cougars.
"There were about seven girls in contention for the title in this race, and for Vivian to run a 17:30 on this course, I'm very happy," Vernon Hills coach Suzanne Curry said. "Lake Forest is a great team and they're going on to the (Class) 3A competition next week. A lot of PRs just happened, and Lauren Katz exceeded her goal today of top 10."
Stevenson also got a 13th from Jessica Philipp, 16th from Natalie Sparreo and 28th from Gabriela Jagielo.
(Isabelle Sparreo) was pretty focused," Patriots coach Maureen LeVanti said. "Obviously we wanted to perform well as a team, and we did perform well as a team. "(Isabelle) strives. She doesn't get frazzled, so the competitive races are not going to be a problem for her."
Grant's push for fourth place was led by senior Madison Romig in 10th, freshman Danielle Osmon in 12th, freshman Eva Cardy in 20th and junior Rachael Temple in 21st.
"It was not our best team race today, but we had some girls that ran well," said Grant coach Jeff Durlak, whose team runs in the Palatine regional next weekend. "Madison ran a pretty good race. She stuck to the strategy we had. This is the best time she ran on this course by over a minute."
Lakes has also been coming on strong late in the season. The Eagles got a ninth from senior Kortney Schardt. Lakes freshmen Megan Knuettel (18th), Rae Dwyer (19th) and Simone Lippman (24th) will be keys next weekend in the Class 2A Kaneland regional.
Schardt placed seventh at state as a junior.
"She has many more faster races ahead of her," Lakes coach Keith West said. "I'm still proud of her. The way she's been running, she is on track for her goals. We had four all-conference (runners). I'm really happy with how our two through six ran today, and we had four under 19 (minutes), which is going to help get us to our team goal."
Shepard started to pull away from the rest of the field after the second mile and never looked back in winning the race by seven seconds.
"I thought it was a really good race," said Shepard, who was fourth as a junior. "I was just waiting for Sparreo to catch up, and I just ran the rest of the race as well as I could. I'm hoping to go to the 16:30s at state, and I'm hoping to finish in the top 10 or possibly the top five."
The Bears also got a 14th from Kristie Houghton and 30th from Kelly Ledinsky.
"(Shepard) ran awesome," Lake Zurich coach Ian Silverman said. "She has big-race experience so she's gotten really comfortable running against that type of competition. Our kids ran well and our conference looked really solid this year."
After winning the NSC crown as a freshman, Libertyville sophomore Melissa Manetsch was seventh to lead the Wildcats.
Libertyville also got a 23rd from Jenna Ocheltree, 31st from Sara Pirih and 32nd from Nara Tucker.
Antioch freshman Natalie Hill made all-conference with a 25th-place effort. Warren senior Emily Jahn earned the honor as well, finishing 29th.