Cross country: Hersey's Harden tops talented field at Palatine's Meet of Champions
Hersey senior Anna Harden figured with a fast course and some of the best competition she will see before Peoria in November, something special was within reach.
Harden ran with the lead pack for the first part of the race, then broke away a bit and went on to win the Palatine cross country invitational Meet of Champions Saturday at Deer Grove East Forest Preserve.
Harden finished in 16:58.0, breaking 17:00 for the first time in her career and beat York's Bria Bennis by 6.5 seconds.
Bennis led the Class 3A defending state champion Dukes to the team title with 52 points, well ahead of Louisville (Ky.) Assumption and Prospect, which tied at 116. Assumption took second with the sixth-runner tiebreaker. Lyons (180) was fourth and Downers Grove North (239) was fifth.
"It was definitely a big confidence booster and it's my first time breaking 17, so I'm happy with how it went," Harden said. "My goal was to just compete. I knew it was going to be a fast time because it's a fast course and there's great competition out here.
"I kind of made my move a 1 1/2 miles in, right up the hill. As I passed the 2-mile marker I knew I had a little bit of a lead, but I wanted to keep extending it, pushing that last mile."
The deep, talented field at Palatine makes it gauge for where runners and teams are at six weeks before the IHSA Cross Country State Meet at Peoria's Detweiller Park.
Plainfield South finished with 35 points to take the boys team title. Maine South (163) was second, Barrington and Oak Park-River Forest tied at 175, with Barrington taking third on the sixth-runner tiebreaker, and New Trier (184) was fifth.
Plainfield South's Camyn Viger won the boys race, followed by St. Xavier, Kentucky's Sami Hattab, OPRF's Liam Newhart and Oswego East's Parker Nold. Plainfield South also took the fifth through seventh spots, along with 16th.
York girls coach Lauren Deangelis was thrilled at her team's performance, which included putting its top six runners in the top 23 spots.
"I was really happy with the girls today," Deangelis said. "We talked all week about focusing on ourselves, our team strategy. I wanted the top four to go out together through that first mile. I wanted the next three to stay together through the mile and they executed and pushed. It was a great day for them."
Bennis did not start out with the lead pack, but worked her way up through the race.
"I was really proud of how I raced," Bennis said. "I felt really good about the time and the place. I moved up throughout the race placewise, I was really happy with that. Usually I like to go out strong. This week I really focused on the second half of the race.
"When we hit the second mile, some of the girls started breaking off from that pack. One by one I kind of picked them off and it gave me the confidence."
Michaela Quinn took sixth for the Dukes, Katherine Klimek was ninth, Brooke Berger was was 16h and Lily Beerhalter was 23rd.
Prospect's Hailey Erickson took fifth, Palatine's Abigail Jordan was eighth and Prospect's Lily Ginsberg was 10th.
Oswego East's Nold finished in 14:51.2, 6.4 seconds out of first place.
"I felt pretty good about it," Nold said. "There are some parts I know I need to fix, especially the final 400 meters. We all went all out with those kicks. Other than that, the race felt really good.
"I wanted to get out there with the front pack and stay up there and respond to moves that are going on. I don't like to be the one leading at the front. I like to be in the pack and make my moves."
Barrington's Joe Brezenger was eighth, Grayslake Central's Trey Sato was ninth and Palatine's Mason Krieg was 10th.