Cross country: Huntley boys win Stampede title, Batavia girls 2nd
There's not much the power of positive thinking can't help -- just ask Batavia's Mia Gianfrancesco.
The sophomore, coming off one of her best races last week when she finished seventh at the St. Charles North Invitational, moved up even more Saturday at the West Aurora Stampede at Stuart Sports Complex.
Gianfrancesco ran the course in 18 minutes, 14 seconds to take second behind only Yorkville's Alyssa Edwards (18:00).
"Coming out to this race last year I didn't do very well on this course," Gianfrancesco said. "I just came in with a different mental positivity coming into the race and it just helped me get through it. It's a voice in my head that told myself today is a good day, it's perfect weather for a race, I have great teammates that will help me get through this race no matter what."
One of those teammates is Marygrace Golden, who finished fifth in 18:46. Those two led Batavia to a runner-up finish with 44 points, trailing Yorkville's 37.
"We just try to stick with each other as much as we can," Gianfrancesco said. "My weakness is sometimes I don't get out fast enough and Marygrace is very good at the start so she helps me and then I help her with the rest of race and we just kind of push off each other and use each other to get better."
It wasn't easy going out fast Saturday as the first half-mile went straight into a strong wind.
But Golden said going out hard is the way she's always raced.
"I like to start out fast and work my way into it," Golden said. "That's something I've always done since middle school. In track I'm more of the shorter distances so cross country I usually start out fast and then regret it sometimes.
"It felt amazing today. It was a really good race. Mostly today I was trying to go out fast and keep it. Today was probably my best race of the season."
Jenna Schifferer (10th), Erin O'Brien (13th) and Alexa Andrews (14th) made up the rest of Batavia's top five.
"Everyone ran great," Golden said. "We've made it to state every year for the past three years so hopefully we keep that going for a fourth year. There's a lot riding on this year."
Alice Abbott highlighted St. Charles East's fifth-place finish by taking fourth in 18:31 despite racing at less than 100 percent.
"I wasn't feeling particularly well today," Abbott said. "I never want to use that as an excuse for any reason. I want to push through pain, that's the point of sports. I just wanted to get through this race being proud of myself knowing I pushed through it."
Abbott, who placed third in the top flight at the Wheaton Classic this fall, said her breathing was off a little but overall she was happy with her finish.
"I went out a little hard which wasn't the best idea going into the wind," Abbott said. "I probably could have pushed a lot harder but I was not disappointed."
Third-place Oswego East and fourth-place Neuqua Valley also finished in the top five at the 16-team meet. Julia Rushing and Keara Ginell led Neuqua in sixth and seventh, respectively.
Boys race: Nobody could catch Oswego East's Matt Blanco Saturday at Stuart Sports Complex, the senior winning this year's West Aurora Stampede in a time of 15:43.
Huntley had a quartet of runners who tried, with Jadon Conroy coming the closest at 15:47.
That was good for second place, and his teammates Jeremy Roe (15:53, fifth), Ian Geisler (15:56, sixth) and Josh Segura (15:58, eighth) all finished in the top eight. That pack led the Red Raiders to the team title with 63 points ahead of Wheaton North (70), Chatham Glenwood (120), Oswego East (127) and Carroll (142).
"Oswego East's runner ran a great race," Huntley coach Matt Kaplan said. "Jadon did well. He moved up nicely and stayed in second for the second half of the race."
Conroy won the Lake Park invite earlier this season.
Kaplan also was pleased with the race Conroy's teammates ran.
"With a meet like this I was very pleased with it," Kaplan said. "They are where they need to be at this point of the season. The top four did what they have been doing all season. Our four should always be together. They ran the plan. Just have to get someone to step up. We have a little gap there. The kids know they can do it."
Huntley heads to its conference meet next weekend at Hickory Nut Grove in Cary.
Wheaton North finished right behind Huntley in the team standings, and Connor Zydek came in right behind Conroy in 15:49.
Zydek started off back, around 20th through the first half mile, before moving into the lead pack as the race went on.
"This was by far the best race I've run all year," Zydek said. "I ran a smart race, stuck to my race plan, which is something I struggled with earlier. I made sure in the first half mile to keep conservative especially because we were headed straight into the wind.
"The second half mile I started to work for it and the second mile when everyone starts to move I really went with that move and then at the two mile I continued to go. I was just trying to make sure I was strong at the end of the race."
Zydek said he learned from last week's race at Lockport when he "got really excited at the beginning," went out too fast and didn't have the finish he wanted.
"Focus on being strong in the middle miles is the key for me," Zydek said. "This has always been a good course for me, I've always run well. It's always exciting to come here."
Joey Simon finished seventh and Kevin Riley was 12th for the Falcons, who head to the DVC meet Saturday before regionals at Lake Park. They return home to St. James for sectionals.
"I'm certain it will continue to move forward as we get into some good courses with our conference meet and a lot of good competition," Zydek said. "Our perpetual goal is to make the state meet."
Waubonsie Valley's Cedric McGuire and Trevor Murphy from Downers Grove North also finished in the top 10 at ninth and 10th, respectively.