BELVIDERE – The disappointment had been festering with Marengo’s girls cross country team for an entire year.
The Indians had the talent to run in the IHSA Class 2A State Meet last season, but came up short in the Belvidere Sectional with a poor race.
That memory fueled one of Marengo’s best races in school history Saturday as the Indians, led by Katie Adams’ individual victory, won the Belvidere Sectional with 57 points.
Sophomore Kitty Allen, who normally runs No. 4 for Marengo, was the Indians’ second runner, taking seventh overall as they punched their second ticket to Peoria’s Detweiller Park in three years.
“It’s amazing,” said Adams, who ran 17:23.2 to finish 15 seconds ahead of Kaneland’s Victoria Clinton. “We’ve been waiting for this moment since last year. We were ready to go and weren’t going to back down.”
Even with No. 2 runner Allie Sprague battling an aching left foot from a stress injury, the Indians finished 19 points ahead of Crystal Lake Central. Central’s Sami Staples, the defending Class 2A state champion, was third and Woodstock’s Maura Beattie was fourth.
Belvidere North’s Garrett Lee (14:49.0) edged Central’s Alex Baker (14:49.7) for the boys’ individual title. Central finished fourth as a team to qualify for state. Prairie Ridge’s Joe Cowlin took third and qualified for Saturday’s state meet.
Allen was a surprise for Marengo, finishing in 18:21.5.
“The team’s been planning to do this, that’s the motivation we have,” Allen said. “This is the best feeling in the world. I’m proud of everyone, we just did amazing.”
Marengo coach R.J. Meyer was especially proud of Allen’s breakout race.
“The way she’s been running in the last few meets and in practice, I knew she could do this,” Meyer said. “Kitty was phenomenal. She had an awesome race. After last year, we would have been happy just to qualify, but this, oh, my God!”
In the boys’ race, Lee and Baker had not run against each other since the track season, but both expected to battle it out for first. They ran most of the second half of the race almost stride-for-stride.
“It was pretty fun,” Baker said. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a race like that. He has got a kick. I found some things I can improve on.”
Lee, who led the three-time defending Class 2A state champion Blue Thunder to the sectional team title, is looking forward to seeing Baker again at state.
“He’s always a good fighter,” Lee said. “He’s really fun to race against. I thought we’d break away from the pack. I can’t wait to see him next week.”
Cowlin qualified last year in Class 3A and has higher hopes now that the Wolves are in Class 2A.
“I felt pretty strong, it felt smooth for the first mile and a half, then [Lee and Baker] took off pretty hard and I was alone,” Cowlin said. “I tried to keep my eye on them and maintain. This has been a goal all year, and I want to go for a top-10 finish.”