WOODSTOCK – Even after Crystal Lake South’s girls team heard the scores of the Fox Valley Conference Cross Country Invitational, there were doubts.
Had the Gators really pulled off a shocker? With the margin so close – three teams within two points – what if there was a scoring error?
“I’m pinching myself,” Gators coach Ken Greenfield said. “It’s that close and I’m expecting someone to come running up and say, ‘Oops, we made a mistake with the scoring.’ ”
There was no mistake, South’s young, surging team successfully snatched away the trophy that was supposed to belong to Crystal Lake Central or Cary-Grove or Jacobs or Woodstock.
The Gators finished with 88 points, with Central (89) and Cary-Grove (90) right behind Saturday at Emricson Park. South did not have a top-10 runner, but put all its scoring runners in the top 27.
Jacobs’ Lauren Van Vlierbergen repeated as FVC individual champion in 17:53.3, handing Woodstock’s Maura Beattie (18:15.8) her first loss of the season. McHenry’s Lauren Opatrny (18:19.8) was third.
In such a stacked conference, Greenfield had just hoped his team might crack the top three.
“I thought we had the talent and the type of kids that somewhere along the line we could be in the mix for this,” said Greenfield, who ran his younger runners in freshman-sophomore races early in the season. “This season I thought was a bit of a stretch. So much hinges on the younger runners and how they develop, and they’ve developed great. They’re great racers and great kids.”
Kiley Britten led South in 11th place, followed by Caitlin Bruzzini (15th), Debra Tomlinson (16th), Andie Kobick (19th) and Malgorzata Waz (27th). Greenfield was especially happy for Waz, a senior who improved, but was overshadowed by the younger runners.
“I can’t believe it,” Waz said. “We’ve been competing with those teams and coach was always like, ‘Keep your eyes on them.’ We’ve been coming close in other meets. It’s an honor. I’ve been struggling in my head because cross country is mostly a mental sport. Being able to get up there and compete and make points for my team is really awesome.”
Maddie Dagley, Mary Fleming and Janine Orvis finished eighth, ninth and 10th to lead Central. C-G’s Morgan Schulz was fourth and Talia Duzey was seventh. Woodstock freshman Kate Jacobs joined Beattie in the top five taking fifth.
Central beat Woodstock for the dual meet title in the FVC Fox Division through the regular season. C-G beat Jacobs on the FVC Valley side.
Van Vlierbergen is feeling more fit after her summer training was limited by an issue with her right hip. She cross-trained and was not able to log her normal mileage.
“I know Maura always goes out really fast,” Van Vlierbergen said. “I was hoping to stay behind her and just try to stay with her the whole time. I was just feeling good at about a mile-and-a-half. I have a lot better training now and it’s exciting.”