Prairie Ridge’s Michaela Pieroni experienced a rough ending to her junior cross country season that required knee surgery and missing the postseason.
Pieroni's senior season ended on a much higher note Saturday when she and her teammates brought home the Class 2A girls third-place trophy from the IHSA Cross Country State Meet at Peoria’s Detweiller Park.
The Wolves finished with 219 points, two points ahead of Normal University High for third place. Belvidere North (113) and Vernon Hills (148), the same two teams ahead of Prairie Ridge at last week’s Woodstock North Sectional, took first and second.
“It’s really exciting to do it as a team,” said Pieroni, who was 33rd overall and second in the Wolves’ lineup. “We were strong as a team and knew if we all ran our best we could do it.”
Woodstock’s Kylie Hagmann (10th), Prairie Ridge’s Chelsea Gale (13th) and Crystal Lake South’s Mackenzie Aldridge (19th) earned All-State honors with top-25 finishes. Hagmann is a third-time All-Stater, Gale made it for a second year.
In the Class 2A boys race, Crystal Lake Central’s Keegan Smalley (20th) and Marian Central’s Ryan Jones (24th) were All-State. In Class 3A, Huntley’s Ian Geisler took 17th to make All-State.
Wolves girls coach Kelly MacDonald felt her team pulled out the third-place finish in the race’s second half.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen from where we were in the first 1 1/2 miles,” she said. “The last three-quarters we really got on it. Surprise, surprise. There is so much parity in 2A. Two points. I knew it was going to be close at the very end.”
For the team scoring, which removed the individual runners, Gale was ninth, Pieroni was 25th, Carsen Forte was 29th, Katie Harth was 76th and Alaura Busch was 78th. The team trophy was Prairie Ridge’s first, and also the first for an area team since Crystal Lake Central was 2A runner-up in 2011.
“I just knew that each person I passed was helping my team,” Pieroni said. “That’s really cool to be a part of this.”
Smalley had a strong season, but was nagged recently by a knee injury. He would not have made it to state without his team qualifying, but made the most of his opportunity on Saturday.
“I’m really thankful for having the team to pick me up,” Smalley said. “It was a really fun race, just being there for my team. My knee felt better.”
Jones, a junior, had been close twice in Class 1A, then got his first state medal in 2A.
"I sprinted really hard the last part, I knew I needed it, I was right around 25th," Jones said. "Getting this medal is so cool. It finally happened and I'm so happy."
Geisler finished 84th as a sophomore and ran 14:44.80 to take 17th on Saturday.
“I wish I could have done a little better, but it’s about the race, not about the pace,” Geisler said. “Experience here really helps to know what to expect. The first mile I wanted to go in 4:40 or 4:45, then work my way into the top in the triangle and just go as hard as I could the last mile.”
Here is a list of the top-25 finishes for area runners at the IHSA Cross Country State Meet Saturday at Peoria's Detweiller Park.
Class 2A Girls
Individuals: 10. Kylie Hagmann (Woodstock), 13. Chelsea Gale (Prairie Ridge), 19. Mackenzie Aldridge (Crystal Lake South).
Team: 3. Prairie Ridge (Chelsea Gale, Michaela Pieroni, Carsen Forte, Katie Harth, Aluara Busch, Delaney Minutillo, Allie Klauser).
Class 2A Boys
Individuals: 20. Keegan Smalley (Crystal Lake Central), 24. Ryan Jones (Marian Central).
Class 3A Boys
Individuals: 17. Ian Geisler (Huntley).