CARY – Crystal Lake South’s Bella Gonzalez and Cary-Grove’s Maggie Mason ran step-for-step into the second mile as the matchup between two of the area’s top girls runners took shape.
But the next time the two saw most of the spectators, about three-quarters of a mile later, Gonzalez had a significant lead.
“I was really nervous for the race because there’s not been many people who have been next to me,” said Gonzalez, the defending Fox Valley Conference champion. “I’ve had [teammates] Abby [Machesky] and Addie [Frisch], but not very many. I was super nervous and kind of used that in the race. I was feeling good [at that point] and decided to make a move.”
Gonzalez went on to win in 18:06.55 in the FVC double dual meet Tuesday night at Cary-Grove’s Al Bohrer Field. The course was set up to finish on the football field under the lights as C-G celebrated its senior night after the boys race.
Machesky, a freshman, edged Mason for second place. Mason was third, Frisch was fourth and C-G’s Delaney Blohm was fifth. South (8-0) remained unbeaten with two dual wins, 19-26 over C-G and 20-39 over Crystal Lake Central.
In the boys race, Central beat South, 15-48, and defeated C-G, 17-41, to finish at 8-1 in conference dual meets. The Tigers’ Danny Hamill, Karson Hollander, Tommy Landt and Austin May crossed the finish line together as they took the top four spots.
“We were trying to work out our pack today and get our team together so we can improve for conference and regional,” said Landt, who was not first for the first time this season.
C-G coach Layne Holter said junior Ian Barnes, one of the FVC’s top runners, was not available Tuesday but will be back. He and Landt will be two of the top runners in the FVC Meet on Oct. 10.
Gonzalez, a sophomore, has picked up where she left off last season when she finished 10th in the Class 2A state meet.
“She looked strong. She had a great race,” Gators coach Ken Greenfield said. “Bella knew that was going to be a challenge. She’s a kid who likes challenges.”
Greenfield said he learns more about Machesky in each race.
“I’m learning not to be surprised by anything Abby does,” he said. “I knew she was a tough kid. I didn’t know she had this level of talent. Freshmen don’t know anything yet. It’s all a new experience, and she’s a smart cookie, and she’s picking up stuff every day. She has talent, she works hard, and she learns quick. That’s a pretty good combination.”
Machesky passed Mason in the last half mile and finished in 18:39.29, five seconds ahead of Mason.
“I was very excited that I reached a personal goal,” Machesky said. “But also very happy for the team. I was surprised. My coach told me to try to stay with Cary’s second girl. Everybody did great in the race. We were all really good.”
C-G beat Central, 21-38, in the other dual, which is key because it gets the Trojans one step closer to the fast heat at the FVC Meet. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and keeping crowds to a minimum, the meet will run in two five-team heats. The first heat will be the top five teams out of the dual meet standings.
Central’s boys have wowed their own coach with their season, with their only loss coming against Jacobs.
“I’m beyond impressed,” Tigers coach Bill Eschman said. “Talking about it gives me goosebumps because everything they’ve done, they’ve done on their own. It’s really impressive. They were doing 65 miles a week [this summer] on their own. Even in the school year, they do morning runs on their own. They are dedicated. It’s one of the best groups I’ve ever had.”