Vernon Hills sets new standard at state

SHARE Vernon Hills sets new standard at state
SHARE Vernon Hills sets new standard at state

The Vernon Hills boys and girls cross country teams knew they ran well at the Class 2A state meet in Peoria Saturday. It just took them a little longer than normal to figure out how well they had done.

But it was well worth the wait.

It was just after 1 p.m. when girls coach Suzanne Curry was in a trailer about 300 meters from the finish line with runners Vivian Overbeck and Cassie Lira. Overbeck and Lira were about to receive their all-state medals for finishing in the top 25. It had been almost two hours since the Cougars had finished their race when Curry’s husband, Vernon Hills assistant athletic director Chris Curry, approached her with some news.

“He tried to text me but we had no cell phone service. He had to make a mad sprint to let us know before we started [the all-state ceremony],” Suzanne Curry said. “He came by and whispered in my ear that we had finished third.”

The Vernon Hills boys, who dominated the regular season and swept their regional and sectional meets, ran at noon. At 2:30 p.m., and there was still no word on team results from the IHSA.

“Some people were just talking, some pacing, some playing catch with the football,” boys coach Mark Whitney said. “Mostly just standing around and waiting.”

At 2:45 p.m., Whitney heard an announcement that the medal winners of three teams — Yorkville, Illiana Christian and Vernon Hills — needed to report to receive their awards.

“As soon as we heard we were one of those teams that won trophies, I knew,” Mark Whitney said.

No official word was given for the delay. It didn’t matter to Vernon Hills, which had boys and girls teams take home trophies for the first time in school history. The boys’ total of 136 points was barely behind runner-up Illiana Christian (134). Yorkville won the championship with 119 points.

Kyle Whitney, Mark Whitney’s son, was the highest individual finisher for the boys, ending his career by running his best race. His time of 15 minutes, 5 seconds was a personal record, good for fifth overall. Vernon Hills’ success this season was due to consistency from its 1-5 runners. And although Kyle Whitney was the team’s only all-stater, freshman Shane Williamson (27th, 15:30), junior Rob Williams (40th, 15:40), junior Tyler Smith (42nd, 15:42) and senior Nick Webber (72nd, 15:58) all ran solid races on a day when warm and windy weather presented challenges.

“We knew it would be a dog fight and that’s what it turned out to be,” Mark Whitney said. “This team has risen to the occasion all year long.”

Like the boys, the girls were strong from 1-5 but needed a lead runner. That was Overbeck, a sophomore. Her time of 17:46 was a personal record, good for 11th place. Lira, a senior, ran an 18:01 (22nd place), also a personal record. Other notable Cougar runners were sophomore Shannon Skeoch (57th, 19:01), junior Samantha Hershman (73rd, 19:11) and sophomore Lexi Reich (97th, 19:27). As a team, Vernon Hills finished third (181) behind Glenbard South (130) and winner Yorkville (104).

“We had hopes of winning a trophy but when it actually happened, they were stunned and shocked,” Suzanne Curry said. “It was really awesome. It hasn’t sunk in yet.”

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