Coming to the end of the race, Lincoln-Way North’s Carly Marchal and Lincoln-Way West’s Natalie Krol were running stride for stride.
The two junior standouts had separated themselves from the rest of the field, but not from each other in the SouthWest Suburban Red conference meet Saturday at rainy Turtlehead Lake.
“It was intense, but I knew I could do it,’’ Marchal said. “She (Krol) just wasn’t giving up. I just wanted to stay one step ahead, and at the end I just threw myself over the finish line.’’
Marchal clocked 19 minutes, 7 seconds to edge Krol for the conference title compared to 19:24 last season when Marchal was seventh in the conference race.
“The first mile was fast, but we ran here before and I knew it would be,’’ Marchal said. “The second mile was probably the hardest because you have to mentally keep yourself going fast. If you lose the top group, you’re never going to get back.
“The third mile I was really tired, but I was confident because I knew if I had stayed with them that whole time, I could stay with them the rest of the race. I knew I could kick. I was trying to motivate myself the whole third mile.’’
The next four runners were from Lincoln-Way Central, which repeated as team champion with 27 points to 58 for runner-up North and 61 for Lincoln-Way West.
Central’s top five were Elizabeth Venezio (3rd, 19:17), Gretchen Zirgaitis (4th, 19:17), Madison Smith (5th, 19:19), Heidi Killinger (6th, 19:32) and Dana Boucher (9th, 20:03).
“It really made me reflect back on all four years and think about how blessed I am to be able to run cross country,’’ Venezio said. “The awesome thing about this conference is there’s so many talented runners from all the schools.’’
Also in the top 10 were North’s Abby Casey (7th, 19:46), Andrew’s Sarah Kubas (8th, 19:49) and North’s Karen Perez (10th, 20:06).
In the boys race, junior Ian Peterson won the individual title (15:37) to lead Central to another team championship. North (47) was second and West (65) finished third.
“I’ve never done anything like this before, so it feels pretty cool,’’ Peterson said. “We did really well as a team. We won it last year and the year before that. It’s becoming a tradition.’’
Pre-meet favorite Central placed its first five runners among the top seven. After Peterson, it was Tommy Kolacki (2nd, 15:44), Jackson Waters (3rd, 15:51), Ben Alvarado (5th, 16:03) and Andrew Robbins (7th, 16:20).
“The race is not won on paper. You’ve got to come out here and still have to perform,’’ Central coach John Taylor said. “This weather, we embrace it. It makes us stronger, separates the weak from the strong.’’
Also in the top 10 were North’s John Chomiak (4th, 15:57) and Noah Healy (6th, 16:15), West’s Evan Mitchell (8th, 16:30) and Peter Motto (9th, 16:35) and North’s Dimitri Pancini (10th, 16:36).