Naperville North girls get pack in place to advance to state

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For the fourth straight year, Naperville North’s girls illuminated that the sport of cross country is dictated by place, not time.

On Saturday morning at the Class 3A St. Charles East Sectional, the Huskies had all five counting runners not only a mere 34 seconds apart but also occupying top-11 finishes.

The result was a convincing team championship, the fourth in a row for the reigning state runners-up, at LeRoy Oakes’ undulating layout.

“I can’t complain,” Naperville North coach Dan Iverson said after Sarah Schmitt, Judy Pendergast, Elly DeTurris and Claire Hamilton finished third, fifth, sixth and seventh to spearhead the Huskies’ 32-point total.

Geneva, behind runner-up McKenzie Altmayer, was a distant second with 101 points.

Naperville Central, without any of the talented Hoffman triplets in its lineup, was third (111).

Batavia (117) earned its first trip to the team state finals next Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria in 11 years with its fourth-place finish.

Wheaton Warrenville South (137) was comfortably ahead of both St. Charles high schools for the final team berth.

Streamwood senior Gabby Juarez was the lone competitor to break 17 minutes (16:58) to win the individual title.

“I didn’t know (my freshman season) would be this great,” Schmitt said. “I tried to stay with the lead pack of girls, with Elly and Claire.”

Maggie McClowrey paced Naperville Central to third place by snaring the final top-10 effort in 17:36.

“The finishing stretch, I just tried the best that I could,” McClowrey said.

Clare McCabe and Nicki Cast claimed the final two at-large berths for Benet and Metea Valley, respectively.

Altmayer was four seconds behind Juarez to anchor the Geneva position.

“I knew I wanted to go out strong and stay with the lead group,” Altmayer said. “I just tried to push it as hard as I could.”

Batavia was led by the triumvirate of Emma Stephens, Miranda Rae and Dakota Roman. Stephens, the West Chicago Regional champion, was eighth.

“We want to go (to Peoria) and perform extremely well,” Batavia coach Chad Hillman said.

Juarez seized command of the race in the last 400 meters to turn back Altmayer.

“I can’t even describe (the victory),” Juarez said. “Last year was just an accomplishment to make it to sectionals (due to an iron deficiency). (The 16:58) is an all-time best for me.”

The two St. Charles schools had major consolation prizes in Audrey Ernst and Torree Scull.

Ernst, the St. Charles North freshman sensation, was fourth overall in 17:07.

Scull qualified for the state meet for the third consecutive year as an individual after leading St. Charles East to a third-place finish three years ago.

“I was running for my team,” said Scull, All-State last year. “I wanted my team to get down so badly.”

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