Inside the gymnasium at Belvidere High School Saturday, members of the Lake Forest girls cross country team held hands nervously.
The Scouts had finished running in the Class 2A Belvidere Sectional and were hoping to place in the top five, which would give them a berth in the state meet.
“They were announcing the teams. We were all huddled and listening,” senior Claire Yandell said. “We all screamed when they called the sixth-place team.”
At that point, the Scouts knew they’d be in the top five. One more school — Maple Park — was called before Lake Forest learned of its fourth-place result (Crystal Lake Central won the meet). The trip to Peoria for state will be the Scouts’ first as a team since 2004.
They dropped from Class 3A to 2A this year.
“Last year we won conference and regionals and we were in 3A and it fell apart,” said Yandell, who finished seventh overall with a time of 18 minutes, 21 seconds. “It was cool going down to 2A. It was an opportunity but was a fight.”
The Scouts had five runners in the top 50: Yandell, junior Emma Allen (23rd, 19:09), senior Gabrielle Simeck (28th, 19:13), sophomore Nora Burgener (38th, 19:25) and sophomore Kelsey Schmidt (45th, 19:33). Sophomore Katie Condon and freshman Haley Click also ran for Lake Forest.
Coach Steve Clegg said the Scouts are not just happy to have qualified for the 25-team state meet, held at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
“We have a really good chance of being in the top 10,” Clegg said. “It’s a fast course, tends to be really quick. A top-three [finish] and a trophy would be a real special day.”
Myers moves on
The girls will have to save one seat on the bus to Peoria for the lone Lake Forest boys runner who advanced.
Sophomore Mark Myers qualified for an at-large berth after finishing seventh overall (15:37). It’s the second year in a row that the Scouts have qualified one runner. Last year, Billy Bund made it to state and finished fifth. As a team, Lake Forest ended up in ninth place at the Belvidere Sectional with Myers easily leading the pack.
“When we get to that race situation there’s something about Mark internally that’s he’s able to separate,” coach Nate Sweet said. “Nothing physical. It’s purely within his own mindset.”
Sweet said Myers has not run the state course, but he plans to get to Peoria Friday in time to get familiar with the layout.
“He’s going in the right direction. [How he ran Saturday] reminded me a lot of [Bund], how he’s progressing,” Sweet said.