PEORIA - When girls cross country went from 2.5 to 3.0 miles 10 years ago, it looked like a time in the upper 16-minute range would be good enough to win state most seasons.
Then Woodstock star Kayla Beattie showed everyone what was possible in 2010 by racing to an all-class record of 16:22 in the Class 2A final.
Glenbard West’s Madeline Perez was a freshman running her first state meet that fall.
“I remember walking to the start line [for the Class 3A race, thinking] like, ‘Holy cow, that is so fast. Is that even possible?’”
Not only was running that fast possible for Beattle, running a lot faster was right in Perez’s wheelhouse.
The Hilltoppers junior broke Beattie’s state-meet record and the Detweiller Park course record of 16:21 set earlier this year by Lake Park’s Kaylee Flanagan on Saturday, running 16:02 to win the 3A title. Runner-up Emma Fisher of York also beat the meet and course records on a perfect day for racing - cool, no wind - by running 16:15.
Perez’s personal best before Saturday was 16:28 at Lake Park, so Saturday’s time was a significant drop.
“Honestly, it is an honor to have this record,” she said. “Illinois, in my opinion, is one of the best cross country states out there so to have my name down there is pretty exciting.”
She rode a relentless pace into the record book.
“My plan was just to go out there, see what everyone else was going to do,” she said. “But I knew deep down I wanted to push myself as hard as I could.”
Fifteen runners broke 17 minutes in the race. Following Fisher were New Trier’s Courtney Ackerman (third, 16:27), Flanagan (fourth, 16:39) and Fenwick’s Olivia Ryan (fifth, 16:43).
Naperville North won its fifth state title with 113 points, thanks to a 38-second split for its top five runners. All-staters Elly DeTurris (14th, 16:57), Maria McDaniel (21st, 17:04) and Judy Pendergast (23rd, 17:09) led the Huskies. Lake Park (133) and Glenbard West (138) also won trophies. Defending champ New Trier (147) finished fourth.
“Pack running is something Naperville North is very good at,” DeTurris said.
“Given how we developed, I thought this was a possibility,” said Dan Iverson, who has coached the Huskies to four state titles in 17 seasons. “We hadn’t seen Lake Park or Glenbard West or Palatine (which was fifth). When that’s the case, you never quite know.”
In Class 2A, Kaneland sophomore Victoria Clinton was the individual winner in 16:56. Yorkville repeated as team champ, 66-112 over Normal U-High. Montini took the third-place trophy on a sixth-runner tiebreaker after tying Glenbard South with 172 points.
“I had a goal of being in the top five at state,” Clinton said. “After each race [this season], I gained a little more confidence.”