PEORIA – Kaneland sophomore Victoria Clinton's goals evolved as Saturday's IHSA Class 2A Girls Cross Country State Meet unfolded.
"My goal was to be in the top five and stay up there," Clinton said. "When I stayed up there and realized I had a pretty good chance of being in the top three, I knew I should just go for it."
Clinton's time of 16:56 at Detweiller Park in Peoria was a personal-best by about 30 seconds, according to Knights coach Doug Ecker, and the mark gave Clinton the Class 2A state title.
"It was a really fast course," Clinton said. "It went by incredibly fast. It was nice ground, not too hard, but not too soft."
Clinton becomes the first Knights cross country runner – female or male – to win an individual state championship, Ecker said. The program's previous best was third place by Kerry Rink in 1986 when Illinois had a one-class system.
"You have to have the talent and you also just have to have it on that day because there are so many good runners in Illinois," Ecker said. "You could run your best on that particular day and someone else could be just a little bit sharper. I think it's an amazing thing. State champions are hard to come by."
Clinton finished 11 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Stephanie Saey of Galesburg, who clocked in at 17:07. Marengo's Katie Adams, who relegated Clinton to a second-place finish at sectionals and was unbeaten on the season, finished ninth in 17:32.
As a team, the Kaneland girls placed sixth. Freshman Brianna Bower was 32nd in 18:09, junior Sydney Strang was 38th in 18:14 and sophomore Aislinn Losdwig finished 69th in 18:36. Amanda Lesak (81st place), Maggie Brundige (98th) and Abby Dodis (120th) also contributed to the Knights' cause, with Brundige battling through plantar fasciitis, according to Ecker.
DeKalb junior Kelsey Schrader took 10th place in the Class 3A meet. At first glance, Schrader was displeased with her finish. Then, Schrader took a few minutes to consider what had happened and started feeling better.
The Barbs were moved up from Class 2A to Class 3A, Schrader had run 17 seconds better than her time in last year’s 2A race and she had run in a race where the top two finishers beat the state-meet record.
“After my cool down, I thought about it and in order to finish higher I would have to have run like in the guys’ race,” Schrader said. “I can’t be disappointed being in the top 10 in the fastest [girls state meet] race in history.”
Schrader finished in 16:54 for 10th; she finished in 17:11 last year as Class 2A runner-up. Glenbard West’s Madeline Perez (16:02) won the race in 20 seconds under the old record and York’s Emma Fisher (16:15) also beat the record.
“I’m proud of how she fought to be in the top 10,” DeKalb coach Mike Wolf said. “She fought with those top girls and ran hard in that second pack. She’s been real strong the last four Saturdays.”
Since the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Meet, which Schrader won, she took her running up a few notches.
“I’m really happy with the whole postseason,” she said. “I got a [personal record] today, so I’m happy with it.”
Kaneland boys coach Chad Clarey said his runners wondered how they could provide a suitable encore after Clinton's dramatic finish in the girls race.
"That's exactly what we wound up doing," Clarey said. "We had two runners in the top 50 and as deep as the whole Class 2A field is, we had some other guys in the low-100s."
Clarey said the Knights' cumulative team time of 78:34 was the best in 16 downstate appearances by the program.
Senior Conor Johnson (36th place, 15:18) and junior Kyle Carter (48th, 15:22) were the leaders for the Knights, who landed in 13th place as a team.
Sycamore's Mark Stice took 54th (15:26). DeKalb's Marc Dubrick was 93rd in the 3A meet with a time of 15:21.
• Joe Stevenson contributed to this report