PEORIA – Regardless of the outcome, Naperville North senior Lucy Westlake discusses her cross country races with her grandfather, who still lives in Louisville, Ky.
“They didn’t get to make it out, but they’d love to,” said Westlake, who moved to Naperville in sixth grade. “My grandpa’s really good about driving up here.”
There was plenty of good news from Saturday’s First to the Finish Invitational at Detweiller Park in Peoria – the annual site of the state meet that was canceled in 2020 during the limited COVID-restricted season.
Westlake won the 3.0-mile Class 3A girls race – her first major race victory as a high school runner – and the No. 2 state-ranked Huskies captured the team title with 100 points. Westlake’s 17:31.2 for the 3.0 miles won by 2.3 seconds. Her previous best major finish she recalled was third behind standout teammates Maggie Gamboa and Audrey Mendrys, who have graduated.
“It’s a nice feeling for sure,” Westlake said. “This year it’s definitely been different but we still have a lot of girls that are really motivated. I try to be a role model in how I practice and that’s honestly all anyone can do. I have a great team around me. It’s pretty easy.”
The Huskies won by 15 points over Minooka. No. 2 to 5 team finishers Logan Brennan, Sophie Golobitsh, Julie Piot and Emma Berres placed from 20th to 33rd with a 30-second split. Naperville Central was third.
In her season debut, Batavia senior Katrina Schlenker was third in 17:44.5, just ahead of Metea Valley’s Sarah Maggio in 17:46.0.
“It was just a good start off race,” said Schlenker, a multiple all-stater. “I like First to the Finish because it gives you a good feel of where you’re at training wise because Detweiller is a pretty known course.”
Benet’s Louisa Diamond was eighth.
Burlington Central senior Yusuf Baig was second (15:04.3) in the 2A boys race to Bartonville Limestone’s Wilson Georges (14:46.2), the class’ top-rated runner.
“I’ve never really raced at Detweiller with this fitness so I was really excited to come out here,” Baig said. “I wanted everyone to know I’m up there with the top guys.”
Glenbard South was fourth.
In 3A boys, Hinsdale Central finished one point ahead of Downers Grove North 135-136 and behind New Trier’s 125. Hinsdale Central’s Dan Watcke won 14:50.0 by .5 over New Trier’s Nick Falk after winning his home Hornet-Red Devils Invite.
“It was a lot cooler last week. That was the main thing (Saturday),” Watcke said.
Downers Grove North senior Roy Llewellyn was sixth in 15:03.8, IC Catholic Prep senior Carly Manchester was sixth in 1A girls in 18:18.8 and freshman Grazi Narcisi 15th. Wheaton Academy was fourth. The Warriors’ Sheldon Powell was 15th in 1A boys.
“After last year, I’m really thankful to be running here again,” Manchester said. “I missed the course last year and honestly, it’s just one of the faster courses. I feel like it brings the morale up and keeps me motivated.”
In 2A boys, Riverside-Brookfield sophomore Cooper Marrs (15:05.8) and senior Paul Proteau (15:22.8) finished third and fifth and the Bulldogs (218 points) were fourth.
“This race we definitely paid a lot of attention to stats (Friday). I think we just really were really looking forward to this and ready to go into this one,” Proteau said. “We put down some great times to go off for (during) the postseason. We could not be happier with how it went,” Marrs added.
Returning Nazareth junior all-stater Colette Kinsella was 12th in the 2A girls race (18:38.0). The Roadrunners were fifth.
“I thought the first two miles were good. I had a good start and then the third mile I think the heat got to me a little bit,” Kinsella said. “I’m really excited. We have a young team. It’s promising.”
LT’s Catherine Sommerfeld was a strong fifth in the 3A girls race (17:50.3) after comfortably winning the season-opening LT Invite.
“Definitely slower today probably because of the heat, but pretty happy with it I guess,” Sommerfeld said. “I had a good race last week and I was really happy with it, really comfortable. Definitely a big change of pace today, a little harder, but a good step in the right direction.”
LT senior Charlie McLawhorn bounced back with a strong second half in the 3A boys race to take seventh (15:06.4), less than three seconds from Downers Grove North senior Roy Llewellyn.
“The past two weeks I haven’t felt that great in races. In workouts I’ve been killing it,” McLawhorn said. “A great atmosphere here and I knew for my team I really wanted to hammer that last mile.”