AURORA – Bria Bennis put so much distance between her and the rest of the sectional field Oct. 29 that it almost looked like she was running alone.
But the York senior hardly felt alone.
“With all the York fans here, it’s super supportive. They’re all over the course,” Bennis said. “That gave me the motivation I needed.”
Those fans are about to head south to Peoria to join the Dukes for what could be a fantastic finish.
Bennis won the Class 3A Waubonsie Valley Sectional race going away by almost 23 seconds. Defending state champion and No. 1-ranked York put three girls in the top 10 to easily win the team title, 37-84 over runner-up Naperville North.
Bennis, who won West Suburban Silver and regional races the previous two Saturdays, made it a postseason triple in a field full of conference rivals.
She finished in a course record 16 minutes, 59.2 seconds, well ahead of Hinsdale Central runner-up Catie McCabe (17:22.0).
“The past few faces I’ve been running from the front,” Bennis said. “I wanted to run my own race, don’t let anybody dictate what I do and just keep pushing forward.”
York teammate Michaela Quinn was third in 17:24.5 and Katherine Klimek was fifth in 17:29.6.
Bennis already is looking forward to this weekend at Detweiler Park, where the Dukes’ closest competitor figures to be Prospect. Prospect edged York by one point at the Richard Spring Invitational at Detweiler in September. York easily beat Prospect the following week at Palatine’s Meet of Champions.
“We’re super excited for state, biggest race of the year,” Bennis said. “Prospect is an amazing team and they’re going to be right up there with us.”
Naperville North, Naperville Central (117), Lyons (124), Downers Grove North (126), Hinsdale Central (172) and Benet (218) also advanced its girls teams, Benet just beating out Batavia (223) for the last spot from a sectional with 11 of the top 32 teams according to RunnerSpace.com.
McCabe, who was fifth at regionals, beat her regional time by greater than 40 seconds. And she had no shortage of motivations.
The Red Devils’ senior, 14th at state last year, had motivational messages such as “Take Risks” and “Just Race” written in black all over her arms.
“Some girls on our team started doing it last year, write little mantras on our arm. I just think it’s fun,” McCabe said. “We did a lot to prepare our mindset and our bodies. We had a great race today.”
In the boys race, with nine teams ranked in the top 30 in the state, fourth-ranked Downers Grove North put five runners in the top 23 to beat out No. 1-ranked and defending state runner-up Hinsdale Central 75-78.
Topher Ferris (eighth, 15:01.5) and Caden Weber (12th, 15:05.2) paced the Trojans, who had taken third at both the conference and regional meets.
“I thought our dudes executed pretty well and ran really well together,” Downers Grove North coach John Sipple said. “The synergy that they have developed all season is coming together. We knew it would be tight, beat Hinsdale by three. It’s fun that the Silver teams are working together.”
Also advancing was Oak Park-River Forest (99), Naperville Central (128), Lyons (134), Neuqua Valley (135) and Downers Grove South (192).
The individual race was a reversal of conference, where Hinsdale Central’s Dan Watcke edged OPRF’s Liam Newhart by less than two seconds.
This time, Newhart beat out Watcke 14:44.0 to 14:48.5. Watcke made it close despite an early mishap.
Going down the hill for the first time, Watcke got tripped up and fell and was sporting a nasty cut on his knee afterward.
“I just wiped out,” Watcke said. “But in cross you have to get back up as fast as you can and that’s what I did. You have to keep your composure, especially in regionals and sectionals. You can’t make it all up in a couple seconds. You have to slowly chip away.”
Nicholas Strayer of Lyons was third in 14:49.6.
“It’s definitely a really competitive meet. This could be a state meet some years,” Strayer said. “It makes it really fun. You have to bring your best each week. I think we’re poised to really surprise some people at state.”