When the dust settled at Detweiller Park, the heavily-favored Yorkville girls' cross country team proved its elite status and captured a fifth straight Class 2A state championship.
Yorkville continued to make history in Peoria last Saturday as boys' squad joined the girls' team on the awards stage, accepting the third-place state trophy to give the boys four trophies in four years, for a grand total of 11 combined state trophies for the cross country program over five seasons.
The Yorkville girls entered the 2015 season as the preseason favorites despite entering the year without three-time All-State runner Skyler Bollinger, who transferred to Great Oak (Calif.) with her family for her senior year. The Foxes also raced with four freshmen and two sophomores in its top 12 throughout much of the year, but the youth and varsity inexperience didn't slow Yorkville down.
"We've had a run of five years – and really a run of seven years with two two finishes – and every girl that was in the top five has never been part of more than two top fives. This team was a team more than any other we've had here," Yorkville head coach Chris Muth said. "It was a unique team and a really special team to me."
Yorkville pushed through a strong first mile and put all seven runners in the top 15 to start. As the race settled in, the Foxes put together a solid second half to eventually finish with four All-State medalists and another team championship with a top score of 58 points. Belvidere North was a distant second with 122 points, while Vernon Hills (143) took home third.
Only two girls' teams have won five straight titles: Winnebago (05-09) and Yorkville (11-15). Peoria Notre Dame senior Maryjeanne Gilbert won the race in 16:24, improving from last year's runner-up finish.
Yorkville was led by junior Alexis Grandys' third-place time of 17:01 while junior Maddie Dearborn placed 10th in 17:35, sophomore Alysssa Edwards clocked in at 17:38 to place 13th and senior Summer Pierson placed 15th with a time of 17:42 for All-State finishes in the top 25. Freshman Nicole Greyer placed 32nd with a time of 18:08 to complete the top five, sophomore Maggie Klemm placed 41st in 18:14 and freshman Olivia Borowiak was 95th in 18:53.
"We wanted to put ourselves in a position in the first mile and they went out exceptionally fast - even faster than we anticipated - and that threw a few people off, but the main group was able to maintain and hold their positions throughout," Muth said. "At this point, we know Alexis will show up for the big races and she showed up again with a third-place finish and really set the tone. Maddie and Summer are really our consistent runners. We know they're reliable. Alyssa has a ton of potential and just starting to realize that and is someone who has another level she can reach. ... Nicole got caught up in that really fast first mile, but she still finished with a great time."
This is Pierson's third year in Yorkville's top seven while Grandys, Edwards and Klemm were part of last year's championship and Dearborn was part the 2013 top seven.
Now, Yorkville will now enter the Nike Midwest Regional in Terre Haute, Ind. on Sunday to race against teams from Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana for one of two spots in the Nike Cross Nationals on Dec. 5 in Portland, Ore.
"We feel like this week we'll have an even better team race with an even better team split, so we're excited about that as well," Muth said.