Anna Hunter and Maggie Hunter have alternated as runners on Yorkville trophy-winning state teams the last two years.
Now they're shining together.
The two juniors, twin sisters, enjoyed their best collective moment in the sun at last week's Yorkville Invite.
They both broke 18 minutes for the first time this season, helping lead the Foxes to the team title of the Yorkville Invitational.
Anna took second to Yorkville's Helena Kleronomos in 17:42.4, with Maggie third in 17:43.0.
"It is a big deal," Anna said. "That was my first time going sub 18 ever. I was really surprised when I did it. Something that helped me was my teammates and Helena pushing me through. I kind of stuck with her the first mile. I told myself I have to stick with her as long as I can and see what I can do from there."
It was Maggie's first time breaking 18 minutes since she ran a 17:52.08 at state last fall, which was good for 50th individually in Class 3A.
"It was a pretty good run," Maggie said. "We both did really well. I felt solid and strong throughout the whole race."
Anna as a freshman two years ago was part of Yorkville's state team, posting an 18:02.66 in Peoria. But she missed last season with a foot injury, while Maggie had a breakthrough year on Yorkville's team that repeated as state runner-up. Anna's first race back last year was at Nike Cross Regionals.
"They've had kind of opposite careers for when they were ready to perform and help the team," Yorkville coach Chris Muth said. "It was more Anna freshman year and Maggie sophomore year. This year they're both putting it together and it's exciting for us, something we need. I wasn't surprised. They've shown great work ethic in practice the last couple months. It's a matter of being healthy at the same time."
Having a fellow runner at home came in handy for the Hunters during the spring. With track season canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sisters ran together every day until June, when the team resumed workouts together.
"For the first month or so we stayed with easy miles every day, maybe a push mile; toward May we started getting into our longer runs and started more workouts," Maggie said. "It helped a lot. We kept each other accountable to run every single day."
Now they're both valuable members of a Yorkville team that seems to have alternate runners emerge from meet to meet behind Kleronomos' lead.
"Absolutely, that is one of the beauties of this team," Muth said. "They are in a sense interchangeable. Some girls will have outstanding performances. The beauty is these kids consistently pick each other up. We are a deep team."
Oswego soph enjoying strong season
Audra Soderlind emerged as Oswego's top runner last fall as a freshman – and she's picked up right where she left off.
The Panthers' sophomore won her third dual race on Saturday, her 18:21 time taking first place with Minooka. Soderlind ran a personal best 18:04.6 at the Yorkville Invitational, good for fifth place.
"I feel like it's progressed pretty well; I'm at a point where I want to be," Soderlind said. "It was harder to get to when I realized it would be a shorter season, but it feels good to be doing well."
With limited meets, primarily dual meets, Soderlind said it's given Oswego an opportunity to focus on the team and how they'll race collectively.
"Especially at the dual meets, it's about racing as a team and finding your teammates, especially early on without much separation," Soderlind said. "Last year it took us a little longer to find each other. It's been fun running as a team in a lot of these races."
Soderlind, who broke 18 minutes last year at state, and at the Peoria Notre Dame Invitational, admitted that the smaller meets can be more stressful mentally.
'"It almost takes more focus and tests your mental toughness," Soderlind said. "There's less people to stay with, so chances are you could be by yourself or just with one or two people during the race."
SPC preview at Yorkville?
Yorkville will not be running at Naperville North's Twilight Invitational next week, as that meet reformatted its field. But the Foxes will be in action.
The Foxes on Oct. 7 are hosting the Yorkville Invite - Top Times meet for both boys and girls. Runners in the Southwest Prairie Conference who have posted the top 40 times this fall are invited in what amounts to a mini-preview of the Oct. 16 conference meet.
"Whoever wants to be in it can come," Muth said. "We're looking at it has a pretty elite invitational."
Postseason assignments for cross country were released last week, with the IHSA adding a sectional meet as a second round.
Yorkville will be at a meet at Minooka, feeding into the sectional at Normal Community. Oswego and Oswego East are both at Oswego East for regionals, with the sectional host not yet named. In Class 2A Plano and Sandwich are both at Kaneland for regionals, which feeds into a sectional that has not yet released its host.