* The Yorkville (IL) High School girls talk about their major win at Roy Griak
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ST. PAUL, MN -- High-pitched shrieks of glee mark the most honest of celebrations for a cross country team who wins a prestigious race on the grandest of stages, but sometimes there's also a sliver of reality attached to that fleeting moment of success, too.
The Yorkville (IL) High School girls were in that position on Saturday.
After the immediate euphoria of the Foxes' remarkable win in the Gary Wilson Girls Gold Race at the Roy Griak Invitational at Les Bolstad wore off, the squad was left with a more realistic idea of where its season now heads.
"It's one of those things where we're going to celebrate what we did yesterday," said Yorkville head coach Chris Muth, whose varsity girls tallied a winning mark of 104 points. "But there's no sense of security."
Translation: One giant out-of-state win against national competition doesn't make future racing any easier.
That's likely because the Foxes left a lot of points on the table, as did Naperville North (IL), Downers Grove South (IL) and Wayzata (MN). The Huskies were second overall with 113 points, while the Mustangs were third (170) and the Trojans fourth (185).
Roy Griak was a great result, but it wasn't a perfect race.
"I was very proud of the kids," Muth said. "They ran well. But I don't think it was a perfect race by us. There are some girls who have some room to grow and can advance and progress toward the end of the year. I will say it was probably the first race where we came close to what we potentially could do."
While a course record was playing out in front with Washburn's Emily Covert--she broke a 13-year-old record with a final time of 17:28--Yorkville was navigating a tight and turning and hilly Les Bolstad course.
The Foxes' pack running ultimately sealed the win. Four athletes--Helena Kleronomos (13th), Emily Eberhart (15th), Kailey Fox (18th) and Sara Klemm (24th)--finished nine places apart in the top 25, while sophomore Hailey Simmons (50th) and senior Olivia Borowiak (62nd) held on until the end.
That performance ultimately combatted an up-and-down effort from Naperville that likely will improve in time, and two other efforts from Downers Grove South and Wayzata where, if the cards would have fallen differently, both teams could have competed for a title. Naperville North ultimately had more depth in the back in its lineup, though Yorkville raced better up front.
Winning is winning, though, and the Foxes, who were ranked No. 12 nationally heading into Roy Griak, proved a point by beating No. 2 Wayzata and the No. 4 Huskies, not to mention the No. 14 Mustangs.
"This is an important race for us," said senior Emily Eberhart, who didn't race last year when Yorkville finished seventh overall. "Last year we were here and it was rough with the heat. Our team didn't perform like we wanted to. We wanted to come back with a vengeance and show people what we were made of and I think we did."
The expectations more than likely will rise. While Yorkville was no secret in Illinois, the Foxes no doubt will face competition that will zero in on them come state championship season.
Naturally, a premier win over five nationally ranked teams will do that.
"Yesterday was our day," Muth said, "But it was only one day."
Meanwhile, both Covert and Tierney Wolfgram added their names to an exclusive list of nine girls who have broken 18 minutes on the Les Bolstad course.
Wolfgram, the sophomore from Math & Science Academy who had to slow the tempo early and adjust when Covert simply wouldn't let off the gas, finished second overall in 17:50.70.
Even more remarkably, 15 girls wound up breaking 18:30 on the course. Before Saturday, only 28 had done so on in the meet's history.
Notably, the boys meet turned into a barnburner as well.
But it was hard to pinpoint exactly where the team race would go, considering the talent level included three ranked teams in No. 13 Edina (MN), No. 14 Dowling Catholic (IA) and No. 22 Middleton (WI).
Edina finished the race with a good punch, scoring two runners in the top 10 and winning the overall standings with 154 points.
But oddly enough, the Hornets didn't have to fend off either of those ranked teams. Instead, it was Olathe North (KS) and familiar face Wayzata (MN).
The team from Kansas was very impressive from start to finish, exacting its gameplay in the first 1K before trying to steal a result from the Hornets. Olathe North actually had its fifth runner through to the finish before Edina's fourth crossed the line.
"Last week we didn't have the best race," said Olathe North senior Brian Beach, who was 15th in 16:23. "This week we decided we wanted to come out and get that first mile, just from the first thousand to the last thousand. We ended up having a strong middle, too."
North had two runners in the top 20 and three in the top 30 and was just 10 points shy of earning a win, while Wayzata, no stranger to Griak, wasn't far back in third, scoring 177 points.
Dowling Catholic probably isn't worried, either. Finishing fourth with 185 points, the squad put forth a respectable outing on a tough course. Middleton, however, might be worried, falling to eighth overall. The state champion hopeful and NXN returner from Wisconsin still has a lot of work to do.
Near the front of the pack, Roseville Area's Acer Iverson tried to take the race from start to finish, though couldn't match the kick of Edina's Max Manley, who earned his first individual victory with a time of 15:45.9. Iverson was second in 15:49.9.
It turned into a mostly Minnesota-heavy top 10, as seven runners from the state finished in the top 10. Wayzata's Andrew Brandt was third overall in 15:51.00.
"It's pretty awesome," Manley said of the win. "Last year I was sixth. I didn't really realize this next year I would be in contention to win. But it feels really good."