Glenbard South freshman Diane Lipa was competing in her first Class 2A girls cross country state meet Saturday, but she felt like a veteran.
The Raiders were competing at state as a team for the second year in a row, and five of Lipa’s teammates also were from the 2011 lineup.
“It definitely helped,” Lipa said. “I was so nervous I didn’t know what to expect and everyone was just, ‘Hey, calm down. You’re going to do great.’ ”
Lipa and the Raiders did so well that they made program history and even had to deal with a tinge of disappointment.
Glenbard South finished fourth (172 points) -- its highest state finish ever -- in the 25-team field at Peoria's Detweiller Park. Lipa (10th, 17:33 for 3.0 miles) and sophomore Jayme Schlenker (23rd, 17:53) both earned all-state, top-25 honors to increase the amount of all-state Raiders in program history to five.
“Last year, we were just happy to make it (to state) and this year we actually achieved something,” Schlenker said. “We only have one senior (in our lineup) so I think we can be strong next year, too. And my sister (Abby) is coming as well.”
Sophomore Becca Sippel had such a strong race that she nearly gave the Raiders three all-staters. Sippel was a surprising 27th (18:02), two places and two seconds from 25th, followed by senior Monica Byrne (65th, 18:34), sophomore Caroline Arlasky (90th, 18:46) and juniors Bailey Reese (111th, 19:02) and Elizabeth Niedert (131st, 19:22). Other members of the postseason roster were seniors Shannon Cadagin, Allison Gibson and Marina Jawad, sophomore Becca Everhart and freshman Erica Mote.
In the final Dyetrack 2A state poll after regionals, Glenbard South had been ranked No. 10. By a tough twist of fate, the Raiders’ great race came one year too late.
The Raiders actually tied for third with Montini (172), but the Broncos got the third and final team trophy based on a sixth-runner tiebreaker. Yorkville (66) won its second straight title with Normal University (112) second.
The tiebreaker rule was added to the state meet this year after two 3A girls teams shared third in 2011 and had to each receive trophies.
Montini’s top-five finishers were 20-29-34-43-82 overall with its sixth runner 94th. Marengo was a close fifth with 174 points.
“It’s bittersweet. We’re the first ones to be on the unfortunate end of that (new rule). But still, going into today, the best case scenario was we could be fourth, probably,” Glenbard South coach Brian Webb said.
“Fourth? Holy cow, that’s awesome, unprecedented in school history. They just ran really well. I’m super proud of them, excited. We’re going to enjoy it and hopefully it’s a learning moment. Hopefully it serves as motivation because six of those seven come back next year.”
This season took the program to another level after the 2011 team achieved the first major step. That team berth was only the second in program history and the first since 1981, the third year of the girls cross country state meet.
The 1981 Raiders finished eighth in a one-class meet. Last year, the Raiders were 19th (498 points) with a lineup of seven underclassmen.
Schlenker was that team’s top individual in 48th (18:31), 32 seconds from 25th place. Schlenker beat that time by 38 seconds Saturday.
“Last year, I just wanted to run well. This year, I had an actual goal of placing all-state. It’s just really happy and exciting,” Schlenker said.
“(Being at state last year helped) just knowing that it’s a fast course and I don’t have to be afraid of it. It’s really great. Having five girls under 19:00 is really an improvement from what we’ve been before. It’s just really great, just overwhelming.”
In other aspects, the Raiders aren’t too far from their past. While their first two all-staters were state champion Madlyn Morreale at the first state meet in 1979, and Morreale (2nd) and Liz Wojcik (20th) in 1981, Karen Lipa, Diane’s sister, was 10th in 2A as a sophomore in 2008.
“(Karen told me) just that there was a fast start so I should try and position myself really early in the race,” Lipa said. “I did that and it worked out pretty well.”
Lipa was among a great group of younger runners Saturday. Seven underclassmen and four freshmen finished among the top 10, including the state champion, Kaneland sophomore Victoria Clinton (16:56). Crystal Lake Central sophomore and defending state champion Sami Staples was fourth (17:09).
Lipa won the Metro Suburban Conference Meet Oct. 13 and was second at the Wheaton Academy Sectional Oct. 27 to Yorkville freshman Skyler Bullinger, who was fifth Saturday (17:11).
“I wanted to be top 10 so I’m right in there,” Lipa said. “I was so happy. I could not imagine doing this well. It’s been really exciting. It’s my first year in high school. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was really fun.”
Sippel, Byrne, Reese and Niedert also returned from the 2011 state lineup. All of them improved upon those state performances by at least 53 places and 49 seconds.
Sippel improved 139 places and 2:02 from being the Raiders’ No. 5 state finisher last year.
“I thought Diane would be a top-10 kid. I thought Jayme would be all-state. I thought Becca would be a top-50 runner and she had an awesome race,” Webb said. “It’s fun when you run well at the state meet because you put in all of the time and miles and work so to have a good race, wherever we end up, is fun.”
Finishing fourth at state rarely is easy to swallow, especially by the closest of margins. With so many runners back, the Raiders should have plenty of motivation, but just in case Webb took a picture of Montini with its third-place trophy to emphasize just how close the Raiders are to even more success.
“We were so close, but next year, you know,” Schlenker said.
“We don’t want to come up short again next year. We’ll find a way, hopefully,” Webb said.
“I thought we should have been here (at state) last year, but program-wise, it was kind of a new thing. Having everybody come back from that team it was like, ‘This should be a goal to be at state.’ We should be having our best race of the season at the state meet, and they did (Saturday). I don’t know if I could have drawn it up any better.”