After a breakthrough cross country race as a sophomore, Glenbard North senior Grace Schager looked forward to another memorable performance at the 2021 Twilight Invitational at Naperville North.
With an injury following competition four days earlier, Schager reluctantly sat out.
“We decided to play it safe and I actually came and watched,” Schager said. “I couldn’t tell what was more painful, not being able to run or being in actual pain.”
A healthy Schager returned Wednesday and delivered the greatest girls performance in the meet’s seven-year history.
Her winning 16:10.0 for 3.0 miles broke the 16:15.2 girls course record by Naperville North’s Judy Pendergast at the initial Twilight Invite in 2015. Glenbard West standout Katelynne Hart came within .7 of tying the record two years later.
Barrington sophomore Scout Storms was second (17:12.1).
“I tried to put (the record) aside. My coach (Eric Day) and I really wanted it to be a meet of fun,” Schager said. “It’s an awesome race and I love it. I’m so glad I was able to do it again. I was really focused on fun. This is icing on the cake, if anything.”
The Naperville North girls remained undefeated at the invite by winning the title 53-70 over Naperville Central. Downers Grove North won the boys title 75-86 over Oak Park-River Forest.
“It was a nice team race,” Naperville North coach Dan Iverson said. “We still have some pieces to put together a little bit but tonight was a step forward for sure.”
Schager and Storms were individual entries.
Schager’s previous personal best had been another course record at the Lake Park Invite Sept. 10 (16:00.2) previously held by Pendergast. Schager hadn’t competed since winning the Peoria Notre Dame Invitational Sept 17 (16:07.6).
“We came here with the goal just to have fun. We didn’t talk about the record or anything,” Day said. “Naperville North is great, (athletic director) Bob Quinn, Dan Iverson. They played a football game against us and they’re like, ‘Hey, is Grace coming?’ As soon as I emailed Dan, he said absolutely (come).”
Storms made her Twilight debut after exploring the possibility of competing late last week.
“I’m really happy with that race. It’s a big confidence booster, not having any summer training,” Storms said.
“I really wanted to get in a couple of fast times and this is a really good opportunity. Dan Iverson is really helpful. He was awesome with helping me get into the race.”
The Huskies’ Julie Piot (17:26.9) and Shania Tandon (17:28.7) took fourth and fifth with personal bests and Logan Brennan was 11th (17:51.0).
“It was super fun because it was our home course and then I had Julie pushing me throughout the race,” Tandon said.
“We were really excited for Twilight because it’s a home race. It’s a really big race, too,” Piot said. “Going into championship season, we’re confident now and we’re hoping for a top three (at state).”
Naperville Central was led by Kate Teuting (17:29.9) and Liv Phillips (17:42.8) finishing sixth and ninth.
“As a team we just try and push each other and pack up. That (second) is a good finish for us,” Teuting said. “I just wanted to place top 10. That was my personal goal.”
Wheaton Warrenville South was fourth (108) with Nicole Poglitsch eighth (17:42.6). Downers Grove North was fifth (118) as 10th-place senior Claire Pyne (17:50.4) had her best race ever.
The Downers North boys were led by Topher Ferris (14:56.2) and Caden Weber (14:57.7) in eighth and ninth.
Neuqua Valley’s Zac Close was fifth (14:51.1) and Naperville Central’s Luke Noren 11th (15:04.3).
“We ran pretty solid,” Downers North coach John Sipple said. “I think we learned some things too about how we can approach some races. We’re a younger team overall.”