The DuPage Valley and West Suburban Silver conferences are equally consistent in producing extraordinary athletes and teams in girls cross country.
Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria, the long-awaited showdown between defending Class 3A state champion Naperville North and Glenbard West, third last year, will finally take place.
The schools’ point totals were nearly identical at their respective sectional performances as Naperville North won at Waubonsie Valley and Glenbard West bested all at Lake Park.
“They’re very good,” Naperville North coach Dan Iverson said of the Hilltoppers, who boast the state record-holder and defending champion, Madeline Perez.
Glenbard West also has two returning All-State performers in Lisa Luczak and Lindsay Graham. The sense of anticipation is palpable between the two nationally-ranked programs.
“I think Naperville North is the team, until someone else wins,” retired Glenbard South boys coach Andy Preuss said.
Naperville North will counter with Maria McDaniel, the lone senior among the top-seven runners, and Elly DeTurris. They were second and third to Jacobs’ Lauren Van Vlierbergen at Waubonsie Valley last weekend.
Freshman Claire Hamilton and the all-sophomore quartet of Kate Shannon, Judy Pendergast, Emory Griffin and Ella Guppy round out the Huskies’ state crew.
“They are so incredibly well-coached,” Glenbard West coach Paul Hass said of the Huskies. “Their pack is always tight.”
Perez missed almost the entire regular season with a calf injury, but the senior — who also completed the triple crown of distance races her junior year with track and field titles — has won both postseason preliminaries.
“They’re definitely a different team with Madeline,” Iverson said.
But Iverson also cautions that other history-rich programs cannot be discounted.
“New Trier could be a threat,” Iverson said. “They have a very good front-runner (Mimi Smith).”
New Trier defeated both Naperville North and Glenbard West at Wheaton North earlier this fall in a flighted format.
Naperville North is seeking its sixth championship in program history.
Naperville Central was team runner-up to their city and conference rival last Saturday in Aurora. Katie Hoffman, Emily White, Ellie Marcet, Maggie McClowry and Rachel Hoffman all placed for the Redhawks.
“I think Naperville Central is in the picture (for a state trophy),” Iverson said.
Neuqua Valley was the lone area school not at Waubonsie Valley, but the Wildcats are bound for state after advancing out of the Hinsdale Central sectional with a fourth-place finish.
Tim McCoskey has senior Claire Costelloe as his stalwart. Caitlin Horn, Julia Pena, Lauren Penkala and Amanda Borkowski also counted for Neuqua Valley at Hinsdale.
Kendall Cast is the lone at-large competitor from the area in Class 3A. The Metea Valley senior looks to become a state medal-winner this fall after claiming similar honors in track last spring.