Created:Saturday, November 9, 2013 6:56 p.m.CDT
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Lauren Van Vlierbergen 4th at state, makes Jacobs girls cross country history

PEORIA – Jacobs junior Lauren Van Vlierbergen figured if she stuck with New Trier junior Mimi Smith as long as possible something good would happen.

Eventually, Smith had a little too much for Van Vlierbergen, and everyone else, at the Class 3A girls race at the IHSA Cross Country State Meet at Detweiller Park.

Smith ran down the leaders to win the race, but Van Vlierbergen hung to take fourth in 17:07, the highest finish by a girl in school history.

“Mimi always likes to push and get back up there,” Van Vlierbergen said. “She’s so good. She’ll start behind and always catch up. I was going to hang with her. I wanted to stay with that top pack as long as I could and whatever happened happened.”

Smith won in 16:43, followed by Hinsdale Central’s Alexa Huff (16:45), Glenbard West’s Madeline Perez (17:03) and Van Vlierbergen.

Van Vlierbergen almost got passed by Oak Park-River Forest’s Mary Blankmeier in the final meters, but when Van Vlierbergen saw Blankmeier beside her she sped up to keep fourth.

McHenry junior Lauren Opatrny took 16th in Class 3A to earn All-State status.

In Class 2A, Woodstock’s Maura Beattie was fifth, Prairie Ridge’s Erin Wagner was ninth, Marengo’s Kitty Allen was 13th and Marengo’s Allie Sprague was 25th, all taking All-State honors.

Marengo was fourth as a team with 229 points. Crystal Lake Central (247) was seventh.

Jacobs coach Kevin Christian lauded Van Vlierbergen’s effort.

“She went after it, she took a chance,” Christian said. “Going out hard, going after the leaders. She took that chance of fading back deep, but she went after them to see what could happen. It’s really gutsy to do that. I’m very happy with the way she raced.”

Opatrny just missed All-State last season, but not this time.

“I knew it was going to be really fast,” Opatrny said. “I just wanted to focus on my race and who I could stick with. I’m so happy for my coaches who push me and my supportive teammates.”

Beattie finished in 17:30 for fifth in Class 2A.

“I’m kind of [happy],” she said. “It was a pretty good race. I’m glad to have the opportunity to run here one last time.”

It was Beattie’s third time as an All-Stater after taking seventh as a freshman and 17th last year.

“It was a pretty good race and a pretty good time,” she said.

Wagner’s first state appearance was everything she had hoped for and the first All-State girls performance in Prairie Ridge history.

“I felt so strong the whole race,” Wagner said. “Everything felt awesome. I knew wanted top 25 since my sophomore year and I set my eyes on it even more this year. I’m very happy.”

Allen was a little wobbly at the finish, but an All-Stater for the second time and led Marengo to its best finish.

“I gave my full effort,” she said. “I had nothing left, I just felt exhausted. It was a really good race.”