STERLING – The friendly rivalry between Dixon and Sterling always takes on a little extra meaning in big races close to home.
The Duchesses and Golden Warriors battled it out with 13 other teams Saturday morning at the Rock River Run in Hoover Park, and the two squads combined to place five runners in the top 20 individually.
Dixon took fourth as a team with 134 points, and Sterling was sixth with 152.
“It’s always our goal to come out and compete hard and try and beat Sterling,” Dixon senior Katie Pitman said. “They make us better runners when we race them. I hope they say the same thing about us.”
Pitman was the lone local finisher in the top 10, as she placed ninth in 19:00.
Freshman Mekenzie Harden added an 18th-place finish for the Duchesses, covering the 3-mile course in 19:43.
“Individually, I wanted to get top 10, and I’m proud of myself for doing that,” Pitman said. “My goal this year is to not have a bad race; last year, it was either good or bad, really hit or miss. I want to try and make sure I stay consistent this year.
“But I’m even prouder of my teammates for how well we ran as a team today. To place in the top five against such a competitive field, that’s definitely got us going in the right direction.”
The Warriors were led by a pair of freshmen. Megan Barnhart was 12th in 19:14, and Maggie McPherson wasn’t far behind in 16th (19:24). Junior Mercedes Sanchez took 20th in 19:45.
The ninth-graders both ran in the junior high portion of the meet in the past.
“It definitely helps a lot, having been here before,” Barnhart said. “There are just so many people here to cheer you on, and it doesn’t matter if you’re first or last or somewhere in the middle, there’s always going to be a lot of encouragement. I wasn’t nervous like I usually am before the race, and I had a lot of fun.”
As one of the biggest races they’ve run to date, the Warriors were happy to get a feel of the more competitive nature as the postseason looms.
And like all the runners, McPherson knows there is still work to do in the next month.
“I like going out fast, but it didn’t work for me today; I died a little bit in the middle,” she said. “There’s definitely a lot of good competition, and I’m pretty happy with the way I ran, but I could do better … and I’m sure everybody feels that way at this point in the season.”
Geneva won the team title with 49 points, well ahead of runner-up Belvidere North (117 points). Kaneland matched Dixon’s 134, but took third on the sixth-runner tiebreaker. Aurora Rosary rounded out the top five (146 points).
Sycamore’s Maggie Lalowski won the race in 18:23, with Belvidere North’s Jenna Lutzow taking second in 18:29.
Rock River Run
Top 3 teams
1. Geneva 49; 2. Belvidere North 117; 3. Kaneland 134 (sixth runner tiebreaker)
Local teams: 4. Dixon 134; 6. Sterling 152
Individual winner: Maggie Lalowski, Sycamore, 18:23
Top local finishers: 9. Katie Pitman, Dixon, 19:00; 12. Megan Barnhart, Sterling, 19:14