MORRIS – Sterling freshmen Megan Barnhart and Maggie McPherson have gone from rivals to teammates and friends.
Formerly of Dixon, Barnhart once relished her opportunties to run against McPherson. Now, the two are a dynamic duo for the Golden Warriors. Saturday, McPherson finished eighth and Barnhart 16th at the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Meet at Morris High School.
McPherson finished the 2.97-mile course in 18 minutes, 11.6 seconds. Barnhart’s time was 19:00.4.
“She was my biggest competitor, and I would always aim to go out and get her,” Barnhart said of her middle school rivalry with McPherson. “Then, this year we became instant friends. It was really strange, because she was the girl that I always thought, ‘I need to go out and beat her.’”
Sandwiched between Barnhart and McPherson with an 11th-place finish was Dixon freshman Mekenzie Harden, a former middle school teammate of Barnhart. Harden had a time of 18:46.
“I was trying to stay with Megan. It was my goal to beat her,” Harden said. “I stayed with her most of it, then toward the end I passed her, and I felt pretty good about that.”
Harden said she used to beat Barnhart last year, but has not been doing so this season.
“She’s really progressed and passed me, and beat me every race,” Harden said. “So, it was my goal to beat her. I love her like a friend, but during competition, I want to beat her.”
For McPherson, it was another big step in an already outstanding season.
“I think I started out a little fast,” she said. “I just wanted to make it in the top 10, so I kept counting the girls in front of me.”
Team-wise, Dixon, ranked 19th in Class 2A, finished fourth with 112 points, just seven behind third-place DeKalb. Sterling took sixth with 134 points. Top-ranked in 2A, Yorkville was also No. 1 at the meet, besting runner-up Kaneland (13th in 2A) 52-66.
The top 21 runners earned all-conference honors. Joining McPherson, Harden and Barnhart on the all-conference list were two more Dixon freshmen, Ally Stanchfield (20th, 19:08.9) and Courtney Seagren (21st, 19:12.6).
Sterling junior Mercedes Sanchez just missed earning all-conference (22nd, 19:19.8).
Top 3 teams
1. Yorkville 52
2. Kaneland 66
3. DeKalb 105
Top 3 individuals
1. Skyler Bollinger (Yorkville) 17:23.2
2. Kelsey Schrader (DeKalb) 17:31.6
3. Lesly Rocha (LaSalle-Peru) 17:48.9