STERLING – There was going to be no catching Rock Island, but the Sterling, Erie-Prophetstown and Dixon girls track teams did their darndest to do just that.
The Rocks, with a deep pool of sprinters and middle-distance runners in their lineup, ran away with top honors Friday night in the 64th Sterling Night Relays. They finished with 124 points, 32 more than the runner-up Golden Warriors.
The Panthers and Duchesses tied for third place with 72 points. Rock Falls was sixth in an eight-team field with 36 points.
"Rock Island is Rock Island, and they're really good," Sterling coach Tyler Gaumer said. "When you get an opportunity to compete against them to the best of your ability, that's what we talk about all the time. To get second at this meet is an entire team effort. It shows team depth and great team chemistry."
Sterling was paced by a pair of winning efforts from its distance crews. The 3,200 foursome of Megan Barnhart, Maggie McPherson, Charli Wike and Mercedes Sanchez finished with a time of 9:57.41. It sliced more than 18 seconds off their previous season best, and bettered the state-qualifying standard of 9:58.04.
"Our goal was to go out, give it everything we had, and see what we could do," Wike said. "We made state qualifying, and we were all so pumped. We were all hugging at the end, and we're so excited for the meets to come."
The 1,600 team threesome of Sanchez, McPherson and Maegan McCue took first with 14 points in a cross country-style scoring event. Sanchez took first in 5:28.47.
The Golden Warriors also took second in seven events.
Erie-Prophetstown made its annual sojourn to Sterling to see how it stacked up against bigger schools. As it turned out, the Panthers could hold their own.
"I just wanted us to get good seed times for the sectional, and watch the handoffs closely so that we can hopefully improve," Erie-Prophetstown coach Don Robinson said. "We're really looking forward to the next couple of weeks with the conference and the sectional, and this is a great build-up to that."
Courtney Kruthoff, Maddie Fringer and Mikayla Bolton combined for a height of 14-2 to win the high jump.
The Panthers were also second in three events, including the meet-ending 1,600 relay. The foursome of Courtney Cobert, Heather Strike, Corrie Reiley and Rachel Cobert blazed to a time of 4:06.84, a season-best by almost 5 seconds.
Rachel Cobert had the lead for the anchor leg, but was overtaken with about 50 meters remaining by Rock Island's Cynthia Myers-Miles. Cobert appeared to move to the right, allowing Myers-Miles to bolt by.
"She heard a command from somebody to move to the outer lane," Robinson said. "I don't know who would say that, but that's why she did that."
Cobert ran a sparkling 59.3 split for the anchor leg. She also had the top individual triple jump, going 35-3 1/2.
"I've had a lot of talented people, but she's probably the most talented  girl that I've had," Robinson said. "She likes that pressure, being the anchor. A lot of girls don't like that."
Dixon finished second in five events, with a host of season bests across the board. Senior standout Lexy Duncan has splits of 27.58 in the 200 and 58.69 in the 400, and also had the top long jump of 17-5 1/2.
"Today was good because it pushed us," Dixon coach Brandon Woodward said. "We didn't have the typical lanes we usually would because there's people seeded better than us. We had to fight. We had to chase and follow, and it worked out."
Rock Falls posted a win in the shot put. Mireya Arellano, Liz Lego and Latesha Lee combined for a distance of 93-7 1/4. Arellano had the top individual throw of 34-11 1/2.
In the pole vault, the Rockets' Michaela Busch cleared 7-9 to tie the school record held by Carol Wei.
Top 3 teams
1. Rock Island 124
2. Sterling 92
3. Dixon 72
T3. Erie-Prophetstown 72