NORMAL — The 38th Corn Belt Conference Cross Country Meet had story lines worthy of its historic status as the finale before league members disperse into three different conferences next year.
For the boys, the second of five consecutive weekly showdowns between the top two ranked Class 2A teams went to Mahomet-Seymour at Fairview Park on Thursday.
The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs, who will join the Apollo Conference in 2017, downed No. 2 University High, a future Central State Eight member, 17-48, to win for the fourth straight year. Future Illini Prairie member Central Catholic was fourth (120).
The girls race had more drama as No. 10-ranked U High, led by freshman winner Katy Clausen, upset No. 7 Mahomet-Seymour, 34-36, to end the Bulldogs' four-year reign as champion.
On Saturday, Mahomet-Seymour's boys bested U High, 20-92. The powerhouses will battle again in the U High Regional on Oct. 22, the Metamora Sectional on Oct. 29 and the state meet at Peoria on Nov. 5.
"We have a lot of respect for U High," said Bulldog coach Neal Garrison. "We know when they go 100 percent in the regional or sectional, we've got our work cut out for us."
Garrison calls this the best team he's had in 15 years as coach.
"Each year we get slightly better," he said. "It starts to add up."
The Bulldogs swept the top three places with senior Gabe Pommier leading the way by covering 3 miles in 14 minutes, 47.9 seconds.
"We did what we had to do," said Pommier after his first victory of the season. "We're really focusing on nationals this year. The priority is state right now."
The Bulldogs will compete in the NXN National Meet at Portland, Ore., on Dec. 3.
Fellow Bulldogs Riley Fortune (14:49.3) and Andrew Walmer (14:49.6) were second and third. Other scorers were Brian Butcher in fifth (14:56.5) and Ryan Hodge in sixth (14:58.0).
Mahomet-Seymour, ranked No. 15 nationally by MileSplit.com, almost joined Metamora's 1979 team and U High's 2010 squad in posting a perfect score of 15. U High fourth-placer Jared Schuckman (14:5.1) broke up the Bulldogs.
State title hopeful Jack Franklin of U High finished eighth (15:03.2). He missed two previous races with a sore hip, but cramps slowed him this time.
"Mahomet ran phenomenal," said Pioneer coach Lester Hampton, who doesn't mind racing the Bulldogs five straight weeks. "It's a good thing for us. We just need to try to keep getting closer to them."
U High girls coach John Neisler got key races from No. 3 runner Ally Shepherd, who outsprinted a Bulldog for sixth (18:31.7), and from No. 5 runner Katie Reeves in 12th (19:16.2), who passed two Bulldogs in the final half mile.
"Ally ran a great race to finish that sprint and get that spot, but the big props go to Katie because without her coming up ... there was no shot," said Neisler, whose other scorers were Advika Kamatar in fifth (18:29.5) and Tasha Schuckman in 10th (19:04.3).
Clausen, who will move to Arizona next year, won in 17:41.0. She got a kick out of her team.
"It's amazing," she said. "I've got the best team this year."
Olympia, ranked No. 8 in Class 1A, finished third (83) with help from Shelby Siltman, who finished second (17:51.3) for third straight year.