NORMAL — The judicious expenditure of energy paid off handsomely for the victorious Jared Schuckman, Lyndsey Wolters and their University High School cross country teams in the Intercity Meet on Tuesday.
The over-eager paid a heavy price in the 89-degree heat at Maxwell Park where the Pioneers conserved themselves early on the 3-mile course so they could make a late charge and land their eighth consecutive crowns.
Schuckman led the the No. 2-state ranked U High boys to 30 points while No. 18 Bloomington took second (62) followed by No. 17 Normal West (64), Normal Community (75) and Central Catholic (132).
A freshman, Wolters' victory keyed the Pioneer girls to a 24-31 win over Normal West. NCHS was third (84) and BHS fourth (109). Injuries prevented Central Catholic from fielding a full team.
Schuckman controlled his race with mile splits of 5:07, 5:18 and 4:57, which added up to a lung-burning 15:23. The runner-up, West sophomore Charlie Wetzel, was 21 seconds behind.
"Saturday was even worse," said Schuckman while playing the part of weatherman. "I was trying to close the last mile in under 5:00.
"I feel like my fitness has been better than what my races have been, but I think that will show soon because it's been so hot lately."
Normal West, which saw Tyler Dunn place third (15:53), challenged U High early, but the Pioneers rallied thanks to Dane Alexander (4th, 15:56), Harris Porter (5th, 16:01), Jackson McClure (7th, 16:09) and Tanner Gillam (13th, 16:21).
"We knew that West was going to come in here fired up and give us a challenge, which we were looking forward to," said U High coach Lester Hampton. "We ran smart and just hung back a little bit, and then our kids, after the mile, made a super charge.
"I liked the way Jared controlled the race. He ran smart from the beginning and just picked it up all the way through. I think 15:23 in these conditions was a phenomenal time."
U High's top five averaged 15:58 per man compared to 16:21 for BHS, which was led by Nick Doud (9th, 16;12) and Austin Bicknell (10th, 16:16). NCHS put Ajitesh Muppuru (6th, 16:04) and Nathan Witte (8th, 16:11) in the top 10.
For the girls, Wolters sped 18:44 to finish 36 seconds ahead of West runner-up Mara Smith. Other Pioneer scorers were Mackie Madix (3rd, 19:32), Emmy Mussey (5th, 19:41), Tasha Schuckman (7th, 19:51) and Riley Madix (8th, 20:05).
When asked to don her meteorologist's hat, Wolters described the conditions as "way too hot to be running a race."
She also admitted it was hard to hold back the first mile, but she saw the big picture.
"I know it's good for the team," she said. "I'm definitely really proud of myself and how I pushed through. My teammates are awesome. We encourage each other like no other team out there and I'm so thankful to have them with me."
U High coach John Neisler got the fight he expected from West's Smith, Mackenzie Piazza (4th, 19:38) and Liberty Harmon (6th, 19:45).
"I was hoping we'd be able to counterbalance that on the back, which is what happened," he said. "Lindsey was a little bit worried that going out a little bit slower would keep her out of the hunt, but I was like, 'Don't worry about it.'"
Despite holding back, Wolters enjoyed a two-step lead over Smith while splitting 6:25 the first mile. Wolters got serious during a 6:07 second mile and closed in 6:11.
Giving Neisler extra encouragement was the fact his team didn't taper its training Monday to be fresh for Tuesday.
"Riley, Emmy and Tasha are running with six miles in their legs from yesterday," he said. "I don't know what Normal West did, but they ran really well (today), especially on the front end."
The Wildcats also put Madison Piazza (9th, 20:15) and Asia Quizon-Colquitt (10th, 20:15) in the top 10.