PEORIA – It turns out the target on Emma Argo's back was actually a pair of wings. The Eureka senior withstood the pressure of being the reigning one A state cross country champion by focusing on her team, which she helped led to a title, while flying to her second straight individual crown at Detweiller Park.
"It makes it less about her and I think that is huge," said Eureka coach Olivia Morris after she watched Argo blitz the three-mile course in a career best of 16 minutes, 59 seconds to finish 19 seconds ahead of Staunton's Lydia Roller. "It’s incredible that the team is able to do that for her."
Argo's victory helped Eureka score 84 points to finish well ahead of Rock Falls (123) and Tolono Unity (130). Winnebago (211) placed fourth to secure the final team trophy.
Argo, who won last year in 17:34, became the 12th multi-year winner in meet history while her team, a runner-up in 1999 and 2007, won its first title in program history.
"That definitely helped me to have the motivation of the team there," said Argo.
Joining Argo as an all-stater were teammates in sophomore Alexi Fogo (14th, 17:46) and senior Tessa Wiegand (24th, 18:12).
According to Fogo, Argo is more than a great runner to her teammates.
"She just knows how to encourage a team and be a leader and be like a team mom," Fogo said.
Argo was part of a six-girl lead group through a 5:37 opening mile. That pack shrunk to four when it reached midway in 8:30. Soon after, Argo escaped as Roller was the last to surrender.
"She was definitely the one I was thinking about during the race," said Argo, whose coach won the ’07 individual title. "It’s great to talk with her ... because she’s been through it all before."
Also scoring for Eureka were senior Lexi Grober (31st. 18:20) and first-year Elle Knapp (69th, 19:02).
According to Morris, her runners have a way of lifting each other up.
"Running is a love-hate relationship," Morris said. "They have found a way to get over the hate and they just love this sport."
Earning all-state honors for the second time was Clinton junior Payne Turney, 35th a year ago, who finished ninth in a personal best of 17:41. As a first-year participant, she was seventh.
"Starting off the first mile, I was really relaxed," she said. "The second mile, I tried to work my way up. The last 800, I put everything out on the course to do my best."
El Paso-Gridley finished seventh (246) and Olympia 11th (273). Injured a month ago, EP-G’s Cate Atkins (27th, 18:17) missed a medal by two places and two seconds.
"She made the move she had to at two miles and worked her way into the top 20, but just did not have that zip at the end to bring it home," said Titans’ coach Michael Melick, whose team posted its best ever finish.
Olympia, paced by Savanah Beavers in 36th (18:32), had hoped to better last year's eighth-place effort.
"We were faster than last year," said Spartans’ coach Mike Neisler.
The Olympia boys finished a program-best fourth (219) behind Clifton Central (139), Elmwood/Brimfield (143) and Monticello (189). The Spartans had five runners finish within 30 seconds of each other led by Jon Neville in 43rd (15:50).
“We’ve had kids faster, but we’ve never had this many so close,” Neisler said. “I’ve got two or three kids who did not get to run today that would have been on any of my other teams.”
Eureka senior Kyle Johnson nabbed all-state honors, as he was 25th in 15:34. As a team, the Hornets were 10th. He was impressed by the showing of the team, which did not qualify in ’17.
"It’s an absolute miracle for us," he said.
Other scorers included junior Jack Cook (39th, 15:46), senior Connor Standish (99th, 16:21), senior Eli Steinbeck (114th, 16:37) and sophomore Mitchell Danner (117th, 16:39).
Notes: Other Eureka finishers were first-year Anna Perry (81st, 19:10), senior Alex Heinold (144th, 16:54), junior Luke Albertson (155th, 17:05) and junior Nora Robinson (161st, 21:01).