ST. CHARLES • It hasn't been broken this season, but the Parkway West girls cross country team decided to fix its race methodology anyway.
Or at least adjust it a little bit.
The new approach paid off Saturday morning as the Longhorns stayed undefeated this season by winning the inaugural All-Suburban Conference Cross Country Championships team title at McNair Park.
Parkway West's runners trained with coach Charles Cutelli to take a measured approach to the early stages of the 5-kilometer race, and the result was season-best times for all seven of the its runners.
"It's very hard because when you're running you have the most energy in the beginning, so you think your first mile would be the fastest," junior Emily Dickson said. "But in a 5K, it's kind of a brain game, honestly."
The Longhorns put their five scoring runners in the top 17 for a point total of 59 that edged rival Parkway Central's 73 for the crown in the 18-team field. The meet was conducted for the first time for each Suburban Conference member school regardless of division.
Dickson and sophomore Natalie Butler were eighth and ninth to lead Parkway West's charge that wasn't immediately obvious when judging by the early finishers. But senior Rikita Saunders followed in 11th, sophomore Chloe Hershenow was 14th and senior Natalie Rath crossed in 17th for the championship.
Parkway Central got a runner-up individual finish from senior Lizzie Dejoie and sixth-place showing from senior Richelle Bain, but its third runner finished behind Parkway West's scoring five.
"We wanted to go out a little more patient the first mile and start to work our way up," Cutelli said. "As they came by the first mile, we definitely were not in the positions we were at at the finish, which is what we wanted to do. Then they slowly started to work their way up as kids in front started to fade. They ran smart, and I think that was probably the key to our success today."
Lafayette junior Mollie Rogan was a runaway individual champion with a personal-best time of 18 minutes, 52.78 seconds. Parkway Central's Dejoie was second in 19:04.31, still a solid gap ahead of third-place finisher Lila Bensky of Ladue (19:14.96).
Rogan, a scoring runner for last season's Class 4 state championship Lancers squadron, dropped significant time for the third consecutive meet and led from the early stages.
"The beginning of the season was really tough, but today was awesome and it was really fun," Rogan said. "It's exciting to go into the state series with a big confidence booster."
Parkway West's season includes team victories in its own meet, the Hancock Invitational and the Stan Nelson Invitational.
The Longhorns return Dickson, Butler, Hershenow, Margaret Morse and Lauren Calvin from last season's 10th-place finisher at the Class 4 state meet. Saunders is a newcomer to the program, Rath has returned after a year away and sophomore Hannah Rushing was the No. 7 runner Saturday.
"We have kind of a deep team this year," Dickson said. "There's a lot of the same level of talent on varsity. We really try to pack, because one of our advantages is we are really good at running close together. We're not expecting anything big, but we're definitely giving our all for it."