ST. CHARLES — Jon Lopez couldn't help but crack a smile as he saw his teammate cross the finish line.
The St. Charles High senior cross country runner didn't think something like this was possible. He didn't expect to be part of a world record team.
His expectations were exceeded Sunday morning as the St. Charles cross country team set a Guinness world record for the longest distance run by a coed relay team in a 24-hour span.
"I kind of got chills," Lopez said. "Never in my life did I think I was going to be able to chase a world record."
St. Charles set the record of 222.5 miles with a 10-person team consisting of Lopez, seniors Thomas Doss, Virginia Werth, Sadie Upton, Natalia Sisomphane, sophomore Sally Werth and recent graduates Jada O'Donnell, Dillon Ruble, Brendan Martin-Hilker and Alfred Chan.
The old record according to coach Paul Wright was 217.48 miles.
O'Donnell, now a runner at Columbia College, commented how unique it was running at 2 a.m. in the near pitch black of the track at St. Charles High.
"I really love running in the dark. It was a magical experience because nobody was watching you. It was just you on your own," O'Donnell said.
Lopez said he started turning in some of his fastest mile splits when the clock read 3 a.m.
"I love running in the dark, that's my favorite time to run," Lopez said. "I got a second boost of energy then."
Knowing that the hardest time was going to be just before the sun returned, Wright gathered his runners and implored them to hold it together just a little bit longer.
"I told them that if you guys can do all that you can to hold on and we see it start to light up and you'll see the sun come up, you're going to get this big lease of life,'" Wright said. "We've just got to get past that night time and they responded. If we look at the splits, they held those splits all throughout the night. I think that's why this record is so hard because some time through the night, somebody is going to fall apart, but really nobody fell apart today."
The runners banded together to push one another through the difficult times.
"You have your friends waking each other up and making sure we're on the line for our turn," Lopez said. "We were having fun out here, eating snacks, listening to music. A lot of great memories were made."
The team decided to take on the challenge to raise awareness for leukemia and lymphoma research.
O'Donnell said the spirit of helping kept her going throughout the night.
"It makes it all worth it," O'Donnell said. "If we were just doing this for fun, I would have quit a long time ago. But, I knew this was going towards a good cause, so I had to keep going."
According to Wright, the team raised just over $20,000.
The charity aspect was the main reason Chan, Wright's son, came back from Columbia to help the team.
"I'm not in shape," Chan said. "I wasn't really sure if I was going to do it, but once it got closer, and I learned about the charity aspect and giving back to the community, I decided to do it."