The Illiana Christian boys and girls cross country teams are starting to get used to this trip.
Both teams will return to Saturday's state final at Detweiller Park in Peoria, in what's becoming an expectation of the Vikings. For the boys, led by top 10 hopeful Matt Hall, it's a chance to go further than the team did last season.
"Saturday, we're hoping to finish in the top 10 in state," boys coach Jim Piaskowy said. "A step up from last year. Last year, we finished thirteenth, and we're a better team this year."
Hall finished in 22nd place last year in Peoria with a time of 15:08. Fellow senior Mylo Dixon and sophomore Tony Wondaal, who finished in 88th place at last year's state final, will have to have a good day if the boys hope to help Illiana Christian ascend as a program.
"I think we're going to do overall really well," Dixon said of the Vikings. "Right now, we're in good hands. I think when we leave, the team should be able to go on. We have a strong team and a good program."
For the girls team, the girls have cleared a path for themselves, recording numerous personal records the past two weeks at the regional and sectional.
"It would be great to be in the top 15," coach Deb Top said of the state final. "Fifteen, we'd be thrilled with, but 16 or 17 would be great. We didn't even think we would make it down with the five new teams in our sectional this year. But to make it, that's great, but we want to keep upping our place every year."
Junior Kristen Brink is a big part of the girls team and happy to be back on the course after a tough couple of weeks. Brink was in the hospital with cellulitis and was just able to return before the layoff began to affect her running.
"I was out of school for a week and out of cross for two weeks," Brink said. "I came back into it the week of conference championship. Our coaches have trained us to peak at the right time. The sectional and regional were both really good races."
Brink can see the girls are prepared for Saturday's race and knows they can achieve better times than they have all season. Brink ran a personal best at the regional, then broke her personal record with 19:50 last week at the Nazareth Academy Sectional.
"She has trained us to peak at just the right times," Brink said of Top. "In our conference, Riverside-Brookfield and Glenbard South beat us at the conference meet. But in sectionals, they were both there, and we beat both of them. As a team, we're just all looking to (achieve personal records)."