ERIE – One by one, in reverse order, former Erie-Prophetstown cross country coach Joel Geisz announced the team finishers at the Three Rivers girls meet.
When he got to the runner-up, he said, "second, with 51 points, Erie-Prophetstown."
That elicited a roar from the last team standing: Amboy. The Clippers finished with 48 points to edge the Panthers on Tuesday at Lake Erie Golf Course.
"I knew we were a top contender, but I honestly was surprised that we pulled it off," sophomore Jennifer Popovich said.
"This feels really, really good, especially because it's the first year of the new conference and it really counts for something now, with 11 teams instead of the four or five that we've always had," Amboy coach Bob Halberg said. "It's a big, big win for us."
Halberg has been the coach at Amboy for 8 years, and he noted his team's previous-best finish was third – and that was way before squads like Sherrard, Orion, Rockridge, St. Bede, Hall and Princeton joined the fray.
"I don't normally go out and talk to them in the front when they're warming up," Halberg said, "but today I did go out and tell them this was a chance to make history. It's cool that it came true."
Leading the Clippers was freshman Megan Grady, who blazed to a time of 19 minutes, 19 seconds over the 3-mile Erie course. It was a new record for Three Rivers meets held at Erie, shattering the previous mark of 19:48 set by Newman's Emilie Barton in 2008.
"I didn't think I was going that fast, honestly," Grady said. "I'm so happy, I'm shaking."
Grady needed about 1 1/2 miles to shake the only runner who posed much of threat, Erie-Prophetstown's Corrie Reiley. Reiley finished in 20:29, while the third-place finisher, Princeton's Zoe Mead, crossed the line in 20:50.
"[Reiley] just kind of slowed down," Grady said. "I was like, OK. I just kept my pace and kept going."
"I went in with the mindset I was going to stay right behind her the whole race, and then try to beat her the last 800, because I'm a pretty good 800 runner," Reiley said. "That second mile, she definitely gained a lead on me."
Popovich finished fourth in 21:00.9. She was followed by Erin Hosto (10th, 21:57), Caitlin Boers (15th, 22:31) and Brenna Rieker (29th, 23:46.9).
The top 15 overall finishers earn all-conference honors. Amboy's entire lineup consisted of freshmen and sophomores.
"These next 4 years are going to be good, I have a feeling," Grady said.
The runner-up finish for Reiley was her second in a row in the conference meet. She finished behind Bureau Valley's Regan Weidner a year ago in Walnut. Weidner is sidelined with a leg injury.
Backing up Reiley were Brooke Remley (7th, 21:41.9), Emily Hanover (11th, 22:01.8), Rebecca Arnolts (22nd, 23:13.9) and Mikayla Bolton (23rd, 23:24.8).
"It's definitely disappointing because we won last year," Reiley said, "and we wanted to do it again on our home course. They definitely earned it. They were really good."
Bureau Valley was third with 82 points. Leading the Storm were Helena Arnadottir (12th, 22:08.5) and Riley Francis (17th, 22:46.9).
Newman did not field a full team, but had a pair of all-conference runners in Halie Simpson (5th, 21:24) and Teagan McKenna (9th, 21:52.2).
Top 3 teams
1. Amboy 48
2. Erie-Prophetstown 51
3. Bureau Valley 82
1. Megan Grady (Amboy) 19:19.7