PRINCETON — Lesly Rocha and Megan Krolak have been running together and pushing each other since middle school track.
Now, the friendly competition between the two La Salle-Peru juniors is leading the way to the some big success in high school cross country.
After spending a majority of the race side-by-side, Rocha and Krolak finished second and third Saturday at the Princeton Invitational, leading the Lady Cavaliers to a second-place team finish with 81 points.
Annawan-Wethersfield was the team champion with 45 points, led by first-place finisher Kirstie Ramsey, who set a new course record in 18:26 for the three-mile course.
“It’s almost like we have a meet every day in practice,” said Rocha, who finished with a time of 18:46, of the built-in competition that stems from teaming up with her long-time friend and running partner Krolak.
The Lady Cavs also had top-30 performances from Kiley Booker (21st, 21:15) and Olivia Sheridan (24th, 21:20) while Natasha Slimko (39th, 22:38) rounded out the top five to lock down the second-place plaque.
“(Rocha and Krolak) have been helping us so far win some meets. The other girls did their part too, especially senior Natasha Slimko, our fifth runner,” L-P coach John Beatty said. “The gap between Lesly and Megan and our No. 5 runner is usually about five minutes. With Natasha moving up, she cut that gap to about 3:45. That’s where the biggest improvement came and of course Kiley Booker and Olivia Sheridan did a good job for us.”
Krolak said she and Rocha are looking to lead the way for a strong postseason run for L-P this fall.
“We’re hoping to use our strong finishes along with the rest of the team and hopefully earn a trip to state,” Krolak said.
Fieldcrest, led by a fourth-place finish from Maria Baldwin in 19:22, also earned a team plaque with a fourth-place finish of 137 points.
“Everyone ran great. We had some strong races,” Baldwin said. “I’m very happy with my time. I took 20 seconds off from last year.”
Fieldcrest also had top-25 finishes from Annette Baldwin (19th, 21:08) and Claire Weers (22nd, 21:17), while Julia Jochums (52nd, 22:58) and Sidney McKay (56th, 23:12) rounded out the Knights top five.
Zoe Mead led the way for the host Tigresses with an 11th-place finish in 20:16. Princeton finished 18th.
Also locally, Amboy-LaMoille’s Megan Grady was fifth in 19:31 and Bureau Valley’s Regan Weidner was the top runner for the eighth-place Storm with a 14th-place run in 20:38.
Mendota finished 11th led by Emily Ross (31st, 22:06), while Hall was 14th paced by Kaylee Olivares (44th, 22:44) and Laura Sickley (43rd, 22:44) was the top finisher for 16th-place St. Bede.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.