Lyons Julianne Melby leads the pack of Lions runners during the Mike Kuharic Invitational at Lyons Township Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023 in Western Springs. | Steve Johnston

Lyons Township High School senior Lauren Bohringer put in the offseason work for an even stronger girls cross country season.

That includes a better outlook.

Lauren Bohringer

“It’s still stressful beforehand, but I feel like I’m having more fun while I’m going it,” Bohringer said. “Last year, my mentality was not that great. I would start racing and I’d just want it to be over but now I’m trying to enjoy it and be thankful while I’m doing it instead of just running through it and wanting it to be over.”

Bohringer was among the numerous bright spots Saturday at Peoria High School’s  First to the Finish Invitational at Detweiller Park, annual site of the state meet.

The Lions finished ninth (276 points) in Class 3A girls against several fellow state-ranked teams.

Senior Julianne Melby (19th, 18:16.0 for 3.0 miles) and Bohringer (49th, 18:56.1) earned top-50 medals. Seniors Kristina Findley (53rd, 18:58.4) and Madison Findley (66th, 19:07.3), sophomore Jenna Lally (97th, 19:40.6), junior Leigh Ferrell (108th, 19:49.4) and senior Annaliese Dorchinecz (112th, 19:52.6) rounded out their top seven.

Melby equaled her 2022 invite finish but was 19 seconds faster. Bohringer moved up significantly from 123rd in 20:32.8. The Findley twins improved from 19:45. Bohringer and Ferrell dropped 1:13.

Julianne Melby

“There were a lot of (personal records) everywhere as a team. Leigh got out well and pulled us out of that (opening) straightaway, which is something I always need help with,” Melby, a returning 2022 state competitor, 2022.

“Before the season, I was kind of interested and excited how the team would be just because without (injured senior Shannon Cranny), without some of the (graduated) seniors, it was different. I think we’re doing a really good job. We have a bunch of new people that have stepped up and they’re doing really well.”

Cranny should return to competition in October. Senior Anna Bylsma, the team’s No. 2 finisher behind Melby at the LT Invite Sept. 2, also was out of town.

With just one of them near Melby as usual Saturday, the Lions would have contended for third behind Barrington (52) and Naperville North (129), third in 3A last season.

“That’s a good score here (for us). A lot of good teams,” third-year LT coach Eric Simon said. “(We said) this is our team today and let’s just make a step with the team we had. That was the goal and I think we did that.

“They all do a great job (training) in the summer. (Bohringer has) just had steady improvement since I got here sophomore year.”

Bohringer hopes to make her state debut after the Lions graduated three of their top four finishers. She gained confidence entering summer training after a personal-best 11:47.54 for the 3,200 during track, followed by an 11:48.52.

“And now I can just keep improving, keep moving faster,” Bohringer said. “Last year (for cross country) I was kind of stuck in a mental block. I would either get in the 20:00s or the really low 19:00s. I would never get in between.”