Senior Amelia "Mia" McLain and sophomore Hailey Wallace were a potent one-two punch last year for the Rangerettes cross country team, and if the first meet is any indication, they may be even more potent this year.
Last year, McLain jumped from ninth to third at the state tournament while Wallace finished 47th in her first try as a freshman.
At state, McLain ran 17:26.77 to finish just 26.03 seconds behind the leader while Wallace ran 18:43.95.
Now almost a year later, McLain opened her senior year with a first-place finish at the West Frankfort Quad with a time of 19:41. Wallace was edged for second place by just five one-hundredths of a second (21:09) by Herrin's Charli Elliott.
"We let Mia do two miles with her teammates to encourage them, but with 0.9 miles to go we let her go and she poured it on and won by over a minute and a half," McLain said.
"Hailey's got a sparkplug in her. Last year, she kept getting better and better. This year, she's starting out better than where she was last year, closer to the front girls. Now that she's got more confidence, we're expecting great things from her towards the end of the season like she did last year."
Mia's twin sister, Madi, finished fourth (21:44), Peyton Tieffel sixth (22:01) and Addisyn Miller ninth (22:19) to give Benton an 18-point win over Pinckneyville, 71 points over Herrin and 99 points over West Frankfort.
"It was a phenomenal first meet," McLain said. "We were able to run five of our seven girls because the girls volleyball team was playing in Carbondale that night and the two freshmen had to be down there early, so they didn't get to run. But our other volleyball player, Madi, got to run because she didn't have to be there until 7 p.m. giving us five and a team."
McLain continued, "For the first time in four years, we were able to have some fun in a meet. We held Mia back and they are of such quality they were able to run through the two miles together and then pull away from there. It was a very fun night for the girls."