BETHLEHEM - With the District 11 cross country meet split up into three classes for the first time, it was anyone's guess how teams would stack up in Class AA, where schools from all four of the district's leagues crossed paths, most of them for the first time this season.
When everyone's best seven runners had crossed the line, Northwestern's girls were on top for the team's second district title in four years.
Led by junior Haley Yost in third place and sophomore Rachele Cerrone in fourth, the Lady Tigers beat second-place Allentown Central Catholic 58-85 for this year's district crown.
"It feels great," said Yost. "I think the team likes to come out and prove people wrong. We like to push ourselves and see what we can do."
The Northwestern girls team and several other area runners earned a spot at the state championship meet with solid performances on Wednesday at Bethlehem Municipal Golf Course.
Lehighton's Emily Oldt and Jim Thorpe's Courtney Capper qualified in Class AA, while Pleasant Valley's Kristen Eberhardt earned a trip to states in the Class AAA race. The state championship meet will be held next Saturday in Hershey.
Yost, a fifth-place Class AAA district finisher last year, when the meet was split up into just two classes, has been battling late-season injuries and illness. With the warm afternoon on Monday, she paced herself from the start and then made up time at the end.
"The first mile I stayed more conservative with the heat and the hills," said Yost. "I was in the top six the whole race.
"I was just hoping to go top two or top three. These past couple weeks have been tough. I'm just trying to get whatever I can to get to states and help the team where I can."
Yost is hoping to feel closer to 100 percent for next Saturday. Her goal is a top 10 individual finish.
Cerrone improved on her 12th place finish from last year when she ran a 21:02. She made a big drop this year, running course in 20:36.
"I went out a little fast in the beginning then I kind of dropped back," she said. "The heat got to me. I was around eighth and then I started picking up. Near the end I started to get better and I started to pick off girls. My goal was fourth place."
The rest of the Tigers top five included Carly Pierce (seventh), Zoe Strickland (21st) and Erin Ondush (23rd).
Oldt was coming off a third-place finish at the Mountain Valley Conference Championship. She hoped to repeat that medal-winning performance at districts, but wasn't sure what to expect against so much unfamiliar competition.
The senior ran a career-best time of 20:42 for fifth place in Class AA.
"I was actually surprised," Oldt said. "I didn't think I would get fifth place. I feel so proud of myself.
"I didn't think of anything. I just ran. I thought about passing people. I just kept saying 'medal' in my head because I want to get another medal."
Capper placed 11th in Class AA girls, running the race in 21:26. Eberhardt was 13th in Class AAA with a time of 20:30. The top 10 runners who are not part of state qualifying teams qualify for states in Class AA and AAA.
This year's Class AAA champ was Bangor's Meredith Colton, who ran the race in 19:21, beating defending champ Paige Stoner (Pottsville) by 20 seconds.
In Class AA, Allentown Central Catholic freshman Colleen Daday took the title in 19:27. She beat three-time champ Elizabeth Chikotas of Saucon Valley by 33 seconds.
Minersville's Cassidy Mason won the Class A girls title in 22:46, leading the Miners to a team title. In Class AAA, Parkland girls won the team title.