PEORIA – The runner’s high has long been an elusive experience that some long-distance runners know well and others, not so much. It is a brief, deeply relaxing state of euphoria, a sense of extreme joy or delight.

Monticello senior Mabry Bruhn has felt it, but not often.

“Running is one of the hardest things I have ever done but I chase that ‘runner’s high’ and use it as a motivator because it feels so great when it happens,” she said.

She found it on Saturday moments after winning the Class 1A girls’ cross country state race at Detweiller Park in Peoria.

“I absolutely felt it,” she said. “It was amazing.”

On Saturday, she also used other ways to motivate herself to first place.

The Detweiller Park course layout is such that those finishing their 3-mile run will see other athletes reaching the 2-mile mark, traveling in the opposite direction.

Thus, a fun opportunity presented itself to Bruhn.

Though the Monticello senior admittedly was focused upon something else.

Extra motivation

“I could hear the noise surrounding me,” Bruhn said. “I had about 150 (meters) left, and one of my teammates, Katie (Mesplay), was going into her last lap. And she was cheering me on as I passed her. We got a picture of it.”

Saturday was filled with big-time photo opportunities for Bruhn.

Including several that display her as the Class 1A individual state champion.

Bruhn used a strong second mile to pull away from the field, then battled through deteriorating weather conditions to win the small-school girls’ race in a time of 17 minutes, 8.43 seconds.

“I’m thrilled. I’m just so excited,” Bruhn said. “It’s always been something I’ve wanted to accomplish. I just never said it out loud to myself or anyone else. Being able to go out and do it senior year is just amazing.”

Bruhn entered the race subscribing to a specific theory for how she might be able to give Monticello its second-ever cross-country individual state championship — its first since Steve Schroeder won the 2011 1A boys’ meet.

“My plan was to keep the girls in front of me on a tight leash for the first mile,” Bruhn said. “I knew there was going to be a pack out in front of me that’d start fast.”

Bruhn made her move in the middle mile. She led the nearest foe at the 2-mile mark by approximately 12 seconds.

“My plan went pretty perfectly,” Bruhn said. “I came through the 2 and I was like, ‘OK, you’re in the lead. Now, you have to keep it.’”

She did just that, though not without a challenge from above.

Rain at start, finish

“It was a little wet in the beginning. When we had about a mile left, it started raining (again),” Bruhn said. “In my last 600 (meters), it was a straight downpour and I couldn’t see a foot in front of me.”

But Bruhn kept her legs churning, finishing well clear of Sandwich’s Sundara Weber (17:26.38) in second place.

“I was exhausted,” Bruhn said. “I don’t think it really sunk in until the awards ceremony, when they announced me. And I was like, ‘Oh, I really did that.’

Bruhn said she didn’t see her season ending with a state title. Monticello placed 15th as a team with 424 points, pairing Bruhn’s outing with an 89th-place time from senior Estella Miller (19:52.07).

“At the beginning of the year, we didn’t know if we were going to be able to make it to state or not,” Bruhn said. “But to make it as a team is a great achievement and we are so happy and proud.”

Miller was thrilled the team, which also included Mabry’s freshman sister, Mylin, and freshmen Eliana Ely and Olivia Gerdes; Mesplay, who is also a senior; Estella’s sophomore sister Sylivia and junior Josephine Walker.

“I’m really proud of how far we have come,” Estella Miller said. “As seniors, we have qualified every year and got second at state our freshman year, so this means a lot.”

The team is coached by Dave Remmert.

“We are a very small team, but we are mighty,” he said. “We only have eight runners but to compete at state is a big victory for us and I am very proud of these girls.”

He also had high praise for Mabry.

“She is the shining light for our team,” he said. “”We have rarely been in a position to have a chance to have individual honors and that means a lot to our team and our school.”

Last year, Bruhn finished ninth to help her squad to a sixth-place finish at the state meet.

Unity wins title

Bruhn made up half of an Illini Prairie Conference sweep in Saturday’s 1A girls’ state meet.

Coach Kara Leaman’s Unity athletes repeated as the team champions, cobbling together 84 points to easily surpass runner-up DePaul College Prep (185).

The Rockets earned last year’s crown by just 12 points ahead of Winnebago.

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