When the pain starts to pour into the body during the home stretch of a race, it’s easier to push through to the finish line when there’s a reason to the running.

For the Oregon girls cross country team, that reason is each other.

Led by Dasha Vorontsov’s first-place finish, Oregon took the top spot at a WIAA Division 1 sectional on Saturday, Oct. 23, at Naga-Waukee Park in Hartland.

The Panthers punched their ticket to the WIAA Division 1 state meet — which will take place on Saturday, Oct. 30, in Wisconsin Rapids — with the sectional title.

“Their mentality is just so impressive in how they support each other,” Oregon head coach Doug Debroux said. “They just love each other. I think that takes us over the edge sometimes. When it comes time to dig deep, that last mile, it hurts for everyone. When they care about one another, I think that’s a big difference for our team right now.”

Vorontsov — who clocked in with the top time of 19 minutes, 0.4 seconds — echoed her coach’s sentiment.

“We’re always here for each other and we make sure to support each other,” Vorontsov said.

“We bond over different things, including running, but not just running. We always push each other and support each other no matter what.”

Oregon won the sectional with 64 points, followed by runner-up Sun Prairie’s 69. The Panthers finished second at the Fall Alternate state meet last season in Janesville.

Vorontsov got some early separation and never looked back. The Oregon junior finished 42 seconds faster than Kettle Moraine freshman Ella Lephardt, who took second with a time of 19:42.5.

“My goal was to get out strong and stay with a pack,” Vorontsov said. “I did that at the beginning of the race and then I broke away and went on my own. I had a strong middle and a strong finish.”

Vorontsov also won an individual sectional title last season.

“It means a lot to win sectionals and bring my team with me,” Vorontsov said.

Junior Libby Beirne and senior Grace Riedl placed back-to-back at 10th and 11th place, respectively. Beirne crossed the finish line at 20:56.4, while Riedl clocked in at 20:58.1.

Senior Amelia Hermanson finished 14th in the 68-runner field with a time of 21:08.6. Sophomore Belah Fry rounded out the Oregon roster with a time of 21:44.9. That time was good for 28th.

“Their preparation every single day made today possible,” Debroux said. “That’s just something this group has. They know how to work hard in everything we do. Whether it’s doing a perfect pushup, whether it’s a hill sprint or long run. Everything they do, every single day, gives them the confidence to do what they did today. Today is their reward for all their work.”

Oregon will race in the WIAA Division 1 state meet on Saturday, Oct. 30, in Wisconsin Rapids at the Ridges Golf Course.

“It’s so amazing, I love the seniors,” Beirne said. “I’m so happy to run again. I love the whole team, we’re all such good friends. The fact that we get another week together is so good. We did it last year and it was one of the best weeks of our lives. Should be good again.”

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