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Emma Milburn and Haley Click are used to being together.
For the last three years, Milburn and Click have been teammates on Lake Forest's cross country and track teams.
In addition, Milburn and Click have spent their last five summers competing for the Waukegan Invaders, a traveling team with athletes from Lake County and Cook County.
"I've been with the Invaders since sixth grade I think, and Haley and her dad recommended it to me so I joined," Millburn said. "It has helped me a lot.
"Track is one of my favorites things to do, and the fact I can do it pretty much the whole year makes me happy. All the coaches push me harder, and it carries over to my high school running because I get good training in the summer."
Milburn is one of a handful of runners on the Waukegan Invaders to advance to 51st USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships, which will be held July 24-30 in Lawrence, Kan.
Milburn and Click both had strong performances at the Invaders Regional 7 at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb from July 6-9 to advance to the USATF national meet on the campus of the University of Kansas.
Despite being hampered by a sprained ankle, Milburn competed in the 17-18 bracket, placing third in the 800-meter run with a 2:17.78 and third in the 1,500 with a 5:00.53.
Also competing in the 17-18 bracket, Click captured first place in the steeplechase with a 7:56.92. Click is an incoming freshman at Michigan.
Both competitors won't be attending the national meet.
A state competitor in cross country and track for each of the last three seasons, Milburn is trying to finalize her college choices.
"I'm going to visit some colleges because I have to get that done before the end of the summer, so I'm not going to Kansas to compete," Milburn said. "During cross country season, it's really hard to see schools and visit with coaches."
Waukegan Invaders coach Ken Almond singled out Milburn and Click for their commitment to the club team, saying "they've been with me a long time."
Milburn reached the Class 3A state meet in May, running in the 800 and also a leg of the 1,600 relay. She did not advance past the preliminaries.
Almond said Milburn has dealt with injuries the past two summers, but she's ready to go for her senior year.
"Emma always been a leader and been talented," he said. "Some injuries have slowed her down, but watch out when the injuries heal. We're looking for her to have a big senior season. She's getting better and coming around."
Besides Milburn and Click, Almond expects a memorable showing at nationals from Andrew Brooks (13-14 age boys). At regionals, he placed fourth in the 800 (2:08.54).
Zion Levy won the discus, javelin and shot put in the 11-12 bracket for girls. Dawson Wright took first in the 400 and second in the 100 and 200 in the 11-12 group. Anthony Adams III placed first in the javelin and second in the shot put in the 7-8 boys.
"Everybody should place who's going out there and we have a chance for one of the top five spots," Almond said. "The key to doing well is stay focused and execute our game plan on track. We have to look at it as another track meet."
Bob Narang is a freelance writer for the News-Sun.
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