While Glenbard West's Katelynne Hart was cruising to the first of her three wins on the day, McDonnell and the rest of the pack were locked in a tight race for the other spots on the podium.
McDonnell, who is heading to Bradley, finished fifth in 10 minutes, 53.48 seconds.
She liked the strategic challenge of competing on a warm, windy day.
"You just kind of use it as you can and try to tuck in [the pack]," McDonnell said. "All these girls were switching around and working together. It was an amazing experience."
The friendly competition is something McDonnell treasures.
"All these girls are so incredible," she said. "We definitely all push each other and talk to each other. We all know each other. It's so amazing to have all those girls to work with that you can trust."
At the head of the class is Hart, a junior who is building the greatest distance running resume in Illinois girls history. Already, Hart has won three state titles in cross country and seven more in track.
"She's such an inspiration to me, to see her race the way she does," McDonnell said. "She's going to do big things."