On Saturday we traveled to Forest Hills Middle School for the District 6 Championships. It was a perfect fall day and there is nothing better for XC. The boys and girls had the same goal: STATES. After a great season of preparation we were ready for the task at hand. But we went in with the understanding that we needed to focus on what we can control – our effort and attitude to race our best – and let the chips fall where they may in the results.
All season our AD, Chad Walsh, has made sure we ride to our meets in style and comfort by ordering our coach bus. I told him I think it makes us too comfortable and we needed to go back to a school bus. He laughed when I told them and double checked to make sure I was serious. I told him yes. And Saturday morning, our yellow chariot awaited.
We told the team we didn’t need any big speeches, we simply needed to believe in ourselves, execute our race plans, and trust our training.
The girls were up first and ready to set the tone for the day. All the girls got out well and put themselves in a good position. Heading to the mile, Jordan was in the top 10, Kate was just off of the lead pack, with Maggie and Grace running together in the pack, which was trailed by Emma. After surging off the top of the hill, they continued to move through the field. Heading into the second lap, Jordan was in 9th, Kate was hovering between 16-18, Grace was moving into the top 40, Maggie slipped behind Grace but was still in the top 50, and Emma was closing in on the top 60. It was exciting as everyone was still charging hard in the late in the race. As they headed to two miles everyone was on top of their game. Jordan was in 9th, but had the Marion Center’s #1 in her sights. Kate was in 17th holding onto what I projected was the last qualifying spot. Grace had moved into the 40 and was going for more. Maggie was still fighting hard to hold her spot as she battled hard. Emma was sitting in nice pack as she was having her best race of the season. As they heading to the finish the girls were still going strong. Jordan passed the Marion Center runner and got 8th place with a time of 20:09 an 11-second improvement from the Forest Hills Invite. Kate held her spot to line and finished 17th with a time of 21:51, her best of the season. Grace made a big step forward as she continues to come back from injury with a 37th place finish in 22:27. It was her second fastest time on the course, which is very positive feedback for her training and recovery. Maggie battled through the her knee pain to finish 47th in 23:04. Great run for her, all things considered. Emma closed out our scoring with a 62nd-place finish in 24:05, a 71-second improvement from the Forest Hills Invite. For their efforts, the girls finished 5th overall, a mere 6 points out of 4th. Jordan earned a medal and will be joined by Kate at states. Jordan and Kate are the first two female state qualifiers at SJCA. Central Cambria won the meet by scoring 20 points. They are the #1 team in the state. In fact, they would have won the AA and AAA races yesterday as well. District 6 is one of the strongest in the state so the girls more than held their own.
To put into perspective how great of a season the girls had, they are ranked 18th in the state and 4th in District 6, based on best times throughout the year. Both are remarkable and exciting, since we return our top 5 next year and two girls hunting for medals in Hershey.
The boys were up next and ready for the challenge. Everyone got off the line well, with Brian, Eli, and Michael running with the lead pack in the first kilometer. Ethan and Nathan were side-by-side with Andy slightly behind them, and Max trailing him. As they headed to the mile we had some shifting in the field as the racing was about to begin in earnet. Brian and Eli remained in the lead pack with Michael in the chase pack. Ethan and Nathan were the next to pass with Andy slightly behind them. Max continued hs charge as he had his fastest opening mile of the season in 7:25. As they hit the hill, Brian broke the race open. His hard charge opened a gap he would never relinquish. Eli lead the chase pack as they kept Brian in sight. Michael was trying to keep pace with Penns Valley pack as Ethan, Nathan, Andy and Max were continuing to run strong and keep pace with the field. As the entered the second lap on the way to two miles. Penns Valley had take control of the race with their pack running and was running away wth the team title. The race was on for second place in the team standings. At two miles we were in good position, Brian had a 15 second lead on the chase pack, which was Eli and the runner from Marion Center. Eli was locked in a tight battle for second as he was answering every move being thrown at him. Michael was trying to get into the top 20. While Ethan, Andy, and Nathan were trying to mount a final charge for home. Max was running stready and was in the running for a big personal best. Brian maintained his lead all the way to the finish to become district champ, our first in team history! Eli battled the runner from Marion Center all the way to end and held him off to finish second, his highest district finish in a season best of 17:00. Michael continued his strong day as he finished 21st, running 18:08, both all-time bests for him. Ethan was doing his best to pass as many people as possible of the final stretch as he outkicked 6 people to finish 54th. Andy held his position over the last 1000 to finish 63rd. Nathan was the next in 71st. And Max closed out our day in 116th with a lifetime best 24:07. It was a tense few moments while we waiting for the scores because we knew it was close. I headed to the scoring area to get the official word. After arriving, I heard the news, we got 3rd. Bishop McCort held us off by 7 points. At 2 miles, we had a slight lead, but McCort closed better than we did over the last mile to earn the trip to Hershey.
Not going to lie, the third place finish stung for all of us. When finishes are that close, it is easy to go back and think of things that could have been different. At the end of the day, the result couldn’t be changed no matter how many different scenarios we invented. And if we focused solely on what we didn’t attain in our goals we would be forgetting about what we did accomplish, and we needed to be grateful for our success. Brian and Eli finished first and second, and will be making a return trip to states and we had our highest district finish. Brian and Eli will be in the hunt to bring back some hardware from Hershey.
At the end of the day, we continued our streak of doubling the amount of qualifiers from the previous year as we are sending 4 to the line in Hershey.
“The height of your accomplishments will equal the depth of your convictions.” – William F. Scholavino
Thanks for everyone who made it to the meet. It was a our largest crowd yet. And thanks for the pasta party and meet day supplies. The continued support throughout the season has been greatly appreciated.