HERSHEY — A year later and Holy Redeemer junior Lindsey Williams found herself in a similar position at the PIAA Class 2A Girls Cross Country Championship at Hersheypark.
Like last November when she was a sophomore, Williams was boxed in 100 runners deep just 1,000 meters into the race. With her coach, Paul Hoda yelling to her from the sidelines, Williams knew she had to kick into another gear.
After winning the District 2 title a week before, Williams wasn’t going to finish 42nd again. The Royals distance runner was able to recover and rally from the back of the pack to finish 23rd in 19:57 to medal.
“Halfway through the race I didn’t think I was going to get a medal because I got buried,” Williams said. “I was all the way in like 150th, but the fact that by the first mile I was making up some more ground. I was surprised I actually made it that far. I didn’t think I as going to make it.
“Immediately after the first 1,000 meters I saw my coach freaking out, and I was like, ‘Oh, I really have to go.’ I just had to shove through people”
Sitting in the 150s after a mile of running, Williams used the hills between the first and second mile markers to squeeze by some of her competitors. The hills spread the field out and she took advantage.
“I just wait until someone makes a gap before they cut me off again, and I just book it through them. I just did that for about a mile,” Williams said.
After watching Williams get trapped early on Hoda had flashbacks to last year’s meet. However, he knew Williams was another year wiser and savvier.
“Once they started separating after a mile, the mile to two miles is the hilly section, and in there she really started moving through the group,” Hoda said. “When it got to the more challenging terrain she was able to move.”
By the two-mile mark Williams found herself in the 30s with some room to improve. She knew she had the gas to make a strong finish.
“When I was coming around the bend before you hit the hill, there was one of my friends’ aunts, and his dad. They were yelling places. Then when they yelled 25, I was like, ‘Oh, I should go probably,’” Williams said. “So I took the hill moderate and I tried to sprint the final finish. I must have passed two people.”
One thing was clear to Williams after the race however, next year will be different.
“I’m going to sprint the start, first off, and then I’m going to try to recuperate for a bit and then keep going and try to do the same thing,” she said.
Williams was the top Wyoming Valley Conference finisher, with Dallas freshman Megan Borton finishing 59th in her first-ever states race. Fellow Royals distance runner Destiny Andes finished 132nd.
Dallas head coach Matt Samuel said Mountaineers senior Riley Oremus played a big role in Borton’s top-60 finish. Oremus finished 216th.
“As a freshman, it is very difficult to be down here and do anything, particularly when you don’t have strength in numbers. She didn’t have the rest of her team down here,” Samuel said of Borton. “She had a great leader in Riley Oremus to help her out, who was a member of a state championship team herself.”
In the Class 3A race, it was a pair of Hazleton Area runners that led the way for the WVC. Senior Mary Everdale finished 117th and freshman Ariana Stranko finished 166th.