Hear from the Franklin-Fulton PIAA cross country medalists on Saturday's state meet in Hershey. Video by Lindsey Smith
When Taryn Parks burst onto the cross country scene in August, we wondered if she could beat the area's reigning distance stud Abby Yourkavitch, who competes in 3A.
Then we wondered if she could contend on a big invitational stage at Carlisle.
How about a District 3 Class 2A Championship?
And Saturday Parks checked off one final box on the young runner's list - a state title.
Right out of the starting gate, Parks was in the front of the pack, but midway through the race it was almost like an instant replay of last week's District 3 race, with Northern York's Marlee Starliper and Oley Valley's Rebecca Snyder pressuring at the two-mile mark.
But like she's done in nearly every race this season, Parks separated herself in the final 800 to win it all, cutting the tape in 18:56 on her first shot at the notoriously difficult Hershey Parkview Course.
"I thought my race went really well," Parks said. "I went out way too fast and they caught up to me and I decide to push through to the end and catch Marlee. It was a full-out sprint in the final 800 meters."
Starliper finished just three seconds behind Parks for one of the smallest margins of victory for Parks this season.
"I can do this for (three) more years," Parks said. "It's a nice goal to have."
"I saw a young lady who went out and stay with her game plan of what she typically does," Greencastle coach Rich Secrest said. "The pack caught her and she reacted really well. She got things together in the last few meters and she finished very well."
Lauren Hirneisen, the only other Greencaslte-Antrim runner to qualify for the state meet, finished in 12th place to earn a PIAA medal at 19:32.
"Lauren did a wonderful job," Secrest said. "She went out at about the half mile she was right around 45th place, and to go from that in a big crowed like that, and to make a move on the hills and keep moving forward to get 12th place, that showed a lot of discipline and a lot of maturity."
"I was just so relieved," Hirneisen said. "Heading into the race I knew I had a shot at medaling and I just really wanted to medal so knowing that I did it feels great."
Yourkavitch places in top 10: In what Chambersburg girls coach Chris Monheim called "the pinnacle" of the cross country season, sophomore Abby Yourkavitch had the best race of the year, shaving off four spots from her performance at the 2015 state championships for a top-10 finish during the PIAA Class 3A girls race with a time of 18:48.
"It feels really good to finally be in the top 10 after three years," Yourkavitch said. "I finally decided to run smart and didn't go out in the lead so that felt really good just to be able to hang on for a top-10 finish. I actually fell off a little bit, I was in the top eight but I'm happy with a top 10 because it's the first time it's happened."
Although no other Trojan earned a state medal, senior Cadie Kiser was the second Chambersburg runner to cross the line, breaking a top-50 finish. She finished 46th, more than 40 places higher than last season. She crossed the line in 19:50, followed by Kaylee Mowery in 64th at 20:05. Sydney Parson (170th, 21:30) and Anna Degrange (182nd, 21:50) rounded out the top five Chambersburg finishers to give the Trojans 13th in the team standings..
"Cadie had a great day," Monheim said. "She was 40 plus spots higher than last year and she finished a little higher than I even expected. It was a great way to end her career. We had a couple really good performances today, but we didn't have a team full of them and in a meet like this you really have to have the whole team running well."
Notes: James Buchanan's Dalton Leab finished 52nd in the boys 2A race with a time of 17:35. Leab is a first-year runner and was the only area boy to qualify in 2A.
In addition, Chambersburg's Andrew Feldman narrowly qualified for the state meet by claiming one of the final qualifying spots during the District 3 Class 3A championships, and made it a goal to place in the top 100 at states. Feldman achieved his goal by six places, finishing 94th with a time of 17:15.
The Southern Fulton boys and girls teams competed in their respective 1A races. Elizabeth Flarherty was the top finisher for the Southern Fulton girls at 24:29 for 181st. Chase Varner was the top SF boy at 130th with a time of 18:44.