Just when we thought Greencastle-Antrim's Taryn Parks was done surprising us for a little while, she reached another spectacular milestone as a freshman.
Parks continued her stellar cross country season at the 38th annual Foot Locker Cross Country Northeast Regional Championships on Saturday, placing seventh to qualify for the National Finals, to be held Saturday Dec. 10 at Morley Field, Balboa Park in San Diego.
"Going into it I wasn't expecting to go to nationals," Parks said. "I was hoping for a top 10. I went out a little slower instead of setting the pace, and after the first mile I passed as many people as possible to get into the top 10.
"The competition was what I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting to be that close to the other competitors."
Parks said running the grueling Hershey course for the PIAA Championships helped her prepare for the Northeast Regional race.
"It definitely boosts my confidence knowing that I am up there with Neely Spence," Parks said. "I know that I can keep doing this for three more years."
Parks finished the course at Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, N.Y. in 18:06 and was the only freshman between the boys and girls races to qualify for the national finals. Parks was also the top female finisher in the state of Pennsylvania.
Greencastle coach Rich Secrest said, "I wouldn't say I was too surprised, because we thought she was capable of somewhere in the 17:45 to 18:00 range. But there are a lot of unknowns in a race like that.
"Winning states was enough pressure, and after something like that it's too easy for kids to shut it off competitively. But she's a gamer and she kept pushing."
"Taryn Parks had an phenomenal day," Chambersburg coach Chris Monheim said. "To get inside that top 10, that's pretty impressive. You really have to be the cream of the crop and have a special day and it's neat to see someone from the area make it to San Diego."
Chambersburg's Abby Yourkavitch also ran in the Northeast Regional, placing 17th overall with a time of 18:49. She missed national qualifying by 40 seconds. Yourkavitch, who competed in her third Northeast Regional race, had her best performance on the tough Van Cortlandt Park course.
"She was 45th as a freshman, and 24th last year, so to get 17th this year, she had a very good day and ran her top race of the season," Monheim said. "It's a good chance to run against the top kids. There were quite a few state champions, and Abby ended up beating a bunch of kids who had beaten her in our state meet. I think she was hoping for a little more, but you can't be disappointed."