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Parks, Starliper have sparked an exciting running rivalry

If you're a track & field fan, there's nothing more exciting than watching two runners battle for gold in the final meters of a race, pushing their bodies to the limit for even the slightest edge over the competition. 

Well, District 3 fans, get ready for a show, because two of the area's top runners, Greencastle-Antrim's Taryn Parks and Northern York's Marlee Starliper, are back to battle it out for the next three years. 

"Since we're the same age, we will always be pushing each other and it will always be a fast race," Parks said. "I know I can always look to her for better competition and we will make each other better runners in these next few years."

Parks, who is wrapping up her freshman year in a Blue Devil uniform, won the District 3 2A cross country title by out-kicking Starliper in the last half mile this past October. A week later, Parks won the PIAA cross country championship, beating Starliper by just four seconds. 

Flash forward to track season, and the two freshman meet again as two of the best distance runners on the track in District 3. 

At the Mid Penn Conference championships, Starliper upset Parks with an unbelievable finish in the 1600, crossing the line in 4:50.78 - more than five seconds in front of the field. At the District 3 championships, Starliper once again edged Parks in the 1600 and the 3200.

Starliper said the two raced against each other in middle school, but it wasn't until high school cross country that their competitive friendship began to grow. 

"Its been so great running with her, and she really has made me a better runner," Starliper said at the District 3 track & field championships. "It's really nice just having her as a friend to run with throughout high school, and I'm really excited to see what both of us can do and accomplish." 

Parks, who won the District 3 title in the 2A 800-meter race, decided to focus on the 1600 at the state championships, despite a pair of losses to Starliper in the last two weeks. 

Parks knew Starliper and Abington Heights' Katie Dammer would be tough competition on the state's biggest stage - but that just motivated her further. 

With an incredible time of 4:45.81, Parks beat Starliper and Dammer down the stretch for her second state title as a freshman. Her finish was a new personal record of over 10 seconds, and was just four seconds shy of the long-standing state record. 

Starliper took bronze in the 1600 behind Parks and Dammer. 

Parks said, "It's exciting to know we still have three more years, and if we are doing this good at this age, it's going to be hard to imagining how well we will be doing senior year together."