Freshman Emily Sechrist picked a fine time to win the first race of her high school career.
Sechrist became the first runner in Hillsboro High School history to claim a state cross-country title, winning the Class 3A individual championship Saturday in 16 minutes, 3 seconds at Rim Rock Farm near Lawrence.
Sechrist outdistanced her nearest competitor, Sarah Wright of Douglass, by 12 seconds over the 4-kilometer course. Ninety-seven runners competed in the race.
Sechrist had finished among the top three finishers in several races this season, including as runner-up to Wright at regionals a week earlier.
?We were kind of talking (before the race) that it would be kind of funny if the only race I won would be state?and it was,? Sechrist said. ?I really wanted to be in the top five, and I thought it would be really cool if I was in the top three. So that?s what I was hoping for.?
The favorite in the race was Heather Ruder of Thomas More Prep, last year?s third-place finisher.
?Emily had raced against Ruder twice this year,? coach Stuart Holmes said. ?At Wamego, Emily was 35 seconds behind her in early September, but was only 12 seconds behind her in early October. So with the gap closing, who knew what would happen in three weeks at state??
Holmes said winning state wasn?t really the focus of her training.
?But Emily stayed dedicated to her training and kept working to improve her fitness and racing ability,? he said.
?Another encouraging sign that Emily was ready to run well at state was how strong she finished the regional meet, closing the distance on (Wright) to only two seconds at the finish.?
Sechrist said she got the sense she could win at Rim Rock with about a half mile to go.
?I was a little bit ahead of everyone else and I kept wondering?are they coming? When are they going to pass me? Oh, wait, I might actually be able to win this,? she said. ?I was just really surprised and happy about it.?
Even so, Ruder caught Sechrist with about 300 meters to go as they ran across the highest level of the course, called the Jim Ryan Skyline.
?Needless to say, it was pretty dramatic as the two runners? silhouettes raced across the Skyline side by side heading toward the last curve, where the turns down the hill toward the finish line,? Holmes said.
?After only a few seconds together, one silhouette somehow increased her pace?it was Emily, and she kept it up all the way through the finish line to claim the victory by 12 seconds.
?Emily?s gutsy move to take the lead and push the pace, along with her ability to finish strong, had earned her the 2011 3A state cross-county championship.?
Sechrist, meanwhile, was pleased but humble about her accomplishment.
?I prayed that I could do my best, and I would give God the glory for whatever happened.?
She said her win at state far exceeded her highest hopes for her first season of high school competition.
?I wanted to get a medal once?in any race,? said the school?s record holder and first state champion. ?It was really good. I was really happy.?
Class 3A boys?Marion?s Jordan Hett placed third in the 5-kilometer race at Rim Rock Farm with a time of 17:13, only three seconds behind the runner-up (Cordell Goering of Hutch Trinity), and eight seconds behind the winner, Cory Donley of Sacred Heart.
?The course at Rim Rock was very hilly and there were several very steep hills the runners had to climb, but Jordan did great,? said coach Rebecca Hofer.
Hillsboro?s Josh Richert earned a state medal by placing 17th in the field of 104 runners with a time of 17:59.
?Josh ran another excellent race,? coach Stuart Holmes said. ?The key to Josh?s race was again staying with the pace in the middle part of the race after putting himself in good position for the first mile. He once again finished strong after running a tough course. It was a great effort.?
Class 1A girls?Brittny Czarnowsky of Goessel finished 32nd in a field of 77 runners at Wamego with a time of 18:25.
?State was a tough race, as always, but she ran hard and competed well,? said coach Derrick Birdsell. ?After battling injury, Brittny came on strong, ran some good races and was able to compete at state her senior year, which was her goal.?