Return to gold

 Hillsboro?s Emily Sechrist nears the top of the final uphill climb about 800 meters away from the Class 2A finish line. The Trojan junior went on to win her second state title in three years with a time of 15:39.51.One year ago, Emily Sechrist was denied a repeat state title in Class 3A when a 4A runner joined the field after the start of the season because of her school?s classification change.
What goes around comes around.
This year Sechrist, a newcomer in Class 2A, outran 96 other runners to claim the individual state title Satur?day at Wamego.
The Trojan junior finished the 4-kilometer course in 15 minutes, 39.51 seconds, holding off a hard-charging Lauren Harrel of Maranatha Academy by 5 seconds.
?She always has a pretty good kick, so I knew she would be coming,? said Sechrist, who led the field by about 50 meters with only 800 to go. ?I was just hoping I could kick, too, finish it off and stay ahead.?
The race began with one runner sprinting to a sizeable lead.
?I knew she probably wouldn?t last, but didn?t want to let her get too far away just in case,? Sechrist said. ?So I started out faster than I like to. But I just tried to stay patient and maintain a good pace so I could finish it off at the end.?
Sechrist said the switch in classes didn?t have a lot of effect on her mental or physical preparation.
?I know a lot of people weren?t very happy about it, but I was kind of OK with it,? she said of the change. ?I knew I?d have good competition wherever I went. I knew I needed to think about my race and see if I could get better.?
Sechrist said the memory of last year?s state race was a motivating factor for her.
?I know what it felt like finishing second,? she said. ?I had done everything I could (to prepare), so it was like I hated that feeling. I would say it was motivating, probably. I was excited that I could win again.?
In addition to a different lineup of runners, the switch to 2A meant a different course?the Wamego Country Club instead of Rim Rock Farm near Lawrence, the site of her first two state races.
?I used to like Rim Rock, but now it?s not my favorite course anymore,? she joked. ?I was OK with going to Wamego. It?s still a really hard course, and there?s still a lot of hills. It was definitely a rough course to race on.?
Karyn Leihy runs toward a 48th place finish in the Class 2A race at Wamego.Trojan coach Stuart Holmes was effusive in his praise of Sechrist?s preparation.
?She has worked so hard to maximize the God-given talent she?s been given and has earned the success she enjoyed this season,? he said. ?Her physical training and mental preparation were outstanding again this year. Even with the slower, soft ground from all the rain, she was able to post her best time so far for the Wamego course.?
The state title capped a season where Sechrist won eight of the nine races she entered. At the one race she didn?t win at Rim Rock earlier this season, she placed third behind two runners who went on to win their classification state championships.
Along the way, Sechrist lowered her school record from 15:16 to 14:40.
Along the way, Sechrist lowered her school record from 15:16 to 14:40.
?It was great how the other Hillsboro students and fans recognized Emily?s hard work with a standing ovation when she arrived at state volleyball,? Holmes said. ?She represents so many of the outstanding character traits of quality student-athletes.?
Hillsboro had two additional runners competing at Wamego. Junior Karyn Leihy placed 48th in 18:17.76, while in the boys? race Avery Franz covered the 5-k course in 20:10.28 to place 70th out of 101 runners.
?Avery and Karyn both ran hard and should feel good about being able to finish the season at the state level,? Holmes said.
?With Karyn returning next year, hopefully qualifying for state will launch her into an even more successful senior season.?

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