The smile on Coach Everhart’s face proved that he was at the sweetest place on earth. For Joe, that would be the PIAA Cross Country State Championinships which were held Saturday in Hershey PA.
Although the week ended positively, the beginning of the week was not so sweet. Julie Friend, who qualified for states, collapsed at the finish during the WPIAL qualifiers and was questionable due to medical reasons. Julie Gerber ran strong during the WPIAL qualifiers but missed the cut by one position. It appeared very likely that nobody would be representing UCC this year at states.
Monday, Joe received the news that one of the AAA girl qualifiers had scratched and Julie Gerber moved up to participate in Saturday’s event. Wednesday, doctors reluctantly released Julie Friend to run and provided strict orders to stop if she felt bad before or during the race. Both Julies had little opportunity to prepare for such an important season ending race. Hopes were high and expectations low being there would be 283 other well qualified, well seasoned, well trained and well prepared atheletes toeing the start line with them.
Both Julies were quite nervous prior to the race but not nearly as nervous as coach Everhart appeared a few minutes prior to the start when the girls were nowhere to be found. Of course with 2 young, nervous and well hydrated runners, it should have been obvious where they would be (and the lines to the rest rooms were quite long).
Family members were staged throughout the course attempting to report to each other the place and condition of the various local runners. It was imposible to identify anyone for the fisrt mile being there were so many runners packed together in a sea of running color. The second half of the race included the Aloha Hills and the Poop-Out Hill. These rolling hills are not the largest hills the participants have ever run but they leave little time for recovery between them. Julie and Julie each enjoyed theses hills and used them to gain positions. Both girls looked strong throughout the entire race and seemed to enjoy the entire experience.
Julie Friend finished in 20th position with a time of 19:15 and earning her a spot on the 2011 All State Team. She was 1 of only 2 runners from the WPIAL that medaled (Margo Malone, who finished 1st in the WPIAL qualifers at Slippery Rock, finished 25th at states). Congratulations Julie Friend. Even though she finished 14th at the WPIAL qualifiers a week earlier, she out peformed evry other WPIAL runner at states event. Note to all UCC runners: Hydrate! hydrate!! hydrate!!!
Julie Gerber finished 78th over all with a time of 20:09 and outperformed nearly 3/4ths of all the other AAA qualifiers. Pretty impressive for someone who initially didn’t even qualify. Congratulations Julie Gerger! She was the 9th place finisher among all WPIAL qualifiers and finished ahead of both of the other section qualifiers. (Mariah Custer of LH finished 118th with a time of 20:35 and Kirsten McMichael of Ringgold finished 130th with a time of 20:45)
Joe and the Julies visited Hershey’s Chocolate World following the race but the sweetest part of the weekend was the experience of ‘states’ and had nothing to do with the candy.