Troy's Norton takes race; Wellsboro takes team title
BLOOMSBURG - For much of the race, Troy's Casey Norton and Wyalusing's Erika Huffman did what they have done for the past two seasons.
The two were running side-by-side in the front of the pack.
Then it happened, Norton took the lead, a lead she would never relinquish as she won her first District 4 title, winning the Class A race in 18:35.
"It feels so good, "Norton said. "I was so nervous, the pressure was building for this race."
In the early going, Norton knew she need to run with Huffman, and when she saw a chance to take the lead, she took it.
"I knew we needed to work together," Norton said. "We both went out quick and then I was able to pull away."
For Norton, it was a great feeling seeing the finish line for the winner as she got to the end of the race.
"I always wanted to cross the tape," she said.
For Norton, winning the title was something she dreamed of.
"I'm definitely really excited, I worked hard, I really hoped for this. I hoped my senior year would be a good one."
Troy coach Gary Ward knows how hard Norton worked to get to this point.
"She's been doing this interval training, running 15-20 minutes then four hard half miles in the middle," Ward said. "She kind of brought it to me and I looked at it. I am not very flexible with my conditioning, but it's like a gifted student, sometimes with a gifted runner you have to let them do different things. She wanted to do more than we did."
Huffman finished second in 19:10.
For the Wyalusing senior the goal was a district title, but she's happy to be going back to states.
"It feels great," she said. "We went out me and Casey and we battled and she just got me down by the intramural fields and my body just didn't go. It's my second year running and my second year going to states, so that's good."
Huffman knows that the balance of preparing for districts in volleyball and cross country hurt her conditioning some and it's something she is going to work on before states.
"I really will work on my conditioning this week," she said. "With our team in district volleyball it's been hard. I have not been able to go out and get the 10 miles in, I've been doing like 4 miles."
And, a week from now in Hershey Huffman expects there's a good chance that once again her and Norton might be side-by-side at some point in the race.
"I love that part about it, we always push each other," she said. "It feels great to have someone there to push you. I don't have that on my team, but I have that with her. I am always excited to run against her."
While Huffman is excited to see Norton in the field next week, she's hoping for a different finish next time.
"I am hoping to get her in the rematch," Huffman said. "What she did is great, she came back from an injury this year and she came out very strong."
Towanda's Destiny Foster crossed in third place with a time of 19:20, earning another trip to the PIAA meet.
"It feels awesome," she said.
For much of the race Foster and teammate Katelyn Purdy were running even in the fourth and fifth spots, but with just five runners going to states, Foster knew she had to pick it up.
"I wasn't comfortable in fifth," she said. "I thought 'oh my' someone might pass me. I need to move up."
So, Foster picked up her pass, passing Northeast Bradford's Lydia Werner for the third spot. However, Purdy wasn't able to stay with her teammate at that point.
"I tried to get her to come with me, but I think she might be a little sick," Foster said.
Now, Foster is ready for the trip to Hershey.
"I'm really excited," she said. "I didn't want to get my hopes up, but it feels so good."
Werner, a freshman, earned a trip to states in her first district race, crossing in fourth in 19:29.
"It feels wonderful," she said.
Early on she went out and wanted to try and stay with Norton and Huffman, but she soon settled in behind them.
"I tried to stick with them unless they went to fast," Werner said.
There were some nerves in her first trip to districts.
"I was very nervous," she said. "I am just happy no one snuck up behind me."
Heading to states is something that Werner is excited about.
"It feels great," she said. "All the work has paid off."
And, with the Northeast Bradford boys winning the district title and going to states as well, it just makes things more exciting for Werner.
"I'm extremely excited, I can't wait," she said. "I can cheer them on and they can cheer me on."
Purdy just missed a trip to states, finishing sixth in 19:42. Hughesville's Hannah Merrifield took the fifth spot to qualify for states in 19:38.
Mansfield's Violet Learn (19:47) and Simone Lichty (20:09), followed by Wellsboro's Jordyn Coffee (20:19) and Jada Jackson (20:33) took the next four spots.
Coffee and Jackson helped guide the Green Hornets to a team title and a trip to states as Wellsboro won the district title at 52, followed by Towanda (67) and Northeast Bradford (99). Mt. Carmel was fourth, followed by Sullivan County, Southern Columbia, Wyalusing, Loyalsock and Bloomsburg.
"I have never made it as part of a team, none of us have," Wellsboro's Randi Grim said.
"We all had a really good race," Charlotte Worthington added.
One of the things that helps the Green Hornets is a pack mentality.
"We have been real close all season," Grim said. "We work together and that helps."
Jackson, Coffee, Camryn Keane and Samantha Bailey are all freshmen, while Denae Ingerick is a sophomore, so Grim, a senior, and Worthington, a junior, knew they had to help them out.
"I was very nervous," Jackson said.
"We tried to tell them not to get too nervous," Grim said. "They didn't have to do anything amazing, just run their race."
The girls knew that had run well at the NTL race, but that they had to pick it up some.
"I knew we had to run a little faster than NTL's," Jackson said.
Having everyone help contribute to the success made this special for the Green Hornets.
"It's so exciting, we always run as a whole team," Worthington said.
The Green Hornets kind of ran in groups of two and having that person next to you helped push them.
"It helps a lot," Worthington said. "Randi and I have always run together."
"It helps a lot, it pushes you," Ingerick said.
"We scream at each other to get up the hills," Coffee said.
Now it's on to states for Wellsboro.
"I think we can do well if we run together and push each other," Grim said.
Towanda's Dani Zatkos was 13th, followed by Grim and Worthington finished 17th, followed by Northeast Bradford's Alyssa Tuner and Sullivan County's Alexis Kiess.