BETHLEHEM – Grace Forbes had a race plan for the PIAA District 1 Class 3A Cross Country Championships at Lehigh University’s Goodman Campus Friday morning.
“I wanted to stick with the leaders from the start,” said the Strath Haven senior and first-year cross country runner.
The problem was that there was a stick on the course.
“During the third mile, I got a stick in my shoe,” Forbes said. “I was running, but it was almost like I was limping. It really bothered me.”
Despite her valiant efforts, Forbes could only get to the finish line in third place. While she earned the chance to compete in Hershey in the state championship meet, Forbes was disappointed with Haven’s eighth-place finish in the team standings, which cost the Panthers a chance to go to Hershey to run as a team.
Forbes and sophomore Paige Day, who placed 39th, will be Strath Haven’s representatives at states. They will be joined by Penncrest freshman Sophie Cohen, who finished 23rd Friday, Penn Wood senior Elicia Moore, who was 31st, senior Erica Kent of Garnet Valley (48th), and Upper Darby senior Megan Cook, who grabbed the last qualifying place by finishing 50th.
Freshman Jenna Mulhern of West Chester Henderson was the individual champion in a time of 17 minutes, 41.4 seconds, 18 seconds faster than West Chester East junior Allyson Clarke, who crossed seven seconds before Forbes.
Mulhern is the daughter of Pat Mulhern, an All-Delco football player at Strath Haven who played at the University of Delaware.
Forbes said she prefers the challenges the hilly course at Hershey presents over the flatter surface at Lehigh.
“It may not be the popular opinion, but I like that Hershey course,” she said. “And when I go there next week, I’ll be running for redemption.”
Her teammate Day was a junior varsity runner a year ago and will be making her first trip to states.
“She’s come a long way,” Haven head coach Bill Coren said.
Cohen, who finished second to Forbes at the Delco Championships a couple of weeks ago, came within six seconds of a top-15 finish in her first district meet.
“I was hoping to have one of my teammates, Liz Egan, go with me if I made it (to the state meet), but she wasn’t able to run very well today,” Cohen said. “I went out quickly, then I slowed down during the second mile. The third mile, I knew I had to pick it up.”
Moore became the first Penn Wood runner in three seasons to qualify for the state championships in cross country.
“I think I ran about 20:03 last year, and this year I ran 19:08,” she said. “I’ve had a different mindset this year. I wanted to try to get out and stay with the girls in the front.
“My goal was to run under 19 minutes. I really picked it up, and actually I didn’t feel all that tired when I finished.”
Kent knew she might be among the runners competing for the final state qualifying positions.
“I heard people screaming that every place counts,” she said. “That really got me going, and I moved up at least five places before we got to the finish. I wanted to make sure I ran my race and let things happen.”
Cook’s goal was “to be there at the end.
“The first mile was rough,” she said. “Then I started passing people in the second mile and just kept on going.”
• • •
In the Class A race, Sacred Heart juniors Kayleigh Doyle and Chiara O’Keefe qualified for the state meet for the third consecutive year by placing sixth and seventh.
The pair made the trip to Hershey during their freshman and sophomore years by helping Heart win the district team title. This year, they were the only two runners who competed for the Lions.
“We were hoping we could both make it,” Doyle said. “I didn’t have Emma (Seifried, who graduated last spring) to push me like last year, when I finished second and she came in third. I just knew I had to work hard.”
O’Keefe, who finished eight seconds behind Doyle, said, “I wanted to stay with the girls up front and then keep trying to go as hard as I could to finish.”
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