Sophomore Katie Locker finished ninth in the state at the AAA level with her time of 19:07 at the PIAA state cross country championship at Hershey on Saturday, Nov. 4.
Seven of the eight finishers in front of her were seniors while the other was a sophomore, meaning that Locker will head into 2018 as the second best runner in the state at AAA. She was also the top finisher from the Lancaster-Lebanon League as she finished seven seconds before Jamie Zamrin, the league champion from Cocalico.
“It means everything just knowing that I put everything into it and gave it my everything,” Locker said.
While coach Mark Gallagher noted that times from different courses are hard to compare and relate to others, Locker dropped 51 seconds off her time from the district meet a week prior.
“It feels incredible because I knew that I did really bad and I really needed to redeem myself so coming here and running top-10 made me feel really great. I got pretty down on myself after the district course, but I feel good now,” Locker said.
Gallagher said that Locker’s finish is what earned her a spot in the top 10, rather than a spot in the top 25.
“I saw her with a couple hundred yards to go and she was at the bottom of the hill at that point. She was in 13th place behind Zamrin and halfway up the small hill she passed Zamrin and I thought, ‘Okay, well maybe she could possibly come in ahead of the league champ,’ which was spectacular,” Gallagher said.
Locker was in 14th at both the first (5:47) and second (12:15) mile before she finished in ninth.
“I felt pretty good on mile one because it was pretty fast, but then as mile two came along there was a couple inclines and my legs were getting tired. I could feel myself slowing down. I kept pushing myself because I knew that, at the third mile, it was pretty much all flat until the end. Once I got to the hill, I told myself, ‘There is like 100 meters left so I’ve gotta get up this hill and I’ll be fine,’” Locker said.
Competing alongside Locker were teammates Cat Shontz, Madeline Quinn and Kate Wiessend. Shontz, a junior, finished 60th (20:04), Quinn, a freshman, finished 78th (20:16) and Wiessend, a sophomore, finished 117th (20:42). There were 242 girls competing in the AAA race.
“I think part of the problem was that, especially for Maddie, she got out to a really fast first mile. Faster than she normally does because if you’re going to be up in that medal group you’ve gotta go out fast,” Gallagher said.
Quinn finished the first mile in 5:52, which put her in 24th place at the time. By the time she completed the second mile, 12:40 had passed and she was in 38th place.
While Gallagher felt that Shontz and Quinn may be slightly disappointed with their times, he thought that Wiessend would be okay with her performance.
“Kate’s goals were a little different because she had an unbelievable, spectacular race at districts. So, in her mind, she wasn’t quite looking at that medal idea,” Gallagher said.
Following the girls performance, seniors Christopher Scharf and Charles Scharf competed in the final race of the day. It was the first time in their careers that they competed at the state meet. Christopher finished 65th (16:58) to beat out his identical twin brother Charles, who finished 88th (17:05).
Gallagher, who has coached Elizabethtown for the past five seasons, said that it was an emotional end to their cross country careers. As often can be the case when it comes to twins, the two can get lumped together as one, but Gallagher said that is what makes them as successful as they are.
“They’ve done every workout together. The growth has really been identical in many ways. They do have their own personalities, but they really are almost inseparable,” Gallagher said.
He went on to credit Christopher for taking his performance to “another level” in his final cross country season, but he also mentioned that Charles was often not far behind.
“He was using that to motivate himself and what’s really cool is they really have worked together. I don’t know about other twins, but even teammates sometimes have jealousy or rivalries or they don’t get along real well. The two of them have been such a team and they’ve done that from day one,” Gallagher said. “They’ve just kept working at it and the times have kept coming down and the success has been building.”
The Scharfs won’t be separate from Gallagher for too long, however, as they will reconvene for the track and field season.
“The best news I have is that I get to coach them in the spring. There is the sorrow of the season being over, but on the other hand, we’re looking forward to track. Let’s take a few weeks off, take a break, rest up and then gear it up for outdoor season,” Gallagher said.