Defending AA XC Champ Carly Seymour is ahead of last year... and her own expectations...

Carly Seymour under 18 at the tough Altoona meet
(Photo courtesy of J.D. Cavrich and the Altoona Mirror)

Carly Seymour trekked the 3.1-mile Logan Elementary School cross country course on Sept. 16 with one thought on her mind. Break her Altoona XC Invitational record. Little did she realize that she was on pace to completely annihilate it.

Seymour, a junior at Central Cambria and the defending 2A PIAA champion, set the Altoona Invite record last fall at 19:17. A week and a half ago she made that look like a JV time by clocking 17:53 on the not-so-flat course.

\"I had no idea,\" she said. \"I was just running and not paying attention. I was in shock because I didn\'t expect it. I thought (breaking 18) would be so hard.\" Apparently it wasn\'t.

Head coach Randy Wilson said he doesn\'t discuss time with his runners, so breaking 18 was not exactly a goal for that day. \"We don\'t talk about times because every course is different,\" Wilson said. \"It\'s just a \'feel thing.\' That course has a brutal hill on it, but she just felt great that day.\"

However, Wilson does believe that time is on his runner\'s side. \"I do think she has more sub-18s in her,\" he said.\"She wants to make it tough and the harder the course the better.\"

This past Saturday, Seymour followed up her performance with an 18:18 at the Lion Invite, held at Penn State-Altoona. In both meets the junior led her team to the team title.

Central Cambria finished sixth at last fall\'s PIAA championship and Seymour hopes to lead her team to a top-three finish this year.

\"Compared to last year, when I was not ranked, I have a lot more confidence,\" she said. \"I know I\'m going to be up there, but there is a lot of pressure because people expect you to defend (your state title).\"

Seymour said she\'s just taking it one race at a time and having a strong team helps with that. \"It takes all the pressure off because you can focus on the win for the team,\" she said.

According to her coach, not only is Seymour developing into an elite runner, but she\'s also getting the team aspect down pretty well.

\"She\'s become more of a team leader,\" Wilson said. \"She\'s really focused, dedicated and does the right things (such as eating right and getting enough sleep). She\'s helping the team to shape up real well.\"

Seymour and Central Cambria\'s next big meet is the Oct. 14 Manhattan Invite in New York City\'s Van Cortlandt Park. There Seymour will see how she stacks up against some of the top high schoolers in New York and the East Coast. But she'll also use the meet to get a feel for the course before the Foot Locker National regional qualifier.

After winning states last year she took a shot at qualifying for Foot Locker nationals, but said she didn\'t have a great race.

She hopes that after successfully defending her title that won't be the case this year. \"She could definitely qualify for nationals,\" Wilson said. \"But she has to be on that day. Everything has to click. She has to have a good meal and not be sick.

But she knows what her body can do and will have herself as ready as she can (for both states and Foot Lockers).\"