By Cory Mull
It happens at the start of nearly every cross country season, and this campaign is not unlike most years.
One or two freshmen, beanpoles barely into high school, say hello to the masses and take it to the upperclassmen
The debut of Cumberland Valley freshman runner Mady Clahane is no exception.
The first-year Eagle put together a fine performance at PTXC4, finishing fourth within a packed, talented field in an impressive 18 minutes, 57.8 seconds.
Was this the start of something special?
"We’ve seen a lot out of her so far," Cumberland Valley head coach Skip Springman said.
History tells us that Cumberland Valley should come to expect great runners. Over his last two four-year varsity cycles, Springman has had a variety of accomplished runners.
Paige Anderson (Class of 2007) and Leigha Anderson (2011) were two standouts -- and sisters -- who led Cumberland Valley through their careers, starting as early as their freshmen campaigns.
By the time they were seniors, each clocked times under 19-minutes -- Leigha's best as a freshman was 18:39.
It's natural to make the comparison. But Springman will not.
"I’m not going to say she’s better than anyone else," said Springman of Clahane, noting that senior Carol Strock (pictured below at PTXC4) is also very impressive. "Right now she’s showing me that she's a very good freshman."
It's a good coaching move on the part of Springman. Objectivity allows him to examine his team with a clearer eye.
"I don’t get my expectations high on anyone," Springman said. "A lot of times I'll hear it from other places. I'll hear 'We've got the best times and we’ll win districts or states.' You can talk all you want, but it's about the team. We have to take it one week at a time, one race at a time."
Cumberland Valley has an impressive 1-2 pair in Clahane and Strock, who was the Eagles' No. 1 last year. Even though Strock is now in the second position on the team, chemistry hasn't shifted. Springman said his girls' team is very close.
"All the girls get along," Springman said. "No one gets upset if they move in the lineup. All these kids are aware, so they don’t get jealous or anything like that. They do very well."
And to think, what if it never happened?
Since girls' soccer shifted to the fall, Clahane had to make a tough decision. A two-sporter in middle school, she both ran and played soccer.
When it came time to make that fateful decision, she made a commitment to run. There would be no dual-role with soccer and cross country, either.
"I tell my kids, they have to make a choice," Springman said. "When you try to burn candles on both ends, something is going to give. So I make a point to them that they have to make a choice. I won’t get the best out of them if they do both."
So far, Clahane has proven a lot in the short time she's been on the roster.
"She loves to train," Springman said. "She does everything we ask her to do, whether it’s at a meet or on a track. She’s very competitive with herself and with her competitors."
While Cumberland Valley will not compete in the Foundation Invitational on September 22nd -- a meet which takes place on the District 3 and PIAA course in Hershey -- the Eagles will head to the Paul Short Invitational on Sept. 28 at Lehigh University.
That will be the next opportunity for Clahane to impress in a crowded field.
What will she do for an encore?