Radnor and Hilton; Friends or Rivals? Or Maybe Both?

At 11:30 last Saturday morning the meet directors for the Warwick Valley Wave Mania Invitational announced that the Radnor girls, our team, had won the meet over US #1 Hilton. This is what we had hoped would be announced, but the victory was short-lived.

On the drive up to NY, we were talking in the vans about how this race would pan out, wondering just how close we could come to such a power house team, Hilton, the defending National Champion team, and really prove to the New Yorkers just how much we believe that we deserve our spot on the regional and national NTN rankings.

Weirdest of all, we can talk about the Hilton team as individuals after spending a week together at the Regional Elite Distance Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY this July. Or what the Radnor guys always call "Fast Camp." We know Caroline likes Chocolate Ice Cream, Sarah Ritchie is a technological freak –she had the only GPS iPod I've ever seen, and Lindsey tends to stay up late and text message her friends, -she was my roommate-. They're all nice people, not just running machines, or freakish athletes from the front page of Dyestat.

The Radnor and Hilton varsity squads are good friends off the
course after spending a week together at XC camp this summer
and their competitive race 9/30 at Warwick Valley.
(Photo by Craig Holm)

We arrived at the course on Friday at the exact same time as the Hilton mobile pulled up, -how crazy is that- and we Radnorites all walked over and said hi to them. Of course we talked about the weather, not knowing what else to say. We complained about how cold it was. About 1 ½ minutes of awkward small talk was all we could handle, so we went off to walk the course and didn't see each other until the next morning just before the Race. I didn't see them before, and don't know what they were thinking, but I know that at least all of us from Radnor had been thinking about them for most of the night.

The less I say about the race the better. It went out fast with Hilton in the lead, Radnor filling in the gaps, and finished 1-2-3 Hilton, and Radnor 1-2-3-4-5 in before their #5 girl. A highpoint of the morning was June's debut, winning the JV race in her first week back running, after riding the bike since July with an injury. This puts her back on our Varsity for the next Invite. In the next few weeks, with workouts and such, we are hoping to have 4 girls well under 19 minutes and all 7 under 20 by November. We all PR'd, for a 5K this year, but as we crossed the finish line, the thought went through our minds. Was it fast enough?

After the race, the Hilton girls stood at the end of the chute and shook all of our hands as the rest of us finished. As soon as we got our spikes off and said hi to Flanagan and our parents, we all ran over to the Hilton tent (on the opposite side of the school, and I mean way out in the middle of nowhere) to talk about how the rest of our summer went. There were a few stories about our hikes up the huge mountains around Lake Placid, the last two climbs in pouring rain and lots of mud. Reminiscing over who fell in what puddle in front of which person. Good times. We both assumed that Hilton had won.
Then we went off to finish cooling down, and they did their thing.

We were still jogging around on the course when they announced the results. The guy made a huge deal over how we were "The only out of State team, representing Pennsylvania, the Radnor girl's team, hailing from the Villanova area, finishing in first place over Hilton by 17 points!" Well, we were already wondering what the score was, even though Coach Flanagan had added it up, plus my dad and a few other anxious parents, and they came up with us in second by 9 or 15. Depending on the person. But actually winning? We were stunned - and ecstatic.

Everyone was jumping around and hugging, some thinking "how is this possible?!" but hey, take what you're handed, don't ask the question that you don't want the answer to, right? The Hilton girls came over to us and congratulated everyone, a few more stories from OTC camp courtesy of Caroline Schultz, "Remember when...? Oh and remember when..?" That girl is hilarious. Coach Mike Szczepanik ran over and shook Coach Flanagan's hand and congratulated him and all of us individually. He must have been disappointed, but you couldn't tell from his kind comments. Coach Flanagan was obviously delighted, but after thanking Coach Szczepanik, he said: "I don't know Coach, I had your girls winning by 9 points, I wonder what happened?"

About 30 minutes later the results were re-announced, they had found the mistake. Somehow, Shelby Herman's number had stuck to the back of the tag of girl who finished right in front of her. Her score wasn't counted and Hilton's score included their # 6 girl as their #5. Which would add almost 30 points to their legit score, and put Radnor ahead by quite a lot.

With the scores corrected and Hilton a winner by 9 points, it was our turn to shake hands with the winning team and congratulate them on a great race. The funny thing was that the Hilton girls kept saying that they didn't think they had actually won, and convincing Coach Szczepanik over the new score was downright difficult. Coach Flanagan and he were almost arguing over the results, each pointing out whose girl had finished in front of the other's runner. It was a true look at what great sportsmanship should be, and really how rare it is, especially in high school sports nowadays. These two coaches were looking out for each other and the other team to make sure no one was cheated.

Both teams were nothing but first rate good sports, and the Hilton girls kept apologizing for how we were both being jerked around with the flip-flopping scores. None of that drama you might expect from a national winning team. No "well duh, how'd you even think for a minute that you could beat us. I mean hello, we won Nationals last fall and we're faster now than we were then." All of which they could have said honestly. Quite a sobering thought actually.

The music and the moment meet and Radnor's
Shannon Holm starts some spontaneous line-dancing with Hilton
(Photo by Craig Holm)

I guess both teams were surprised that there were no hard feelings. On our side the new score was better than anyone thought we could do, and even we doubted that we could beat Hilton this early in the season. We haven't even done any speed work yet. I had thought that finishing within 10 points of Hilton was an attainable goal, one that we could work on and which would also improve our Regional/National ranking over the next few weeks as we improve. But we won't be in any out of State races again. I think that the reason we weren't disappointed was because we ran well and in the end our friends won. At least be beat by someone you get along with and tell funny stories with.

The high point of Saturday was the party line that Shannon Holm (Radnor) started over at the music tent. There was a DJ of some sort, who had been blaring Techno music all morning. It was a great pre-race sound, almost distracting, but definitely gave us something to think about. "Pump It!" Afterwards there was a bunch of teams just standing around by the speakers laughing at the song, yes, it was the Barbie theme song... Shannon grabbed my shoulders and yelled "Party Line!" In about 20 seconds, the whole group at the tent was in a giant line, lead by the entire Hilton and Radnor girl's teams and everyone was having the best time ever. A few of us lost shoes when the line doubled back, but all survived. It was something that makes me laugh even now just thinking about it. I hope we can do it again in Portland.

Looking back, it was a great weekend. The running was fast and the race was close. Even better, I witnessed the kind of sportsmanship you only read about in story books. Coaches Szczepanik and Flanagan were great examples for their two teams, Hilton and Radnor. Class acts. I think both teams ran races to be proud of for this point in September. We're all looking forward to the new NTN rankings this Friday, and we'll be racing hard through November to earn an Invitation to race in the mud against our Hilton friends at Portland Meadows this December. We'll be the girls leading the Party Line.