One only had to look to the 3,000-meter runs Sunday to realize there's more than one way to win a state distance title AND climb the national rankings.
The races were back to back on Sunday's PTFCA schedule, but the victories by North Allegheny's Madeleine Davison and Matt McGoey were worlds apart in terms of execution and drama.
“I just wanted to make sure that I established a strong lead going into the last few laps because my training has been so far focused on strength more than speed," said Davison, who as a junior was one of the pre-race favorites and one of three sub-10:00 performers. “I knew that was where my advantage was the most. So I decided to just push hard in the middle especially and hang on toward the end."
Davison had no worries in the final laps as she continued to add to the lead she had opened over Cumberland Valley's Mady Clahane, who was the last runner in the field of 13 to have contact with Davison. The North Allegheny standout heard the applause from the crowd as her winning time of 9 minutes, 47.93 seconds was enough to put her back atop the national rankings after being No. 2 the past week.
“She did what she needed to do," NA coach John Neff said of Davison, who opened her 2015 indoor season January 31 with a 9:54.14 that was the top performance in the U.S. for almost a month. “There is a lot of pressure when you come in with those kind of numbers because you don't want to be the kid that can't run by themsel. You don't want to be the kid who can't get it done at the big one.
“So that's a tough spot to be in and she stepped up and took care of it. I'm so proud of her. That win was awesome, and that US#1 is just unbelievable."
Youth was served in the event as juniors filled the top four spots, and only one senior was amongst the scorers that also included a freshman (Brooke Hutton of Coatesville) and a sophomore.
“That was a little bit faster than I was anticipating, but I just went with it and tried to stay steady in the middle of the race," Davison said of the early pace that had her hit 800 in 2:30 and the metric mile in 5:06.
Clahane hung on for second in a US#3 9:55.57, while Hannah Molloy of Pennsbury was the fastest at the end, with a closing rush putting her third in a US#4 9:56.20. With Davison currently at the top of the national list, Pennsylvania accounts for four of the six who has dipped under 10:00.
“I was shooting to definitely try to break my PR," said the winner, who cut more than 6 seconds off her old lifetime best. “I wasn't sure where I was going to end up timewise, but I just set myself a goal to keep myself on pace for the first half of the race."
For McGoey, the state final had the senior in just about every position in the field, with the most important being back in front for the final meters.
“I was in fourth and I was like I don't know if they might be gone because they put on a pretty good surge there," McGoey said of a late-race push from Lake Lehman's Dominic Hockenbury. “The gap wasn't getting any bigger, and I started closing on them so let's catch back up and I caught back up with 400 left and then Dominic made another little surge after that 4 and he started to separate a little bit.
“And then with one lap left, the gap wasn't getting any bigger. This might be the last chance to get a state championship. It's right there. I just went for it. All out."
Thanks to a lightning-quick final sprint that's rarely seen in top-level distance races, McGoey sliced more than 10 seconds off his lifetime best in running his 2015 record to 3-0 in 3Ks with the 8:35.53 run. With the Tiger senior leading the way, Sunday's lead trio is now PA#1-3 and US#7-9.
“He is a kid that's not going to quit on you," Neff said of McGoey, who was sixth in the 3K a year ago in his old PR of 8:45.76. “He's going to keep coming at you. He never counts himself out.
“You could tell something went over on him. He looked back a second, and I said what is he doing, but I think he was measuring to say 'If I give this everything I got and if it doesn't work out for me, what is going to happen?' I think he said it's worth the risk. 'Let's go.'
“I've seen a lot of races. I don't know if I ever saw anything quite like that before."
Hockenbury was the hard-luck runner-up, with his pace work controlling the middle part of the race and setting the stage for the heroic dash to the finish by McGoey. A junior and the only non-senior in the top seven overall, Hockenbury is now PA#2 and US#8 with his 8:36.44