Mid-Penn Coverage: Results | Race Videos | Interviews
Marlee Starliper is finally feeling like herself again.
The Northern junior looked as fit as ever, rolling to the Mid-Penn Conference title at Big Spring High School, clocking a 17:37 on the modified course. After a delayed start to her 2018 XC season, Starliper asserted herself as Pennsylvania's top runner and one of the nation's best on Saturday.
While she picked up wins earlier this season at September's PIAA Foundation Invitational and Paul Short Run, she admitted she wasn't pleased with those races.
Starliper battled illness in the early part of the season, which kept her out of PTXC 10, her scheduled opener. She said that took a toll on her in those initial races at Hershey and Lehigh.
"It was a difficult start to the season," she said after Mid-Penns. "I had a tough time holding the higher mileage that I worked up over the summer once school started. I think we realized just how tired I was feeling."
The legs weren't heavy on Saturday, though. Starliper's frequent rival Taryn Parks of Greencastle-Antrim set an aggressive early pace. Starliper matched her in the first mile before opening it up in the closing miles.
The Mid-Penn champ had an optimistic outlook after Saturday's race: "It almost feels like the start of my season."
Saturday was also Starliper's first individual Mid-Penn title. Starliper saw the Mid-Penn race as a "turning point" during her freshman career two years ago. She placed fourth that day in 19:00.
"I had an awful race, but I learned a lot from it," she said of that race two years ago. She went on to take a very close second to Parks at the state meet in AA.
Now a more seasoned veteran, Starliper feels ready to take on the rest of the postseason portion of her schedule, despite some early-season troubles.
"(My legs) just felt tired for a while," she said. "I just feel like more and more, I'm getting them back and I think I'm going to feel better from here on out. I'm really excited to see what happens, knowing that better things are ahead."
State College girls four-peat
Parks didn't defend her Mid-Penn title on Saturday, but the junior did run 18:03 to take second to Starliper. That follows up her 17:59 winning effort from Carlisle two weeks ago and is a course PR for Parks, who is ready to roll for the District 3 Championships when she returns in two weeks.
The State College Area girls took home their fourth straight Mid-Penn team title. Without usual No. 1 runner Kileigh Kane in the lineup, the Little Lions won it with depth. SC had a 55 second 1 through 5 gap, led by Jordan Reed's seventh place finish and Lizzie Gilpatrick's 12th place finish.
State College finished with 72 points for the win. Northern, a AA school, was second with 86 points. After Starliper's one-stick, Katie Anthony was 11th in 19:48. Carlisle (122 points) was third, Hershey (126 points) took fourth, and Cumberland Valley (154 points) was fifth.
Mifflin County goes 1-2; State College boys win without top runner
The pair hung in a big pack of frontrunners for the first half of the race in a meet that figured to have a good number of individual contenders. When Harris and Macknair decided to start rolling, no one in the field had an answer.
Harris pulled away from the others in a big way in the final mile, coming home in for the win in 15:58, just 3 seconds off his 5K best set at Carlisle a few weeks ago. Macknair finished second in 16:12 -- a sign that the Mifflin pair are coming around at the right time.
That 1-2 finish wasn't enough for the Huskies, as Mifflin County finished seventh in the team standings. The team title went to State College Area, which scored 102 points, despite the absence of top runner Bennett Norton. Like the SC girls' team, the boys put together a strong pack and a 46 second 1 through 5 gap. Senior Owen Isham paced the way, taking seventh in 16:33.
Mechanicsburg's Brandan Knepper placed third individually in 16:19, the top District 3 runner in the field. Jack Wisner of Carlisle was fourth in 16:23, closely followed by Jakolby Fackler of Palymra (fifth in 16:25).