State championships don't get old for Marlee Starliper.
The Northern junior picked up her second straight Class AA state crown on Saturday, running to the win in 17:53, by far the quickest girls' time of the day. It came on an already-difficult Hershey Parkview Course that was made even tougher by Friday night rains.
Starliper had to fend off an early challenge from her frequent foe in Taryn Parks of Greencastle-Antrim. Parks took the lead and opened up some space between her and Starliper in the opening 2 kilometers.
"It was very similar to last year; she took it out really fast," Starliper said. "But differently than last year, I tried to just let her go, and I just tried to focus on how I was feeling and stay relaxed."
Parks switched up her strategy a bit after taking second to Starliper in her previous two race at Mid-Penns and District 3: "The past races I just felt like maybe I could have given a little more, and I've been going out kind of conservative, and I just wanted to go out hard to see how it feels," Parks said.
Starliper noted that she went out faster than she would have liked last season, and wanted to start a little more conservatively this time around. Still, Starliper came through the mile in 5:21, possibly motivated by trying to keep Parks from getting too far away (Parks went through the mile in 5:19).
At around the midway point, Starliper made the pass for the lead and she was home free from there. She put 30 seconds on Parks at the 2 mile and it was a race against the clock at that point.
Starliper was going for the meet record, but the muddy course conditions, coupled with a first mile that was faster than she would have liked, didn't allow that on Saturday. Regardless, Starliper's 154 speed rating, per TullyRunners, is the best of the season (one point better than her 153 from the PIAA District 3 Championships). It also moved her up to No. 6 in the latest MileSplit National Rankings.
"I think back to my freshman year. This is the race that started it all," she said, referring to a neck-and-neck finish between her and Parks two years ago in AA. Parks out-kicked Starliper in that race.
"It's so fun coming here and it's so fun having my team here with me," Starliper added.
Saturday's win was Starliper fifth state title so far in her career. She won last year in XC, picked up two state titles indoors last winter (mile and 3K), and the 3200 meter win outdoors.
Next up for the state champion is the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, a meet where she's the defending champion. From there, she'll be looking to qualify for nationals, where she was 13th last year.
"We get a pretty nice chunk of time before regionals, so we're going to make the most of these two weeks before it's the week of the race," Starliper said. "I'm excited for it."
Check out race highlights from the AA girls race above and watch our post-race interview with Starliper below: