It was a popular refrain among many top five finishers at last week's Pennsylvania state meet: not going out so fast left a lot more in the legs to gain ground in the final mile.
That strategy allowed a number of runners to make up some serious ground towards the end of the race.
Ethan McIntyre of Unionville was one of them, and the end result was a third place AAA finish -- one of the meet's top breakthrough performances. It puts McIntyre, a junior, as the top AAA boys' returner based on state finish for next year.
McIntyre got away conservatively in the opening kilometer of the AAA race at the PIAA State Championships, but it wasn't exactly by choice. After opening 600 meters, McIntyre speculated that he was in about 100th place -- not quite where he wanted to be.
"The race went out very fast and I kind of got caught behind," McIntyre said.
He broke out on the first hill and was able to pass some runners, but he still had work to do.
Still, McIntyre believes a slower opening portion of the race paid dividends later in the race. As many of the quick starters faded in the final mile after the brutal second mile that includes the Aloha Hills, McIntyre was able to make some moves towards the front.
He even made his way up to a familiar face, his teammate and usual Unionville top runner, Cole Walker, in the final kilometer.
"In the last mile, I was able to put down a big kick and I was able to catch up to Cole and me and him just pushed each other to the end," McIntyre said.
At the end, McIntyre wound up third, with Walker just tenths behind in fourth. Both clocked in at 15:56, some strong times on a fairly sloppy day on a already-tough course.
"The hills are just brutal and going out hard in the first mile took a lot out of some people. I wish I could have gone out a little faster than I did," McIntyre admitted. "But I think going out conservatively definitely have some more energy in my legs later in the race."
McIntyre learned from running at Hershey last year as a sophomore (he placed 29th) not to freak out about how bad he felt in the first half of the race because of the hills. This year, he relaxed in the middle mile knowing that there would be ample flat and downhill in the latter portion of the race to recover.
McIntyre also put trust in his coach, Mark Lacianca, who has been known to peak his runners at the right time. McIntyre was a prime example of that last week.
"In my freshman year, he wanted me to run a 16:30 at districts and I hit exactly a 16:30," McIntyre recalled. "After freshman year, I've just had so much trust in him. I knew this year that the same thing was going to happen and he was going to be able to get us to run fast times and place high."
It was a big day for the Unionville teams, as well. The boys, led by McIntyre and Walker's 3-4 finish, placed sixth overall. The girls, meanwhile, were the top District 1 squad, taking fourth in the state.
After a fourth place finish at the District 1 Championships, McIntyre showed his stuff with a gritty third place state meet performance.
"Right when i passed Cole, me and him were able to push each other through the finish line," McIntyre said. "It was an awesome feeling, knowing that I was able to come back after a little bit of a disappointment at districts and just put on a good performance.
"It really made my season worth it and I was really happy with it," he added.
NXR will be a bonus for McIntyre, who has finished no worse than fifth all fall. But both Walker and McIntyre will be serious contenders for one of the five non-team individual qualifying spots at the Northeast regional. Last year McIntyre was 56th at the regional meet, while Walker was 95th. It wasn't the performance either was looking for, but this year figures to be in the mix this time around.
Both have butted heads with some of the region's best already this season in some big meets. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Unionville teammates up near the front just like in Hershey.