Pennsylvania's historic cross country season just keeps getting better and it culminated with a big day for the Keystone State on Saturday at the Foot Locker National Championship. Marlee Starliper placed second in a very dramatic girls race that went down to the line, and then Patrick Anderson earned one of the best-ever finishes by a PA boy with a third place finish.
Starliper's Patience Pays Off With Runner-Up Finish
It was a blazing early pace in the girls race, set by a talented Midwest contingent. Last year's runner-up Katelynne Hart was among the girls leading the charge with Michigan's Zofia Dudek, Ohio's Taylor Ewert, and Michigan's Abby Vanderkooi.
Marlee Starliper, the senior from Northern, knew the pace was a bit too fast and she hung back in the crowd in about ninth with reigning national champion Sydney Masciarelli. Starliper gradually moved her way up the field. With under a mile to go, she made the catch and it was a pack of four: Starliper, Hart, Dudek, and Vanderkooi.
Then on the last hill, Starliper made her move to the lead. With just her and Dudek left, Marlee pushed to the front and made the pass. It looked like Starliper may have made the decisive move, but Dudek wouldn't go away.
With less than a quarter mile to go, Dudek caught Starliper and made the pass. Now it was Starliper's turn to hold on. She did just that and the pair were in an all-out sprint to the finish with a national title on the line. In the end, the victory went to Dudek in 16:45, managing to fend off Starliper's kick. For Starliper, she ran 16:46 for second.
It was a Foot Locker championship race for the ages, and Starliper walked away with one of the meet's fastest times ever and one of the most impressive runner-up finishes in high school cross country history.
Anderson Fights For Third Place Finish
Patrick Anderson put himself right in the mix and it paid off. The Northeast regional champion and Mount Lebanon senior showed his signature toughness and rolled to a third place finish at the Foot Locker National Championship.
Anderson was situated in the thick of the front pack throughout the opening mile-plus. Pre-race favorite Josh Methner of Illinois made his way to the front and gapped the field on the course's first big downhill. It was his to lose at that point and Methner rolled to the win in 15:08, eight seconds ahead of second place.
But Anderson stayed right in that first chase pack, never wavering. As Methner's lead widened, Anderson remained in a pack of about six battling it out for second.
In a desperate sprint to the finish, Anderson came away with bronze, taking third in 15:18, outkicking Texas standout Graydon Morris by a tenth of a second. Carter Solomon of Michigan was second in 15:16 just a bit ahead of Anderson.
Sands Closes Out Junior Season With 10th Place Finish
One of the most impressive performances of the day came from another Pennsylvanian, Colton Sands of Penns Valley. The junior took ninth at Foot Locker Northeast to qualify through to nationals, but Sands ended up tenth in the 40-runner national field.
He made some major moves in the last mile of the race. At the two mile, he was in 17th and he moved up to 15th at the 2.5 mile mark. He closed well to take tenth in 15:30. The 1A state champion put together a great race to cap off his season.
He was also the second underclassmen in the field to come across the finish. Judson Greer of Texas was the only non-senior ahead of Sands in the field. Greer, also a junior, was fifth in 15:22.
Taryn Parks of Greencastle-Antrim ended up 40th in 20:00. The senior, who was 11th at the Northeast regional, only found out on Wednesday of last week that she was added to the field after the injury of Mia Cochran. Parks told PennLive after the race that she took her break from running after the regional race two weeks ago.