It was a day to remember in Pennsylvania distance running. At the Garmin RunningLane XC Championships in Huntsville, Alabama, two of PA's top distance runners clocked all-time great performances.
On the lightning fast course, at John Hunt Running Park, Jenna Mulhern went 16:29 to take fourth in the top girls' race and in the next race, Gary Martin went 14:24 for 11th in the top boys' race. Both are the fastest times ever for their respective genders. They were among the many PA runners that made the trip south for RunningLane on Saturday.
Mulhern Takes 4th In The Gold
Mulhern got the party started on Saturday. She ran the fastest time ever by a Pennsylvania high schooler in an XC 5K. The senior, who has competed unattached this season, clocked a time of 16:29.51 for fourth place in a loaded Girls Gold field. Mulhern's time eclipses the previous best of 16:30.00, set by Marlee Starliper in 2019. Natalie Cook from Flower Mound, Texas took the win in 16:03.
Mulhern was right with the lead pack, going through the mile in 5:10. Then Cook opened up a gap on the field, and a little past the two mile mark, Mulhern was in fifth with a four-girl chase pack. In the last mile, Mulhern finished strong to take fourth, behind only Cook, second place Lily Cridge (16:22) of Indiana and third place Riley Stewart (16:28) of Colorado.
Mulhern isn't quite done yet. She will have a quick turnaround and head to San Diego for the Eastbay National Championships set for this coming Saturday. She was fourth at the Eastbay Northeast Regional last weekend to qualify for the national meet.
Vanessa Alder (Carlisle) was just off her PR, running a time of 17:43 to place 84th in the Gold race. The Pine-Richland girls, competing as PR Elite Run, placed 28th in the team field of the Gold race. Meredith Price paced PR, taking 99th in 17:50. Natalie McLean was 149th for PR in 18:09.
Martin Runs To 11th In The Gold
Martin kept it rolling in the Boys Gold race. Martin, an Archbishop Wood senior, clocked a time of 14:24.16 to place 11th in the similarly loaded field. His time is now the fastest-ever XC 5K by a PA boy, topping 14:47 held by both Paul Springer (2006) and Noah Affolder (2016). Martin wanted that record at the Paul Short Run back in October, but he came up a few seconds short. Two month later, the record is his and by a wide margin.
Martin went out with the leaders, coming through hot at the mile mark at 4:30 in sixth place of a huge lead pack. In the end, he wound up 11th. Up front, the legendarily great Newbury Park (CA) boys put on a show, taking the top three spots and four of the top six. Colin Sahlman pulled away for the win in 14:03 -- the fastest XC 5K time ever by a high schooler.
This was a major breakthrough race for Martin last season, who went 14:52 for 24th. In his return to John Hunt Running Park on Saturday, he went much faster.
The LaSalle College boys placed 26th in the Gold team field. Will Rau was the top Explorer across the line, taking 118th in a time of 15:16. Drew Brill was 163rd in 15:29 and Zachary Brill was 166th in 15:29. Timothy Roden (Central Dauphin) placed 139th in 15:20, a nice PR for the junior.
Other Notable Finishers
The Grove City Area boys, competing as Wolf Creek Track Club on Saturday, took third as a team in the Bronze race. Joshua Jones led the way for Wolf Creek with a 23rd place finish in 15:47 -- a nice PR. Cole Perry (Northeastern) ran a big PR of 15:22 to place 37th in the Boys Silver race to conclude what has been a very strong XC season for the senior who was 15th in AAA at the state meet.
Michael Woolery (Episcopal Academy) took second in the Boys Blue race, clocking a personal best 5K time of 16:01. He was eight seconds off the race winner, Isaac Kirby from Tennessee. In the Girls Bronze race, Willow Myers (Mercer Area) placed 24th in 19:18. That's just off her PR of 19:11 for the PIAA Class A ninth place finisher.