ARLINGTON — For most high school athletes, the opportunity to compete at the state level is a just a dream. For Arlington's Emma Janousek and Cassidy Rude, it's already come true.
Freshman cross country runner Janousek and sophomore runner Rude, competed in the WIAA State Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Nov. 3, which was surprising even for themselves.
"I started running cross country in seventh grade, so two years ago," said Janousek. "Originally it was to be in shape for basketball, but it grew into something more when I realized I was good at it."
Rude joined cross country for a similar reason. "I started in seventh grade to stay in shape for soccer," she said. "I just kind of fell in love with it. The family atmosphere was really cool."
For both athletes, their success throughout this season was surprising to many, mostly because of their ages.
"It kind of came as a shock at first but we got used to it," said Rude. Janousek agreed.
"When we started the season, state was a team goal and I was like, 'Yeah right! There's no way,'" she joked. "I had no idea."
There were turning points during this season that made each girl recognize their skill.
"For me it was the Hole in the Wall Invitational at Lakewood," said Rude. "I ran a 19:36, which was my personal record for the time."
For Janousek, she ran her personal best a few days later at the Bellevue Invitational.
"The Bellevue Invitational was my PR at the time, but even before that I was surprising myself," she said.
Both runners beat their personal bests at the Bi-District Championships, also at Lakewood on Oct. 27, where they qualified for the state championships. Janousek finished in 10th place at 19:07.7 and Rude finishing in 15th place with a time of 19:10.1.
"It was a lot of fun going to the race," said Rude, of the state championships in Pasco. "Then when the race hit, it was really nerve-wracking. I think we psyched ourselves out a little bit."
Janousek felt the same.
"It was overwhelming," she said. "It was this moment you knew you had to perform, and all we had to do was do what we were doing."
At the state meet, Rude finished in 48th place with a time of 19:27.6, while Janousek took 70th place with a time of 19:51.3. But they aren't done dreaming of the next state meet.
"I personally have set two goals for myself: To make it to state and advance to quarters and to break 19 minutes," said Rude.
"And we'd both like to get our team there with us next year," said Janousek. "That would help us a lot."
Although they had a great season with the opportunity to compete at the state level, the girls were not without thanks for those who helped them achieve their goals.
"I want to give a big shout-out to the coaches for being awesome," said Rude. "I've grown as a person through cross country."
"Seriously," agreed Janousek. "I have learned so much doing cross country, not just about the sport but about everything in life. It's the best thing I've ever done for myself."