Arlington girls Setting their own pace

The Arlington girls cross country team poses for a photo before the state meet Nov. 7. - Courtesy photo
The Arlington girls cross country team poses for a photo before the state meet Nov. 7.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

ARLINGTON — For the young Arlington girls cross country squad, it was all about making a decision.

At the team retreat just before the season began on one of the hottest days of the year this summer, the girls approached coach Mike Shierk and told them their goal was to make it to state.

“That was huge,” Shierk said. “Because when they come to you, that confidence is already there, now you just have to go out there and put in the miles to get there.”

And with that, Shierk, along with assistant coaches Becca Harkavy and Mike Liles, got to work helping the girls try to reach the potential the coaches envishioned for them back in 2007.

“That’s when we saw a glimpse of what we can do and we tried to build around (now seniors) Yuki Dorff and Safa Pinkens,” Shierk said.

Fortunately for the Eagles in came a crop of runners hungry to make Arlington a contender.

“We started out not really knowing where we were going to end up, but as the season progressed, we knew that we could go to state,” said sophomore Teresa Wadey, who finished 19th at the state meet, earning a spot in the Nike Border Clash Invite.

The girls followed that feeling through to a third place finish at the 4A District 1 meet and on to 14th in the state with a score of 312 and earned Outstanding Scholastic Achievement honors with a collective GPA of above 3.5.

“I think the girls are disappointed because of the spot that we finished, but if you look at those times, we ran one of our best races,” Shierk said.

The Eagles averaged 20:23 per finish, running in their pack style that became almost a trademark late in the regular season. It was common to see six Eagles runners finish within 30 seconds of each other.

“That just sort of developed,” Wadey said. “We started out a little more individually, but as we kept running, we got better and just started to push each other.”

Also, the girls got to know each other off the course with impromptu sleepovers and get-togethers and making T-shirts with puffy paint and tie dye.

“I think that was one of the big reasons why they were so successful,” Shierk said.

And Shierk sees that success continuing, as he returns junior Katie Anderson, Kristen Wregglesworth, Bryna Prause and sophomore Kyle Kilmer — all members of the state squad.

“We also have some good runners coming in and now they younger ones have seen what it takes,” Shierk said.

This is the culmination of a coaching staff that has been together for 10 years, and now Shierk says he has a better handle on how hard to push. He also plans to start going to the larger races, such as the 3-Course Challenge, to get the girls more used to tougher competition.

“We’re ready to start competing in the big meets,” he said. “These girls have the determination and the talent to see their goals through.”

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