BLOOMSBURG - Janelle Peachey didn't see all the Lewisburg green and Danville purple and orange cross the finish line in front of her during Thursday's District 4 Cross Country Championship at Bloomsburg University.
Eight combined Lewisburg and Danville runners reached the finish on a cold and brisk day before the Midd-West junior officially bypassed the clock in 14th place.
It was a solid finish for the second-year cross country runner, but one that didn't end her season like she thought. Those eight Danville and Lewisburg runners automatically qualified for the PIAA championship because they were on the top two teams in the district and that left the door open for those individuals outside the Top 10 to gain one of the 10 automatic individual spots.
Still, several minutes after the girls Class AA race concluded, Peachey was milling around the tent with her teammates with no idea what she accomplished on the 3.1-mile course known to test the best district runners. When asked about advancing to the PIAA meet in Hershey on Nov. 2, Peachey's face lit up and the words were hard to find. She hoped to qualify to the state championship, but she thought she missed her chance on this day.
"It's really big," the junior said, trying to allow the reality of her accomplishment to sink in. "It's really important to me, but I didn't know I made it until now. Oh my gosh. I'm just speechless and I don't know what to say."
Her 14th-place finish with a time of 21:42 gave her the sixth of 10 individual spots. Her time was 40 seconds faster than a year ago when Peachey placed 32nd in her first district championship meet.
Danville won the team title with 32 team points, while Lewisburg was second with 63. Midd-West placed 10th out of 11 teams with 261 points.
Peachey, who was coming into the district meet off a personal-best time at Saturday's Heartland Conference championship, decided to join the cross country team as a sophomore looking for an easy sport. She quickly learned her sport of choice was anything but easy. The miles of practice runs and the feeling of complete exhaustion didn't deter her from continuing, though.
"Once I ran my first race I felt really horrible, but at the same time it felt really awesome," Peachey said. "It's amazing when you cross the finish line."
Now she has one more to cross this season.