HERSHEY - In a sport where improvement and personal records count for much, Mifflin County's Darien Knudsen could be called successful for his run in the PIAA Class AAA boys cross country championship race Saturday.
Knudsen crossed the finish line in 17:42, 133rd - about the middle of the pack - in the race at Hershey's Parkview course.
Knudsen, a junior, improved his time from last year's state meet by 35 seconds in tackling the tough course. But he was behind his district time by more than a minute.
Sentinel photo by TIM?SHUMAKER
Mifflin County’s Darien Knudsen (1347) comes down the chute toward the finish line during the PIAA?Class AAA boys cross country championship run Saturday in Hershey. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
"He might have gotten off to a little slow start," Mifflin County coach Greg Loht said. "He might want to get out a little quicker next time. He's just a junior. This was a good learning experience. He ran about 35 seconds faster than last year, so we have to be pleased with that."
Knudsen finished the first mile of the race in 5:04, which put his about middle of the pack at that point.
"I guess I didn't expect to go out this fast," Knudsen said. "Last year I was smaller. I didn't have enough guts to go out with the top group. The top group just went out faster than I thought."
He pushed through and made up for the slow start in the second mile, passing a bunch of runners before hitting the home stretch.
The hill that Knudsen hit the last third of the race gave plenty of runners trouble, and he was no exception.
"The hills just let me down," Knudsen said. "I don't know if it's because we don't have enough hills in our training or just a mental block."
He crossed the line about two minutes behind the winner, Tony Russell of West Chester Henderson, who clocked a time of 15:49.
Knudsen finished ahead of 86 other runners to end an outstanding season where he consistently led the Huskies pack.
"I didn't think I was even prepared for districts to get to states," Knudsen said. "I (recorded a personal record) by over 30 seconds in districts. I thank God everyday that I got to where I am now. It would just be nice to do a little better."
"I think he'll do a lot better next year," Loht said. "Hopefully next year we'll bring the team and he'll go out with a medal around his neck."
Midd-West's Janelle Peachy ran the Class AA girls race in a time of 22:12, finishing in 178th place out of 236 girls who competed.
She started out strong in pursuit of her goal for the day, a 21-minute race.
Peachy finished the first mile in a time of 6:30, putting her about a minute behind the pace of the event's winner, Elizabeth Chikotas of Saucon Valley, who won the race by 27 seconds in a time 18:43. Peachy finished the second mile in a time of 13:49 before tacking the home stretch which challenged her.
After the two-mile point, she faced a tough home-stretch, including a huge hill.
"It was tough because it was one more hill," Peachy said. "I just found a mid-point in the hill, reached that point, and kept going. It helped to realized that was the last hill."
After the hill, she was able to use her speed to finish the race.
"I felt like I had a lot of sprint speed," Peachy said. "Now that I look back, I think it was too much sprint speed. I probably should have used that energy on the course a little farther out."
Overall, she was happy with her performance and will use the experience and work on a few things to get better for her senior year and make a return appearance.
"Focus on hills, practice hills," Peachy said. "This was the first race where there were so many people. I need to focus on not getting scared and just focusing."
Midd-West coach Stan Share revealed after the event that Peachy ran despite an issue at home involving a family member.
"She was able to compartmentalize her home situation with her obligation to herself, her family, her team and her school quite well," he said. "She and her sister wrote on the edges of her bib number a few things that were dedicated to her dad and she ran this race for him because he really wanted to see her at states.
"She is more special and a bigger winner this weekend than the state medalists in many ways. I am in awe of her."