By Mark Altstaetter – email@example.com
TIFFIN — A strong start is important, but an even stronger finish can make the difference.
For Lima Central Catholic sophomore Emily Sreenan, learning how to close out a race has been top priority this cross country season.
At Saturday’s Division III regional tournament at Hedges-Boyer Park, Sreenan took over late in the race and went on to win in a time of 18 minutes, 37.5 seconds on the 5,000-meter course.
Liberty Center’s Olivia Kundo took the lead early on. However, Sreenan took over with a half mile left in the race to record the victory. Kundo finished second in 18:46.9.
With the win, Sreenan becomes the first-ever girls regional cross country champion in school history.
Last season, Sreenan finished third at regionals and went on to place ninth at the state meet.
Sreenan will return to the state meet next Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
The top four teams at Tiffin and the top 16 individuals in each division advanced to the state meet.
“It feels pretty awesome,” Sreenan said. “I didn’t expect it during the race, because she was so far ahead. I knew she was going to come out fast because I remember her last year at regionals. When she took off I thought, ‘oh no, I’m done.’ But I noticed she was dying out a little bit. So, I was able to catch up and take the lead.”
Longtime LCC coach Mike Griffo said Sreenan has worked hard this season on finishing out the race.
“Today, she pulled away after the 2 1/2 (mile mark) and she just held them off,” he said. “We’ve been working on that last mile, pretty much the whole season. Last year, that’s where she fell off. This year, she’s been doing really well in the last mile.
“Last year, she finished third (at regionals), and one of the girls (Coldwater’s Sarah Kanney) ended up winning the state championship. So, she’s running better than last year by a little bit. But, when you get at this level, a little bit can mean a whole lot.”
Sreenan has her sights set high for next Saturday’s state meet.
“I really want to get 17:59 and place really high,” she said.