EVERETT - Northern Bedford's Mike Heck and Collin Sherlock were first and second, respectively, throughout the District 5 Cross Country Championships on a cold, rainy Wednesday afternoon at the Bedford County Technical Center course.
And then coming down the homestretch, the distance between the Black Panthers was a little too close for comfort for Heck.
"I looked back with about 100 meters to go, and he was right on my heels," Heck said, "so I had to kick it in as hard as I could to try and beat him. We're always pretty competitive."
"It was tough," Sherlock said. "I fell back farther than I should have, and I had to try to catch him coming up that hill toward the end. I just used up all of my energy trying to catch him, and I didn't have anything to get past him with."
Heck had enough in him to hold off Sherlock by 5 seconds, 17:28-17:33, to capture his first district title. Heck, a senior, finished sixth as a sophomore and fifth as a junior. Sherlock, a senior, also qualified for states last year by finishing sixth.
"It feels really good," Heck said. "I've been training a lot the last couple years, and to finally win feels pretty awesome. Last year, there was a lot more competition, but I feel like there was a good level of competition. I think I trained a lot harder this summer. Me and my teammate, Collin, put in a lot of miles in."
"I ran pretty well," Sherlock said. "I wasn't feeling the best today, but I still came out and ran a good race."
Ridge's Tyler Bittinger (19:26) placed eighth, but didn't qualify for states. Meyersdale won the boys' race by nine points over Southern Fulton, 32-41, in the three-team standings, while Southern Fulton won the girls' race by three points over Windber, 39-42, in the four-team standings.
In the girls' race, Chestnut Ridge junior Kimberly Bischof finished in second place behind Windber's Annalee Tokarsky by 14 seconds, 21:10-21:24, to qualify for the state meet. Tussey Mountain's Samantha Coffman (23:53) finished ninth, but didn't qualify for states.
"This course is always tough with that hill beside the school, but with the rain, it was even worse," Heck said laughing. "It wasn't too terrible though. I was hoping it wouldn't rain, but it did most of the race."
"It wasn't the most comfortable," Sherlock said, "but I've run in worse. It was really cold, and the rain didn't help."
"This is definitely the toughest course in the district," Bischof said. "[The rain] was pretty well done until I got started, but it definitely cooled it off, which made it harder."
Heck and Sherlock talked beforehand about what would happen in the race, and it was pretty much what they expected.
"We always joke around with each other," Sherlock said. "We just pick on each other."
Interestingly enough, Heck also plays soccer, and he played in a game on Tuesday night. All that running on back-to-back days has to be tough on the body.
"It's a little difficult," Heck said. "My legs are a little sore, but they felt pretty good considering I had a game last night."
Heck didn't play soccer last season, but he decided to play this year for the team aspect.
"It's hard to find time to practice running because we don't have a team for cross country," Heck said. "Most of the time I practice for soccer, and then I try to throw a run in here or there."
Heck, Sherlock and Bischof will now get ready for the PIAA Championships, which will be held on Nov. 2 at the Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey.
"I always enjoy the state meet," Heck said. "I always seem to run my best there. Normally, I run better than I do here, which is crazy because the course there is a lot harder. I'm looking forward to it this year."
"I'm just going for fun," Bischof said. "I'm just glad that I made it."
Bischof was around fourth early in the race, but she passed Meyersdale's Marsha Baker and Southern Fulton's Macey Hollenshead and was second behind Tokarsky the whole way down the home stretch.
"She is tough," Bischof said of the Windber runner. "She's the hardest girl to try and pass."