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BROWNSVILLE — For the second straight year, Quaker Valley’s Annie Wicker dominated the competition at the cross country WPIAL Championships to capture yet another Class 2A title.
Going back-to-back never really seemed in doubt for Wicker. After the first mile, she was settled into a solid rhythm and was accompanied by three other runners heading into the toughest part of the course.
The second mile at California University of Pennsylvania’s Roadman Park is nicknamed “The Hill” due to the steep decline and incline that tested runners all day long. When, Wicker came back up the hill and entered the mile stretch of the race, she had built a sizeable lead.
Heading into the race Wicker said she was a little nervous after her performance at her last race. So, as she was approaching the final stretch she did something she normally doesn’t do.
“I was going around the bend near the tennis courts, and I was like, ‘okay I’m gonna do it’ and snuck a peak because I was definitely nervous,” Wicker said.
There was no need to be, as Wicker kicked in her final gear and cruised across the finish line, beating the second-place competitor by 28 seconds with a final clocking of 19:18.
“To come here, knowing that this is something that I’ve never seen before, added another factor to the nerves, but this definitely feels good,” Wicker said.
Back on Oct. 11, Wicker had taken third place at the MAC Championship at Brush Creek Park. She had come in behind Moon Area’s Mia Cochran and Mars Area’s McKenna Bowes. She didn’t think it was one of her better performances, so she had decided to take the week off leading up to the WPIAL Championships.
During that week, the rest of her teammates ran in the TSTCA Cross Country Championships that were held at Cal U last week. It gave a lot of runners from around the WPIAL a chance to get a look at the course before the big race. Although she didn’t compete, Wicker said she asked a few teammates about “The Hill” and watched the video of the race.
“I just decided instead of having the MAC race, then Tri-States, then this, then states, that I would just use that week to get in a nice solid week of training and then focus on this,” Wicker said. “But, I watched the video of the course online, I’m not really sure how much that helped, but I feel like I was aware of what was going on with it.”
Wicker said that winning her second title in two years will give her a lot of confidence heading into the PIAA Championship meet in the coming weeks.
“I think it’s just kind of a nice thing to take into states, and it’s nice to go there having this under my belt and having a good time after my last race, which I wasn’t too happy with,” Wicker said.
Wicker wasn’t the only Quaker to have a successful day at the WPIAL Championships. After crossing the finish line, Wicker waited as her freshman teammate Anna Cohen crossed in ninth place and secured a trip to Hershey as well.
“I think she definitely would’ve qualified no matter what because she’s talented like that,” Wicker said. “But, I just felt so proud of her for her to get it done and just be able to focus on states.”
Several other girls from the Beaver County Times coverage area secured trips to the state meet on Nov. 3. Among them was Cochran, who was the lone qualifier in Class 3A from the Times coverage area.
After emerging onto the scene early in the season, the speedy freshman has continued to improve all year long. On Thursday, she turned in a 5th place finish with a time of 19:17 and was one of two freshmen in the top 10 of 3A.
Along with Cochran, Cohen and Wicker, nine other competitors qualified for the state meet. Among them was 2017 Class A WPIAL Champion, Haley Hamilton. The OLSH junior had battled an injury and an infection leading up to the WPIAL meet and had just started to get back into competitive shape last week. She finished 8th in the Class A race with a clocking of 21:20.
The rest of the qualifiers were: South Side’s Emily Martin (21:57) and Jane Turek (22:27). Freedom’s Bailey Roberts (22:32). Riverside’s Tess Hardin (22:05) and Shannon Stover (21:58). Ambridge’s Leuca Hanish (20:55) and Beaver’s Emily Brown (20:58) and Rachel Quillin (21:14).