By Pete Chiodo
Last year, Cambridge Springs’ Reilly Walsh watched from a few positions back as her teammate and close friend Olivia Mamula snapped the tape for the District 10 Class A championship.
This year it was Walsh’s turn to do the snapping. The Blue Devils’ junior won Saturday’s single-A race in 19:37, bringing Cambridge its second straight crown, only this one will be worn on the head of a different Blue Devil.
“I trained a little different this week,” Walsh explained. “We did three hard runs this week, then Thursday and Friday I just took off, which I’d never done before. It’s probably why it was so good, it’s new. I felt that it helped a lot.”
Walsh started the race behind a couple dozen other runners, and then methodically picked them off during the span of the next 3.1 miles along the course at Buhl Farm Park. By the time she was coming down the first hill she only had about 15 girls in front of her. Then there were 10, then there were five. And by the time she passed the main pavilion and scoring station for the second time, her and West Middlesex’s Chloe Tyillian and Youngsville’s Brooke Messinger were trading for the lead.
As the girls reached the final 150-yard stretch to the finish line, Walsh was in front with Tyillian just a couple seconds behind. And Walsh didn’t want to get overtaken by the West Middlesex runner at the end, just like Mamula did to Middlesex’s Kristen White last season.
“I kept hearing people say, ‘Come on, Chloe! Come on, Chloe!’ because she was right there,” said Walsh. “And I was just trying as hard as possible. I just kept pumping hard and just kept going. It was good.”
No need to worry. Walsh crossed the finish line seven seconds ahead of Tyillian (19:44). Messinger was third in 19:57, and Mamula took fourth in 19:58.
“I’m glad, because my season has been up and down,” said Mamula. “So I’m just really excited that I broke 20 (minutes). I’ve been waiting for it and I finally have it.”
Asked about what she though of Walsh’s run, Mamula said, “I am so proud of this girl, just all season. I don’t know, she just makes me happy.”
Both girls will be advancing the PIAA state championship meet, which takes place Saturday at the Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey. It will be the senior Mamula’s fourth straight trip, and the third for the junior Walsh.
The Cambridge Springs girls finished fourth as a team with 118 points, trailing team champion West Middlesex (74), second place Wilmington (89) and third place North East (91).
Union City was fifth with 137 points, lead by 11th place finisher Alyssa Boyd.
Also advancing to Hershey is Maplewood sophomore Savannah Phillips, who finished 12th in 20:27.
“I PR’d,” said Phillips, meaning she scored a personal record. “I dropped 30 seconds, so I was pretty happy about that. I wish I would have got 10th or under. But I can always get it in the end.”
It will be Phillips’ second consecutive trip to the state meet.
“I prepared better mentally,” said Phillips. “Normally I beat myself up in the second mile. But I pushed it harder this week.”