By Marin Bramblett
On October 6, junior Lilly Duarte set a school record for the 6K race. This personal accomplishment serves a milestone that marks Duarte’s achievement as well as the overall success and improvement of the cross-country team this season.
“We didn’t find out until the Wednesday before the meet that it would be a 6K. We thought it was just a 5K,” said Duarte. “Last year I tied the record of 23:07. I was sixteen hundredths of a second off!”
This year, Duarte broke the record by ten full seconds, crossing the finish line at 22:57.
“The end of the race was the steepest hill of the whole race,” Duarte said. “I kept thinking ‘How am I going to get there?’ Then I was like, ‘No! You can do this!’”
Duarte’s record-breaking race was a result of her hard work and commitment to the team, and Coach Francie Smith knows what an accomplishment that is.
“Lilly is really starting to come around now. She is a hardworking athlete and she has a good shot to run with the leaders at the Conference and Regionals meets,” Smith said.
Coach Smith recognizes the difficulties of Duarte’s position as the fastest runner on the team.
“It’s hard for Lilly. There is no one of her caliber which means she runs by herself. When you’re the top runner, you set the tone. It is a tough thing when you’re out there by yourself.”
Although Duarte has broken the school 6K record and set her own personal record for the 5K this year, she remembers to maintain a team mentality.
“We just want to come back stronger every time. Everyone has really stepped up and we have improved a lot this year,” Duarte said. “We’re like a family.”
Going through the difficulty of 6:30 am practices every day has been a bonding experience for the teams and has been preparatory for the Conference meet this coming weekend and the Regionals meet following.
Duarte, following the example of five-time Olympian Coach Smith, stays humble and wishes to send a message of gratitude to her team and her coaches for this season’s accomplishments.
“Thank you for being great!” Duarte said.
Tomorrow, the men and women’s cross country teams will be competing in the SCAC championship meet hosted by Dallas. At the most recent meet at Concordia University, the men and women’s teams placed fifth and fourth place, respectively.