Victoria Starcher surely had it on her mind, if not on a bulletin board somewhere.
They're sleeping on me.
And there would be no arguing with the fact that the Ripley (WV) High sophomore entered the 1600m on Sunday at the SPIRE Scholastic Showcase as the more unheralded underclassmen when Winona Cotter (MN) High freshman Grace Ping stepped to the line on the SPIRE Institute track.
But Starcher, a Foot Locker Nationals finalist and state champion in her first year of cross country this fall, never backed down once to Ping during the race, going out with confidence and leading through much of the contest. She prospered to the line in a new US No. 1 effort of 4:50.85, besting Ping's second-place effort of 4:55.56.
And sure, this wasn't really a rivalry. The pair even hugged afterward.
These two runners had never met before, and little was on the line other than times, but pre-race hype always does seem to factor in some way, and much of that attention was paid to Ping -- to be fair, she eventually went on to score a US No. 1 in the 3200m -- before Starcher tore off from the line and rose to the occasion.
And yet, Starcher wasn't the only runner who leapt past pre-race expectations, either.
In the boys 3200m, where many felt a battle between Ohio powers Zach Kreft of Buckeye Valley High and Chad Johnson of Colonel Crawford High was brewing, Canadian Marcus Kemp silenced onlookers when he cruised to a win in 9:02.58, nearly breaking the 9-minute mark, an oft-revered time at the distance.
It was a compelling moment in a race that featured two of the states best distance runners. And it ultimately gave a nice little profile bump to Kemp, who hails from Ontario.
The race within the race still retained its luster, too. Johnson, a recent Iowa State commit, and Kreft, a signee of Notre Dame, tussled it out in second and third.
But it was Johnson who kicked past Kreft to the line in a US No. 1 time of 9:08.12. Kreft wasn't far behind in 9:09.37.