HUNTSVILLE, ALA. -- Mud and rain made for a sloppy one out at John Hunt Park on Saturday in the Garmin RunningLane XC Championships, but that didn't stop pre-race favorite and recently-crowned CIF Division 4 state champion Payton Godsey from adding another win to her resume.
The junior from Oaks Christian (CA) made the trip from the Pacific Coast and took care of business, pulling away from the lead pack over the last mile to earn the GRXC girls gold title in 17:28.3 and secure her the first national title of her career.
A large front group led by some of the nation's top talents -- including Zariel Macchia, Godsey, Allie Zealand, Gretchen Farley, Reagan Riley, Katie Clute and Emily Cohen, to name a few -- led the field through a fast first mile just under 5:30. But as the race progressed, it was Godsey who began to pull away with about 1k to go, fighting through the muddy course conditions.
She would hold that lead through the tape, followed closely by Macchia in 17:34.2.
While some of the nation's notable names may have grabbed many of the top finishes, many under-the-radar candidates had shining moments in Huntsville on the national stage. Coming in third was Juliet Frum of Glenbrook North (IL) in 17:44.8, who entered coming off a runner-up finish to nationally-ranked Grace Schager at the Illinois Class 3A state meet, and Pacers Homeschool (VA) talent Allie Zealand took fourth in 17:46.10 just a week after finishing third at the Champs Sports South Regionals.
Columbus North's (IN) Julia Kiesler closed out the top five with a time of 17:48.0, making for her eighth time this season going sub-18-minutes in the 5k.
In total, eight girls ran under 18 minutes despite the rough conditions, and Godsey was the lone athlete to break 17:30 on the day.
1 Payton Godsey 11 Westlake Village Lions 17:28.30 2 Zariel Macchia 10 Unattached 17:34.20 3 Juliet Frum 10 Unattached 17:44.80 4 Allie Zealand 11 Pacers Homeschool 17:46.10 5 julia kiesler 12 Columbus Thorn 17:48.00 6 Caroline Hood 11 Unattached 17:52.80 7 Sophia Rodriguez 8 Unattached 17:55.70 8 Julie Moore 10 Mountain View UT 17:59.80 9 Reagan Riley 12 Unattached 18:01.40 10 Katie Clute 12 Unattached 18:02.00
In the team battle, a similar narrative unfolded as the girls of the arguable favorite Mountain Vista (CO) ran their way to a championship, with their racers all sporting mud, llama-printed split shorts and smiles at the finish.
The girls squad from Colorado began peaking when it mattered most in the latter points of the season, finishing second at the Colorado 5A State Cross Country Championships and earning a stellar fourth-place finish at Team Southwest Regionals in November.
Now, Mountain Vista gets to go home as national champions, and certainly that late-season momentum gave them all the more reason to chase after the win at RunningLane.
* Mountain Vista celebrates their gold team title at RunningLane.
Photo Credit: Brandon Miles/MileSplit Florida
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Mountain Vista tallied 124 points to secure the title win, but only by a six-point margin over Cherry Creek (CO) as the runner-ups. The Southwest region rounded out the top four with Mountain View (UT) in third with 179 points and Fossil Ridge (CO) in fourth scoring 207, followed by Bentonville (AR) to earn fifth place.
Unlike the individual race that saw some jockeying for position throughout the duration of the competition, Mountain Vista held first place in the team scores through every mile split, and ultimately went 10-11-16-43-44 in the final score table, led by Annie Romalia in 39th place.
Similarly, Cherry Creek remained in second throughout the entire race, and put two girls in the top 40 despite not having top runner Addison Price.
* Mountain Vista discusses their girls gold team win at the Garmin RunningLane XC Championships.
Godsey and Mountain Vista came out on top in a girls gold race consisting of 265 athletes and 27 scoring teams to cap off the girls fields at RunningLane on Saturday.