This is Mariah King’s favorite time of year.
The deeper it gets into cross country season, the faster King gets running for Northridge High School.
“With Mariah, it’s like almost every year this happens,” Raider coach Ryan McClane said.
“She’s the perfect person as a coach that you want to model what you want from your runners to do,” McClane said. “Every year she’s competitive, but she seems to run her best meets at the end of the regular season. Each year, she’s been a little bit faster than she’s been the year before.”
The last two weeks at Ox Bow Park, the senior has placed first at the sectional and second at the regional. Her time at sectional was 19:13, while her clocking at regional was 19:20, 15 seconds behind first-place runner Lauren Frank of Penn.
“I was really blown away that she was able to put that together (at the sectional) and then come back (at the regional) with another strong performance,” McClane said. “But, at the same time, it really doesn’t surprise me. She’s a very competitive kid.”
Last year at the sectional, King placed fourth at 19:59 and seventh at the regional at 19:25.
King met her goal of finishing in the top five at the regional this year.
“I knew Penn had really strong runners, so I just tried to stay right behind Lauren (Frank) and it worked out for me,” King said.
“I feel super, physically fit. This is probably the best that my body will ever feel.”
King credits McClane for helping her stay healthy throughout her running career and giving her an opportunity to peak at the finish.
“He knows what he’s doing,” King said. “Swimming, running and biking are part of our practices and that has helped prevent injuries.”
“I think a lot of it has to do with her,” McClane countered. “I put the same workouts out for each kid. Mileage is a little bit different for some of the kids. She’s always kind of been a quiet competitor. I think a lot of the other coaches would say the same thing. She sneaks up on people.”
After a slow start, King even sneaked up a bit on her coach this year. She had a time over 21 minutes in her first meet this season at Huntington North.
“I wondered if Mariah was going to come around this season,” McClane said. “But, it has been like clockwork for us. Last year at Culver and this year at New Haven, a week prior to the conference meet, she started her drop where she does something that really surprises us. We then know that Mariah is there and here she comes.
“This year, she has really gone to that next level.”
Next up for King and her teammates is a visit to the New Haven Semistate at IPFW, with a trip to the State Finals on the line. The meet starts at 1 p.m. The top six teams and the top 10 individuals from non-advancing teams advance to state.
“Right now, I feel so ready to run at the semistate,” King said. “I have confidence that my team is going to make it to state this year.”
McClane hopes his runners follow King’s example.
“She’s the kind of runner that you want to coach,” McClane said. “If you get all the kids to do what Mariah has done, your team would be flying at the end of the regular season.”