BELVIDERE – As Katie Pitman crossed the finish line, the Dixon senior realized she was probably too far from the front to finish her cross country career at the state meet.
But after letting the raw emotions run their course, Pitman realized that her final high school race might be just the beginning.
Pitman’s time of 19:05.68 was good enough for 23rd place overall Saturday at the Class 2A Belvidere Sectional, but was 37 seconds short of a berth at next weekend’s state meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
“I’m not very happy, because I picked a bad day to run a bad race,” Pitman said. “I get anxiety really bad before big races, and when that happens, I take really shallow breaths. It’s hard to run well when you’re doing that, especially in this weather, and it cost me today.”
Pitman got caught in the second pack behind the leaders, and couldn’t pick up enough spots to qualify for state. But she quickly recovered and found the determination and spunk that served her well all season as Dixon’s top runner.
“I did what I could, and I had a good year,” she said. “I don’t think this is the end, either; I really want to run somewhere in college. I’ll learn from this, and hopefully just keep getting better.”
That chorus echoed in the Sterling camp. Freshmen Maggie McPherson and Megan Barnhart also just missed making state.
While the two had mixed feelings about their first varsity sectional race, they both know it will be a valuable tool down the road.
“I’m happy and sad about it, all at the same time,” said Barnhart, who placed 26th in 19:10.11. “I wish I had run better, but I’m happy with what I did during the race. Taking on the perspective that I’m only a freshman, just getting here and placing near the front is something I can be proud of.”
McPherson was the top local finisher, placing 18th in 18:49.80. She ran near the front the entire race, but couldn’t find the kick she needed to pass enough girls in the end. Her time was 21 seconds out of the final individual qualifying spot, which went to Prairie Ridge’s Erin Wagner in 18:28.65.
“I think I could’ve done better, and I wish I would’ve been able to go faster, but I just couldn’t,” McPherson said. “I felt good at the beginning, but at the end, when I tried to kick it in, there was nothing there. I was upset at first, but there’s always next year.”
Even before the boys race was over, Barnhart and McPherson spoke about their cross-training regimen and how soon they could start. The initial discussion was about swimming and yoga, all in the hopes of getting ready for track season in the spring.
“This year, we had no idea what to expect going into any race,” McPherson said. “Now, Megan and I have a better understanding of what it takes to make it to state, what we need to do differently and what we shouldn’t do.”
Dixon placed 13th as a team with 272 points, just ahead of 14th-place Sterling (291 points).