PENDLETON — The Pendleton Heights girls cross country team entered Tuesday’s sectional meet as the clear-cut favorite. The only question was how much would the Arabians win by.
The answer — 49 points.
Led by Alex Buck, the No. 14 ranked Arabians took six of the top seven positions to compile 18 points and earn their third straight sectional title and fifth in six years.
“It has become an expectation,” Pendleton Heights coach Melissa Hagerman said. “It is a whole mindset. We are looking forward to Saturday for regional, but we still have our eyes on the big prize at the end.”
Buck bested her teammate Alli McCarty by nearly 50 seconds with a time of 19 minutes, 7.61 seconds. It is the sophomore’s second individual sectional win. She shaved an impressive 46 seconds off her time from last year’s sectional.
“It means a lot to me this year because of my time,” Buck said. “Last year, I worked so hard just to get under 20 (minutes) on the course and to be in the low 19s — it’s crazy. I feel extremely blessed to be able to knock that many seconds off in just one year.”
Buck and McCarty are just two of the underclassmen leading the youth movement at Pendleton Heights. Monica Dudley, who finished in fourth, is a sophomore, and the fifth-place finisher, Emma Hall, is a freshman.
“My top (four) today are freshmen and sophomores, we don’t have a junior on varsity,” Hagerman said. “It shows what a great job our middle school program is doing.”
The final of Hagerman’s youthful Arabians to capture a top-10 was Faith Baer, a freshman who finished in 20:46.57 to secure the seventh position.
“Our strategy was to get everybody in the top-10,” Buck said. “I am so proud of how (my team) did.”