SHERIDAN — The wind whipped at Sydney Thorvaldson’s face as she started her second mile at Sheridan Veteran’s Affairs Hospital.
Tears, snot and spit streamed off her face as the cold air forced her to drop her head and push forward. The outcome of Saturday’s race had already been determined. Thorvaldson started pulling away 50 meters into the race.
The only questions were how much would she win by and if she’d break the year-old state record at the 2017 Wyoming State High School Cross-Country Championships.
Thorvaldson put the stamp on her undefeated freshman season with a state championship, winning with a time of 17 minutes, 49.31 seconds, over two full minutes faster than second-place Cody freshman Riley Smith.
“I really wanted a fast start to get myself out there and see how I felt with the wind,” Thorvaldson said. “I felt really good so I said, ‘OK, I’ll just keep this pace and see what happens.’”
Thorvaldson’s time was just 14 seconds off the state record set by Jackson graduate Anna Gibson in last year’s 4A race. Gibson now runs cross-country at Brown University.
If not for the heavy winds, Thorvaldson may have broken the record just six months after her last middle school race. She now will have three more opportunities to improve her time and earn a spot in the record books.
In the team standings, Star Valley edged out Cody by just one point for the title.
Thorvaldson’s time would have won Class 4A by 14 seconds, where Cheyenne East’s Mackenzie Marler finally broke through.
Side-by-side for most of the race, the junior finally pulled away from Cheyenne Central’s Aubrey Frentheway in the final 800 meters.
“I’ve had a really good season so far,” Marler said, “I tried to finish it on a good note so it was really exciting.”
Marler battled illness through her freshman year, when she finished second to Frentheway. She finished behind the Central standout again last season to finish third.
This year she was able to break through in the home stretch.
“Coming up the hill, I knew from practice that I had to just push it,” she said. “I caught up with Aubrey and then with about 800 left I just pushed past.”
Marler won every meet this season except for the opening one, which helped give her the confidence to push through this year. She finished the championship race in 17:55.38.
Marler, Frentheway and Laramie’s Abigail Whitman were all running together halfway through the race before Whitman fell back in the final half mile.
Frentheway did lead the way for the Indians to the team championship by 26 points over Laramie.
Moorcroft’s Hailey Jones won her second straight cross-country title on Saturday, although she was disappointed with her season as a whole.
Her times weren’t where she wanted them to be. She won her second state championship in 20:31.31. Her first championship came with a time of 20:20.91. Although, to be fair, the wind was not blowing nearly as hard at the 2016 championship meet as it was on Saturday.
“I really wanted to focus on my second mile because throughout the season my second mile had always been off while my first and third had always been on my time,” Jones said. “So I focused on getting my second mile up to where my first one was.”
Junior teammate Jordan Jones ran alongside her going into the final mile before the sophomore standout pulled away in the final third.
Sophomore Piper Perez took second to help lead Burns/Pine Bluffs to the program’s eighth consecutive state championship. Lovell finished second at just seven points behind the champions.