CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y.-East Aurora's girls cross country's team returned to Buffalo late Sunday night after an outstanding performance in the Nike Cross Nationals Saturday.
Going to compete in the Nike Cross Nationals race is a huge accomplishment. To finish in the top five in that race is even sweeter.
That is exactly what the East Aurora girls cross country team did this past Saturday in Portland Meadows, Oregon in less than ideal muddy conditions. The team placed fourth, just three points behind third place, out of 22 competing schools.
"It was just an unbelievable experience. We were just hoping to get top ten in this race," says senior runner Madeline Murray who finished with a time of 21:32 which placed her 44th out of 194 runners. Now the team finds themselves ranked first in the whole country in the small school ranking. "It's beyond anything I could have ever imagined," says junior runner Marta McLaughlin who had a time of 20:55 which put her 23rd overall, the best finisher on East Aurora.
Other runners on the team were senior Megan Baritot, senior Mackenzie Donahue, junior Sidney Spaschak, junior Rebekah Zee, and freshman Fiona Danieu. East Aurora had received an at large bid to the Nike National Championship after finishing third in the Nike Regionals in Wappingers Falls, New York.
The team, coached by Walt McLaughlin, has been one of the better teams in New York State the past few years and was finally rewarded this past weekend. "They've been trying to get here for five years and they finally did it and they showed them what East Aurora cross country was all about," says Marty McLaughlin, an assistant coach on the team.
Being in Oregon was nothing new for Murray, who has been going there for open races the past two years. This time around she got to experience it with her team. "This year going and actually running in the national race as a senior it just means so much more to be with the team, to actually be recognized nationally and to finish so well," says Murray. "It's gonna be a great memory that I'll have from high school." "I couldn't't have asked for anyone better to make it with," says Marta McLaughlin. "I love them so much and we're such a close team so it's awesome."
East Aurora's fourth place finish is an underdog story that the whole community can be proud of. "We were an underdog going into it. We were ranked 15th and they finished fourth so it was a huge deal," says assistant coach McLaughlin. "We came into it as the underdogs and when we found out we got fourth we were just overwhelmed with joy and excitement," says Murray. "It was an awesome time."
The team comes away from the race with a great experience and also the satisfaction of being the top ranked small school in the nation.