Kiski Area junior Brent Kennedy bolted to a 15:52 finish at last Saturday's PIAA Class AAA cross country championship meet in Hershey.
He placed second to West Chester Henderson's Tony Russell, earning a silver medal.
The race actually began as though the runners were in a can of sardines.
"We were all packed together through at least the first half of the race," Kennedy said. "It's a downhill start for the first mile so everyone goes out really hard."
Kennedy kept his pace as the course went into the "Aloha Hills" -- a series of dips and U-turns in which the spectators wave hello and goodbye to their favorite runners. The disruptive terrain was stirring Kennedy's pack but he kept his sights on Russell. At 2 miles in, Russell's pace intensified to take a seven-second lead on Kennedy.
"[Russell] was about that far ahead of me for the last mile of the race," Kennedy recalled.
He said that didn't intimidate him, though.
The path continued up the course's last hill -- a 100-meter quad-drainer known as "Poop Out Hill." It was on that hill that Kennedy stayed strong and separated himself from the 217 remaining finishers.
Kennedy's second place finish was definitive -- four seconds ahead of Corry Area's Austin Pondel. But Kennedy had had his eye on a victory.
"I just didn't have enough for the win at states," Kennedy said. "Tony Russell is a great runner and he deserves it. I can't be too unhappy."
Saturday's state meet wasn't Kennedy's first race against Russell.
"I raced him this year at the Carlisle Invitational," Kennedy said. "I knew he'd be up there [in front at states]."
Kennedy had actually beaten Russell in the 1,600-meter event at the PIAA track and field championships at Shippensburg last May. The two made it to the finals, where Kennedy finished eighth and Russell finished less than one second behind him.
As Russell and Kennedy finished their runs on Saturday, the two were happy for each other.
"We're all pretty good friends," said Kennedy, referring to himself and many of his cross country opponents. "We're all doing the same type of thing."
Two days after Hershey, Kennedy was at Villanova University on a college visit that included a meeting with the cross country coach. The next day, Kennedy was scheduled to visit Syracuse.
"I'm just trying to check out all my options," Kennedy said. "The list is getting bigger, I guess."
Kennedy is a junior and does not intend to make a final college decision until his senior year. Nonetheless, he attended track/cross country camps at Notre Dame and at the University of Virginia last summer. Since that time, Virginia Tech has also joined Kennedy's list of potential schools.
Before Kennedy can don spikes for the right college or university, he's got a lot of running still to do for Kiski Area. Kennedy said he's looking forward to running track this spring, especially if the competition includes Russell.
"I'm looking forward to getting the chance to race [Russell] again" said Kennedy. "There'll be some fast times and good competition there."