Mt. Lebanon freshman Kelsey Potts recorded a time of 4:55.07 in the 1,600-meter race last Thursday at the WPIAL Class AAA track and field championships at Baldwin Stadium.
In many years, that performance would have put her on top of the medals stand. But last week's race wasn't your typical race ... far from it.
Shaler Area's Brianna Schwartz finished in a sizzling 4:47.07, demolishing the existing WPIAL record and taking the title. Potts, who earned second place and easily qualified for the PIAA championship meet, recalled what it was like to compete in Schwartz's run for the ages.
"[Schwartz] went out pretty fast," Potts said. "And I could see her and I was just trying to keep up the pace and reach her."
Although Potts never was able to catch Schwartz last week, she appreciated the challenge, calling it a driving factor.
"I think it's really helpful [to race Schwartz]," Potts said. "She pushes me much harder than I would be without her."
This weekend, Potts will run the 1,600-meter race at the PIAA championship meet, trying to catch Schwartz again. Surprisingly, it won't crush Potts' spirits if she doesn't. That's because track isn't even Potts' favorite sport.
In the fall, Potts is a member of the Mt. Lebanon girls cross country team. She commented that she enjoys the "pack" aspect of cross country competition.
"I would definitely choose cross country [as my favorite over track]," said Potts. "I like it better because it's more of a team sport. You're together all the time."
Potts added that the longer distances of cross country also appeal to her more than the "running in circles" she experiences on a track.
Nonetheless, Potts also enjoys track and hopes to run the 1,600-meter race in the mid 4-minute range by her senior year.
Mt. Lebanon track coach Ken Wentzel has Potts on a "four-year plan" in order to meet that goal.
"You can't go from a 30-mile-a-week [training] program to 50 or 60," Wentzel said. "My goal is not to get her hurt. She has never been hurt. We're doing strength training, core training, adding minutes and working toward that 40-mile-a-week number."
Potts noted that subtle changes such as posture improvement have even made differences in her running.
"My posture was really bad and I'm working on bringing my shoulders up so I'm not hunched over and can receive oxygen more easily," she said.
Wentzel added that he keeps journal records of Potts' workouts.
"We know where she is right now, very accurately."
Where Potts is, currently, is on her way to states with the Mt. Lebanon team. A total of 12 girls from Mt. Lebanon qualified for the two-day state championship meet in Shippensburg, which begins Friday and will conclude Saturday.
"It's really fun because the team always gets together," she said. "It's just fun to be with upperclassmen and to get to know them rather than just having friends who are freshmen."
Potts recalled the Blue Devils' April 17 Senior Recognition meet -- an event in which Mt. Lebanon played host to Peters Township and won.
Wentzel explained that although the Blue Devils have girls' distance runners who are veterans (Julie Kocjancic, Jillian Hunsberger and Audrey Gordon to name a few), Potts never feels intimidated.
"Kelsey, being the freshman, never backs down," Wentzel said. "From the time she came to school in the fall, she's been very humble -- but tenacious on the cross country course and track. She's the toughest individual I coach."