The tough Hershey Park cross country course took its toll on West Allegheny junior Alexis O'Shea Saturday at the PIAA Class AA girls cross country championship meet, but she endured the pain and got the bronze medal.
After placing eighth in the 2012 state cross country meet, O'Shea moved up five places, finishing third, in the 2013 championships.
"I thought I was pretty gimpy," O'Shea said. "It hurt a lot. I know I'm going to have to work a lot harder for next season, especially since we're moving up to Class AAA."
O'Shea has only been running cross country for three years, but she has qualified for the state meet each time.
As a freshman, O'Shea placed 146th at the PIAA meet with a time of 20:53. But she shaved 1:16 off her time in last season's state meet.
This season, O'Shea came in as the WPIAL champion and wanted to stay as close to 2012 state runner-up Elizabeth Chikotas as she could. But Chikotas, a senior at Saucon Valley, rushed out in front of everyone, leading second-place O'Shea by seven seconds after the first mile and then really put on the after-burners, opening up a lead of more than 20 seconds after the second mile.
Chikotas went on to win the race with a time of 18:43, while Dallas senior Regan Rome finished second with a time of 19:10. O'Shea came in with a time of 19:22, 15 seconds faster than last season.
"Chikotas took off around the first mile marker and that was that," O'Shea said.
Although she didn't win the state championship, O'Shea had a banner junior season. She has won three meets -- the PIAA Foundation in Hershey, the MAC championships and the WPIAL title -- and finished second in two others. She also finished fourth in the Red, White & Blue Classic.
O'Shea plans on getting stronger on running hills in between now and next season, but she won't have much of an offseason.
O'Shea will start indoor track and field practice on the first day of December, and that will lead into outdoor track and field in the spring. Then it will be summer, and time to start training for cross country again.
So over the next few weeks, she will take a rest and prepare for the grind ahead.
"My coach told me to take the next couple of weeks off, and I intend on doing that," O'Shea said.
It will be a much deserved rest.