Coach Steve Arnett let sophomore Bella Burda know she had already won while they were riding in the Arlington High School indoor track and field team’s bus down to compete in the Jim Mitchell Invitational on Friday,
Not the 6,000-meter relay race in which she planned to take part later in the day, but a bigger award: Burda was named the top girls cross country runner in the New York state by ArmoryTrack.com.
“It’s really exciting,” she said. “It’s an honor.”
Arnett said the state award is a first in his decades-long tenure at the Freedom Plains school. During a season that culminated with the New York State Federation Cross Country Championship on Nov. 17 and a trip to nationals, Burda broke her own program record for the fastest time at Bowdoin Park, 17:56.7, and set the record for the fastest time on the Saratoga State Park Course, 17:04.38.
The standout season followed a freshman campaign spent predominantly on the sideline, recovering from a stress fracture in her left shin.
“I’m looking at this as her first full season,” Arlington girls cross country coach Diana Lucas said. “To have an athlete do this in her first season is really amazing.”