Megan Curham’s incredible transformation from a middle-of-the-pack runner to national cross country contender continued Saturday, when she finished 14th at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships at Balboa Park in San Diego.
The Villa Walsh senior, who began her final cross country season with the modest goals of simply breaking the 19-minute mark, crossed the line in 17:55.
“I’m really excited about it,” Curham said. “I did really well.”
Curham said that she didn’t want to try to keep pace with the front running group.
“I did the best I could without trying to get out with the rest,” Curham said. “They all went out too fast for me, so I just decided to lay back a little and stayed with the middle.”
In the homestretch, Curham managed to display a little bit of a kick.
“Down the last straightaway, I passed three girls that got me to 14th overall,” Curham said. “I finished pretty strong.”
Mackenzie Barry of Mendham wasn’t as happy with her performance in the race in San Diego. Barry, who finished third in last month’s NJSIAA Meet of Champions in Holmdel Park, said that she could never really get going during the race and finished 27th overall in 18:21.
“I was a little disappointed,” Barry said. “I was really exhausted and I don’t know why. Maybe the time difference threw me for a loop or something, because I never felt really good at all.”
Barry said that she did a practice jog through the course at Balboa Park on Friday.
“It was an easy run, but I have no idea what happened in this race,” Barry said.
Still, both local young ladies enjoyed their experiences, running on the national level. If there was one thing that did take place during the journey across the country to run cross country, it was the lasting friendship that formed between the two Morris County performers.
“Megan and I really bonded the whole time,” Barry said. “I think we represented Morris County well. It just goes to show you that Morris County is a great county.”
“I had so much fun,” Curham said. “Mackenzie and I really had a lot of time to become good friends, along with Marisa Ruskan (of Bridgewater-Raritan, who finished 18th in 18:04). We were able to do some great things, some fun things together. It was great weather out there. It was incredible.”
Barry also enjoyed her experience as well.
“I was just so excited to be here,” Barry said in a phone interview soon after finishing the race. “I never thought I could be here. After three years of trying, I finally got here and it’s such a great feeling.”
Barry will get another chance next year, while Curham will be running in college.
“This is all so crazy,” Curham said. “I can’t describe this. It’s the best feeling in the world. I was hoping to get in the top 15, so I did that. I’m happy with where I finished. It was a great season.”
And as for her dream season?
“No, I never could have ever dreamed this was possible,” Curham said. “I still can’t believe it happened.”
Anna Rohrer of Mishawaka, Indiana was the overall winner, crossing the line in 17:25. Rohrer is only a sophomore. Catarina Rocha of Peabody, Massachusetts, who defeated Curham to win the Northeast Region title two weeks ago, finished second.
In the boys’ race, Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark won his second straight Foot Locker National Championship, crossing the line in 14:59. Cheserek did not compete against New Jersey runners during the NJSIAA races last month because St. Benedict’s is not a member of the NJSIAA.