Gabriella Karas didn’t meet her goal of finishing in the top 15, but the Collins High School freshman said the experience of competing in Saturday’s Foot Locker Cross Country Championships was memorable nonetheless.
Karas finished 25th out of 40 runners with a time of 18 minutes, 17 seconds over the 5,000-meter course at Balboa Park in San Diego.
“Honestly, I still have a smile on my face,” Karas said. “I’m so grateful just to be here. I have three more years to try to get in the top 15. It’s all been an incredible experience.”
Tessa Barrett, a senior from Waverly, Pa., won the event in 17:16.
Karas has won three straight Class 2-A state championships and qualified for the Foot Locker event by finishing fourth in the South Regional on Nov. 30 in Charlotte, N.C.
Karas said the San Diego course was much like the state-meet course at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
“It’s extremely hilly and has so many turns,” she said. “It’s just hard to make up any time. Once you lose your position, good luck getting it back. You just have to keep your head in it at all times and stay strong and know how to race those hills.”
Karas arrived in San Diego on Thursday and said it was her first trip to the West Coast. She went to a beach one day and planned to go ice skating late Saturday.
“It’s beautiful out here,” she said. “I love it so much.”
Karas said she plans to take a two-week break before beginning training for the track and field season.