In the only race she will likely ever run at Brandywine Creek State Park, Lydia Olivere smashed the record at the state’s toughest course and won her third straight Division I cross country championship.
With no one running near her Saturday, the Padua junior created her own pace, seeming to accelerate through the second half to finish the five kilometers in 18:23.1, some 85 seconds ahead of runner-up Naomi Bowser of Smyrna, besting by 12 seconds the course standard set on a slightly different configuration in 2010 by Tatnall’s Haley Pierce.
Her Padua teammates were likewise dominant. The Pandas took seven of the first nine places, their 19 points the most overwhelming margin in Division I, in a sport where the low score wins, since a Padua team with Colleen O’Connor, Mary Mundy, Michelle Lucey, Mary Anderson and Dawn Moore won the 1982 meet, the second ever held, with 16 points.
Padua trains at the Creek, but its interstate schedule made this the Pandas’ only competition on their home course. “We know what it’s like to work hard here,” Olivere said. “I was really excited just to see what I could do, because I had no expectations, no idea of what I was capable of, so I was really happy with it.
Brandywine Creek is more unforgiving than any other course, not only because of its hills, but because the finish line is 56 feet higher than the start. From the bottom of Maintenance Hill, approaching the course’s midpoint, the climb is 112 feet to the finish.
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“Confidence and being fearless” are needed to succeed on the course, said the Padua junior. “You can’t be afraid. You have to come in and attack it. That was our mindset today.”
“It’s really an extra challenge,” said Bowser, the Henlopen Conference champion, who with Abby Mace (12th) led Smyrna to third place. “Once you’re up that hill and you’re not used it, it just really drains everything.”
Seniors Maddie Olivere (3rd), returning to the form that placed her fourth in the Joe O’Neill Invitational last month, and Hannah Apostolico (4th) were followed by Alicia Lenoir (5th), Katie Hally (6th), Victoria Steinhoff (8th) and Anna Cleary (9th) who completed the Padua sweep.
Blue Hen Conference champion Maya Bordrick (7th), Sydney Kriner (11th) and Emily Martin (15th) paced runner-up Wilmington Charter. Cape Henlopen’s Olivia Brozefsky (10), Naomi Dawkins of Newark (13th) and Grace Slate of Concord (14th) completed the top 15.