With the close of her storybook high school athletic career looming this spring, Lydia Olivere sought to author a memorable final chapter.
The Padua Academy senior certainly had little to prove as she entered her final outdoor track and field season, having already amassed an unprecedented record of distance-running domination.
Yet, she looked over the calendar and targeted two events in particular.
This being Olivere, she aimed high — at the New York Relays at Icahn Stadium on Manhattan’s Randalls Island and the hallowed Penn Relays on the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field track in Philadelphia — on the last two weekends in April.
She was at her best in both and became the 2018 William A. Thomson Award winner as the state’s spring track and field girls most valuable performer, as voted on by the state’s coaches.
Olivere heads the All-State team and kicks off The News Journal’s series of stories honoring the top athletes from the spring season of Delaware high school sports.
“This season I was so motivated,” Olivere said after a recent 5-mile morning training run at Bellevue State Park. “I obviously wanted to perform for the team but I was in great shape and I felt awesome and I just knew I was going to be in these big races.
“I just really wanted to prove I could be there.’’
She dominated the mile race at the New York Relays, clocking a 4:49.75 — No. 3 all-time by a Delaware schoolgirl — while not being pushed. The second-place finisher was nearly 17 seconds in her wake.
Then came Penn, where Olivere dug into her vast supply of late-race reserves and surprising speed to uncork a 9:35.14 in the 3,000 meters.
Olivere had been in fourth place with 600 meters to run and far off the pace, but her late charge nearly nabbed front-runner and winner Jacqueline Gaughan of Exeter (N.H.). Gaughan ran a 9:34.41 with Olivere second.
“That girl had won indoor nationals [at 5,000 meters],” Padua coach Marnie Giunta said of Gaughan. “That’s where Lydia belongs. She’s one of the best runners in the country and I don’t know if people really realize that and we have been gifted with watching her perform over and over again.’’
As she did throughout her high school career, which culminated with 30 state individual and relay titles in cross-country and track, Olivere rose to the occasion. In addition to the Thomson Award in the spring, she also earned her fourth state MVP award in cross-country last fall and her first in indoor track this past winter, giving her a three-season sweep.