EUGENE — Any high-school runner who believes she can beat Christy Paul understands that she must run the race of her life.
Few can match the determination or competitive drive of the HRV junior and 2001 state cross-country champion.
But at last weekend’s OSAA/ U.S. Bank State Track and Field Championships, a group of four iron-willed, frozen-nerved upstarts figured out a way to keep up with her — and eventually, surpass her.
“I just didn’t have the same drive this time around,” said Paul, who finished fourth in the 3,000 meters and fifth in the 1,500. “There was something missing. I mean, I could’ve gone faster, but for some reason, when the other girls were passing me, I didn’t really care.”
Paul explained that her passion doesn’t lie in track and field, and although she was pleased to finish in the top five, she is more concerned with defending her state cross-country title.
“I’m already thinking toward the fall,” she said. “I’m going to keep increasing my mileage all summer and hopefully I’ll be able to match my performance from last year. If I could beat these same girls in cross-country, that would mean a lot.”
Paul did run a personal-best time of 10:09.62 in the 3,000, but fell off her pace slightly in the 1,500 with a time of 4:48.58 (PR of 4:45 set at district May 14-15).
But even if she had demolished her PR’s, she still wouldn’t have caught Tualatin’s Meghan Armstrong. The sophomore speedster, who placed second in the 2001 state cross-country meet, ran a 9:57.55 in the 3,000 and a 4:39.84 in the 1,500 to win dual state titles.
Along with Armstrong, Paul’s prime competition in the fall of 2002 will be Erin Gray of South Eugene, Erin McMahon of Mountain View and Elizabeth Carey of Cleveland.
For the first time in three years, Paul wasn’t alone at the state track meet. Sophomore Anna Hidle joined her in two events, and although she didn’t exceed her PR performances from the district meet, she still had the time of her life.
“The place was packed,” said Hidle, who ran the 400 meters and competed in the high jump. “The thing I remember most was that there were so many people. It was a totally different feel than districts. But it was so much fun!”
Hidle ran her second-best time of the season in the 400 (1:01; 17th place) and posted her second-best leap in the high jump (5 feet; 11th place), which gave her confidence heading into next season.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “I was really happy to have made it and felt like I did my best. I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself, though. I was pretty relaxed the whole weekend.”
Hidle said she felt a lot more pressure at district, which may have factored into her breakout performance. Because she was expected to do well, she didn’t want to let her teammates down. Not only that, but believed her chances of winning at district were greater than at state.
“District was a lot different because I had competed against everyone before,” she said. “At state, though, the field was totally unfamiliar. I wasn’t trying to catch anyone. I just wanted to do my best.”
Hidle never got a chance to rekindle her rivalry with David Douglas star Ashley Quay — the senior runner who barely outdistanced her in the 400, and barely out-leaped her in the high jump at district.
The two competed in separate heats at state, and Hidle said she never even thought about what Quay was doing. Lucky for Hidle, her rival is moving on, while she has two more years to shoot for a district title.
Hidle will play soccer and basketball for HRV next year to maintain peak physical condition.