Nov. 21, 2009

 

By John Schwarb
Special to NCAA.com

EVANSVILLE, Ind.—Sarah Porter might have run out of room Saturday, but she didn’t run out of enthusiasm.
    
While Jessica Pixler sped away to a record third consecutive individual NCAA Division II Cross Country title for Seattle Pacific, rival Porter finished an inspired runner-up, eight seconds behind in a time of 20 minutes, 30 seconds.
    
“I’m pretty stoked,” the Western Washington junior said. “In my wildest dreams I saw me and Pixler running together—it’s been that way all year.”
    
Porter was second to Pixler two weeks ago at the West Regional in San Francisco, 34 seconds behind. She closed the gap at the hilly University of Southern Indiana course, laying off the pace early and then making a late dash.
    
Pixler and Shippensburg (Penn.) sophomore Neely Spence ran together for more than half the race, with Porter laying back in third. Halfway through the 3k race, she was some 40 meters behind.
    
“Just watching her butt for three and a half miles, I’m used to that,” Porter quipped. “My problem is I usually go out really fast, today I knew I had to be conservative off the line, so I started out right about in 20th place and just didn’t freak out. I know this course—if you go out fast, it’s going to eat you up and crap you out, so I figured girls were going to die on it.”
    
While others began to drop, she began closing the gap, but couldn’t overtake Pixler on a final mile that the champion said she was tiring on, completing it only on “guts.”
    
“If I had another 1K today, I think something would have been different,” Porter said.
    
Now, she’ll count on things being different next year. With Pixler out of the mixture, possibly on the way to a professional career, Porter stands to take over the top spot in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, if not the entire West Regional. In three years of running in the Championships she has gone from 45th to 13th to second.
    
“Jessica’s definitely been an idol of mine for a couple years, but I’m looking forward to next year,” Porter said.
    
Then, who knows? Porter can’t win three titles, but she can get one.
    
“Sarah works her butt off, she’s one of those runners that really logs the miles and wants it. I’ve got a lot of respect for her,” Pixler said. “If you want to look at an incredible runner, look at Sarah. Look at how much she’s improved in three years, that’s phenomenal. It would be cool to see her win it next year.”
    
And continue to keep the power in D-II centered on the west coast.
    
“We’ve got some competitive people,” Seattle Pacific coach Erika Daligcon said. “Iron sharpens iron, so it will be exciting to see what the future holds.”