After the Northwestern Lehigh girls cross country team won last season's district championship, the expectations were certainly high a year later with a number of those important pieces returning.
Like a year ago, much was the same for the Tigers during Wednesday's District 11 Cross Country Championships at Bethlehem Golf Club.
Led by senior Haley Yost, who finished in second place behind Saucon Valley's Elizabeth Chikotas, the Tigers had four top-10 finishers in their effort as repeating as district 2A champs. The Tigers' team score of 36 was 64 points ahead of second place winner Wilson.
"Obviously we expected that, and going into the season, that was our goal to get the back-to-back district championships," Yost said. "Going into states, it's going to come down to the one or two runners for the state championship title."
"If we ran well, we knew we had this race in hand," head coach Chris Stitzel said. "I just told them to use this as a tune-up for states. I would put this team with any team in the state."
Fourth place finisher junior Carly Pierce (19:48), fifth place finisher junior Rachele Cerrone (20:05), and 10th place winner Rachel Mikols (20:43) rounded out the Tigers' top 10.
"They're running well right now, and they're all healthy," Stitzel said. "That's the main thing-keeping them healthy.
"Every week we give them a different challenge, and they live up to it."
Yost, who eclipsed her personal best at the Bethlehem Golf Club course by roughly a minute, finished with a time of 19:13.
"It makes me feel like the hard work is paying off, and that I'm doing what I need to be," Yost said. "Knowing that all those things are falling in place before states feels good."
Grouped near Pierce and Wilson's Sydney Brannon around the one-mile mark, the mindset for Yost was to surpass the second place runner at the time, Colleen Daday of Central Catholic.
Yost was able to do that, and hold off the rest of the pack for her second place finish, a week after coming in second at the Colonial Leauge meet as well.
"I kind of tucked behind her [Daday] on the switch backs," Yost said. "Just so that she'd be the one taking the wind, and that way it's more pressure on her too. I just let her set the pace and wore her out.
"Once I knew I was coming into the last half-mile, I needed to surge and hold it for as long as I could. And that's what I did."
In 3A girls competition, Pleasant Valley's Samantha Young finished in third with a time of 19:37, earning her a trip to Hershey for the upcoming state tournament. Pottsville's Paige Stoner and Parkland's Mikayla Stoudt finished in first and second, respectively.
"I knew it was going to be a fast race from the beginning because everyone wants to go to states," Young said. "I knew Parkland was going to go out hammering, and I knew the girl from Pottsville was going to be hammering."
"I wanted to get through today to get to next week. That's what I wanted to do."
With a half-mile to go, Young was able to separate herself in that third place spot, and finish the race on a solid note heading into that next level of play.
"This is my first year going [to States]," Young said. "I'm really excited."
In Class AAA, Parkland finished in first in the team standings with a score of 61 to advance to states, and Emmaus's 93 edged out Easton by one point to earn a trip to Hershey as well.
In Class A, Minersville came in first place with a score of 33 to earn a team berth at States. Pine Grove's McKayla Lally captured first with a time of 21:13, while two Schuylkill Haven runners, Chelsea Slappey and Emily Daniels, finished in second and third, respectively.