Eastern York High School cross county standout Maddie McLain received a text from a former rival on Monday.
"Maddie Ferner (a Kennard-Dale graduate and last year's York-Adams All-League Run winner), texted me and said, 'so, you have (the All-League Run on Tuesday), are you ready?' I was like, basically, 'yes.' She then said, 'who's your competition?' I said, 'well, there's this freshman from Dallastown (Emily Schuler), and she's exceptionally good.'"
Exceptional. That's the perfect word to describe McLain's season, too. She broke six course records and is coming off a second-place finish in last year's All-League Run. She has to be considered the favorite for this year's event at Gettysburg High School.
McLain has prepared herself physically and mentally for the biggest meet of the season so far.
"We had our last invitational about two weeks ago, and I tapered down to that. Ever since then, I've been building back up with distance and weight training. I've also prepared myself mentally, thinking you can do this," she said.
McLain, a junior, realized early on that this could be a special season.
"In our second dual meet, I ran an 18, and that was kind of my breakthrough," she said. "I ran in the mid-18s, and ever since then, I've been going for that. I knew our course record and Red Lion's course record were in the 19s, so I wanted to go for them."
McLain covered the Gettysburg course in 19 minutes, 15.43 seconds last year to finish a little more than eight seconds behind Ferner, who is competing at the University of Toledo.
"Maddie's stronger this year," Eastern head coach Joel Jacobs said. "She's run a couple of 18s this year. The Gettysburg course is pretty fast, but it's going to be warm (Tuesday). The temperature is supposed to be in the 80s"
Jacobs feels the key for McLain is to stay with the game plan she's used all year.
"Every race, she's run from the front. She's aggressive," he said. "I told her, 'don't change your strategy.'"
Other Eastern runners to watch: McLain is one of three Golden Knights runners who placed in the top 10 last year.
Madison Nalls placed fifth and Olivia McLain, Maddie's sister, finished seventh. Nalls is a junior, and Olivia McLain is a sophomore.
"Maddie and I were little when we got into running," Olivia McLain said. "We both got into it about the same time. My dad got us into running mile road races, and it went from there."
Olivia wasn't expecting a top-10 finish in her first All-League Run.
"When I did it, I thought, 'that's cool.' I base my training off Maddie because I know when she gets better, I'll get better, too," Olivia said.
Olivia considers the final part of the Gettysburg course the toughest.
"The first two miles are fairly easy, but the last half-mile is hard," she said. "It's drawn out over the grass, and you start thinking, 'oh my gosh, this is going to go on forever.'"
It hasn't been forever since an Eastern runner won the Girls' All-League Run, but it has been 26 years. Beth Colin captured the 1990 title in a time of 19:29.7.
The McLain sisters' aunt, Donna McLain (now Donna Vitacco), was a legendary cross country and track athlete at Eastern High School in the late 1970s and early 1980s who won league, District 3 and state titles in both sports.
Boys' race: While the second-place finisher from last year's Girls' All-League Run is back, the first three finishers in the York-Adams Boys' All-League Run graduated.
Jarrett Raudensky of York Suburban, just a freshman in 2015, came in right behind the three seniors. The runners who took fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, Patrick Jacobson of Dallastown, Jordan Maldonado of Spring Grove and Micah Boisch of Red Lion, were all juniors.
Reach Dick VanO'Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org.