CARLISLE — It’s getting tougher to think of titles and adjectives to describe Northern York's Marlee Starliper.
A freshman phenom last year, Starliper has already transcended a moniker like “sophomore sensation.” Now she’s setting herself up to be a full-blown star.
The York County cross country runner mesmerized on a windy Saturday afternoon, Sept. 30, at Carlisle High School, running a spellbinding time of 16 minutes, 50 seconds, to win the 25th annual Carlisle Invitational girls' challenge race in the final major invitational before the postseason begins.
“I took a lot of time to just mentally prepare for this,” Starliper said. “I didn’t know what I was capable of, but I just really wanted to give it all I got.”
It should be utterly terrifying to anyone she runs against that Starliper still doesn’t know her limits.
The list of accomplishments Saturday alone is impressive. And again, impressive might not be strong enough a word for it.
Starliper’s time was 27 seconds faster than any girls' time ever run at Carlisle. The previous mark, 17:17, was set in 1981, Carlisle coach Ed Boardman announced during the medal ceremony. And she did it in the fastest field the Carlisle Invitational has seen. Seven girls ran under 18:00, a new invite record, and Padua Academy’s Lydia Olivere posted a 17:02, which would’ve been the new record if not for Starliper.
The 16:50 is also more than a minute faster than Starliper’s old personal record, set just two weeks prior at Big Spring, a course she considered her favorite — until this week.
It's also seven seconds off the state's fastest mark, set by Mechanicsburg star and four-time District 3 champion Lois Brommer (now Lois Duquet) in 1981. The Wildcats' legend went on to run at Harvard.
And, if that wasn’t enough, her time is now the fastest time in the country this year, according to PennTrack USA, surpassing Ann Arbo Pioneer’s (Michigan) Anne Forsyth, who posted a 16:50.3 earlier this year.
Yes, the country.
Amazing herself: “I’m just amazed,” Starliper said. “This was totally unexpected for me, and all glory to God. I’m just so thankful for this experience, and I just can’t wait to see where it takes me next.”
Starliper sets out every race to drain every last ounce of energy from her body when she crosses the finish line. She collapsed just a few steps after she was done into the arms of training staff. It’s that level of mental strength, not just her own physical gifts, that allows her to continue to push her own personal boundaries.
“I don’t know,” she said when asked where her mental fortitude comes from. “I’m just so passionate about this sport and I’ve learned so much about myself through it.”
Being aggressive: The biggest lesson is to be aggressive. She learned that at the end of last year and during the spring track season. Starliper was out near the front around the first turn and said she felt great through a mile. From there all she wanted to do was “keep it fast but relax.” Olivere gave Starliper her first real test of the season, but even the Delaware senior was well behind the leader.
“There’s no different strategy [on upcoming hillier courses compared to Carlisle’s flat terrain],” she said. “I just wanted to just see how hard I can push myself to see what I’m capable of.”
A lot. She’s capable of a lot.