South Whidbey's Stelling meets sub-20 minute goal at state finals

South Whidbey’s Lillianna Stelling runs to a career-best time during the state championship race in girls cross country in Pasco. - James Thomas photo
South Whidbey’s Lillianna Stelling runs to a career-best time during the state championship race in girls cross country in Pasco.
— image credit: James Thomas photo

Lillianna Stelling saved her career-best cross country race for the state championship.

“It felt really good,” Stelling said. “I was really proud of myself for doing it.”

The South Whidbey High School sophomore set a goal to finish with a time under 20 minutes. Stelling finished the 5,000-meter race in 19 minutes, 56.2 seconds and placed 35th among 145 girls in the 2A race.

“I was mostly excited about my time,” Stelling said. “But I was also happy about my place, because I didn’t think I was going to place that high.”

Fellow Falcon Chantal White ran the course in 20 minutes, 21.9 seconds and finished in 50th place.

White, a senior and a team captain, also set a goal for a sub-20 minute race. But during the week, White felt ill and continued to feel sick at race time.

“I definitely did not feel good while I was running,” White said. “I was proud of myself for sticking with it and finishing to my best ability.”

“It wasn’t what I wanted, but everything happens for a reason.”

During the race, White aimed to keep pace with some of the other runners to help improve her time.

“Coach [Doug Fulton] tells us to just run our race,” White said.

White had a goal to break her 20-minute barrier all season.

She came close at the North County Invite, when she finished in 20 minutes, 0.34 seconds.

And the week before the state championship, White finished five seconds over 20 minutes at the District 1 2A race at South Whidbey High School.

“It’s definitely really frustrating, because I’ve been working since over a year ago to break 20 [minutes],” White said.

Distance running isn’t finished for White, even though she’s finished running for South Whidbey. She plans to continue the sport as a personal challenge, and wants to finish a 5,000-meter run under 20 minutes.

“It’s not my last race,” White said.

Stelling set a new personal best time and improved on the previous mark she set a week earlier at the district race with 20 minutes, 10.43 seconds.

Before the race, Stelling said she focused and felt more relaxed. She engaged in her pre-race mental exercise of visualization, in which she imagines running the race and breaks down the individual aspects of the course and her form, so she doesn’t think about it during the race.

“I pretend like I’m running on a cloud,” Stelling said. “And everything’s way easier to run up a cloud, and when I’m done, I can feel the pain.”

When she hit the second mile, pain settled in as she pushed herself the last mile.

“Even though it was painful, I had the state of mind that I had to break that mark,” Stelling said.

Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco hosted the race on Saturday, Nov. 6. Stelling enjoyed the course, and prefers running on golf courses because of the hills and grass. She attributed her personal best time, in part, to running on grass using cross country spikes.

Both girls enjoyed the state experience of traveling overnight with teammates.

“We had lots of good times and good memories,” White said. “The overall trip was amazing.”

“It’s nice to represent my school.”

Stelling wants to continue the girls team’s quest to return to the state championship, and hopes to improve her time by 15 seconds.

To help achieve that, she expects to resume a training regimen similar to this year’s by attending a couple of cross country camps and running almost every day from spring until the 2011 season ends.

“I was really proud of her,” said White of Stelling. “Lilli worked really hard, and she deserved it.

I wish I was up there with her, but I’m really happy she broke 20 and met her goal.”

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