As she stood at the starting line, winning seemed like such a dream to Tara Sweeney that she didn't even bother to think about it.
"I didn't think it was possible," said Sweeney, a junior at Our Lady of Mercy. "I just wanted to place in the top three."
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But as unbelievable as it may have seemed, there was Sweeney crossing the finish line of the 5K in 19 minutes, 53.76 seconds to win the Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA girls cross country individual title Sunday at Sunken Meadow State Park.
Despite being wrong about her chances to win, Sweeney's self-awareness was key to her victory.
"I know that most girls start off slow, stick together behind someone and wait until the end to sprint past that person," she said. "I also know that I have a bad ending sprint and if I waited until the end, they would sprint past me. So I just got to the front and stayed at a pace I was comfortable with."
St. Anthony's won the team title, scoring 50 points. The Friars grabbed three of the top 10 places to earn their fourth consecutive league title.
Stephanie Leo finished sixth in 20:47. "The race went out slow, which was OK," Leo said. "I just went with it. I was focused on finishing as strong as possible."
The Friars' Shea Bohan finished eighth in 21:02.77. Delaney Worth, in her first race since Sept. 28, was ninth in 21:18.77.
Worth said she missed almost a month with tendinitis in her left ankle. "I was really proud of my kick at the end," she said. "I was proud that I was able to push through. I'm glad to be back out there."
Although none of its runners finished in the top five, St. Anthony's again showed that team depth is what keeps the Friars on top.
"Even though we may not have all run our best,'' Leo said, "we did our best for the team."