Floyd sophomore Zariel Macchia.

Floyd sophomore Zariel Macchia. Credit: Louis lanzano

It was early Saturday morning in San Diego and Zariel Macchia realized just how cool everything was. She was leading a national championship race, out in front of some of the best girls in the country — a short list that absolutely includes her.  

And no, the lead did not stay — with the Floyd sophomore finishing sixth in 17 minutes, 33.9 seconds at the Champs Sports National Cross Country Championships on the 5-kilometer course at Balboa Park in California — but the day was another banner one for Macchia.

“I feel like I’ve reached a point where I can run with all of these girls,” Macchia said. “Sometimes it really just depends on the day. Sometimes you have a great day and you feel great and sometimes you don’t. When you get to this level, it obviously depends on your training, but sometimes it just depends on the day.”

Cornwall’s Karrie Baloga — who was the only runner to finish faster than Macchia at the state public school championships last month — won the Champs national title in 16:49.2. Macchia was the second-fastest sophomore and the third-fastest underclassman in the race.

It was a definite improvement for Macchia, who placed third in last year’s championships, but ran 14 seconds slower than she did on Saturday.

Macchia took this year’s championships out hard, leading for approximately 600 meters before the field caught up with her. Once the quick lead pack, which included Baloga and Ellie Shea — the Massachusetts junior who beat Macchia at the Champs Northeast Regional on Thanksgiving Weekend — went ahead, Macchia stayed back and led the chase pack.  

“They pulled away a little more than I would have liked to give them. It was a tough balance to try and find the right pace, where it’s not too fast to hold or too conservative,” Macchia said. “….Sixth place was awesome. But, if I were to improve anything, I would have liked to stay with that top pack a little bit longer and see how far I could go. I think if I had hung in there a little longer, I might have had a third place in me, but I’m really happy with the race.”

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