SHAWNEE — Not even walking the course beforehand could prepare Sequoyah’s Hailey McClure and Cailin Warner for what would be a wet and muddy mess of a race.
With a cold front moving through the state with plenty of rain, runners competing in the Class 4A cross-country state meet on Saturday were met with flooded running trails accompanied by slick spots outside the Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee.
“We walked some of the course before we ran to see where the muddiest parts were, but it was hard to maneuver around them because there are so many people there when you’re running in a giant clump,” McClure said. “It’s hard to push through some of those places, so sometimes you just had to deal with it and step through it. It was quite difficult.”
McClure experienced her slip-and-slide moment late in the race as she rounded a pond on the southeast corner of the course.
“It’s really, really muddy over there, and there was a sharp turn where I slipped and landed on my side,” McClure said. “I got up decently quick, though, because I realized what happened. It was not good. Two people passed me, so I guess it wasn’t that bad.
“All of the mud on my leggings is really cold. I brought two extra pairs of socks just in case.”
She was wet and her feet were numb from the water soaking through her shoes and socks, but that didn’t stop her from finishing the race in a strong manner.
McClure capped her sensational freshman season with a time of 13 minutes, 26 seconds in the 2-mile race, finishing 32nd of 164 runners. Warner clocked in at 13:42, a 20-second personal best, to place 38th.
Jordan Hoffman of Weatherford won the individual state championship in 12:11, and Lincoln Christian won the team title with 67 points courtesy of three top-seven finishers.
It was McClure’s first finish outside of the top 10 this season, but that didn’t get her down.
In fact, she was rather cheerful as she wrapped herself in an aviation-themed blanket given to her by her father, trying to stay warm in the 45-degree weather.
“I really loved it, and it was really fun,” McClure said. “I’m definitely glad that I got to be here because it’s exciting. “It felt like a pretty good race. My fastest time was at this course earlier in the year, so I think I did pretty well here.”
Warner encountered challenges during the race as well.
The sophomore suffers from Osgood-Schlatter, a disease that causes pain in the knees at the tibial tubercle — the bony bump where the patellar tendon attaches to the tibia (shinbone).
“My kneecap will rotate where it’s not supposed to,” Warner said. “And I have a bump on the bottom of my knee that’s not supposed to be there that’s extra bone, so my kneecap will clash into the extra bone.”
She already must proceed carefully and wear KT tape to keep her kneecap in place while running, but the wet conditions made it even more difficult.
Even the slightest misstep could cause Warner excruciating pain, immobilizing her for a short period.
“If I slam my feet too hard, I’ll fall because it hurts so bad,” Warner said. “I’ve slammed my feet into holes before and straight up collapsed, but I have to get back up and start running again. On a scale of 1-10, the pain is a solid 8.5.”
She experienced some of that pain again on Saturday as she and McClure began their stride down the final straightaway toward the finish line.
However, the will to finish the race outweighed the discomfort.
“I landed on the side of my ankle and slammed my foot,” Warner said. “I almost fell, but I saw the finish line, so I kept going.”
It is a good thing she didn’t succumb to the suffering.
She bested her previous personal best of 14:02 by 20 seconds, a feat she didn’t realize until well after the race when the results were posted.
“I’m usually way behind (McClure),” Warner said. “She’s usually a solid 20 or 30 places in front of me, so either she ran slower or I ran faster.”
Sequoyah coach Brad Holt said it was rewarding to see Warner’s hard work pay off on the biggest stage.
“She likes track more than cross-country, but she started running cross-country to help get in shape for track,” Holt said. “She and Hailey bought in together and have worked pretty hard at practice.”