FORTY FORT – Megan Borton ran out in front for most of the second half of the race while a pack of a half dozen of her Dallas teammates stuck together throughout.
Borton and her teammates rose to the occasion of a regular-season-ending showdown for first place, winning their fifth Wyoming Valley Conference girls cross country title in six years by handing Lake-Lehman its only loss, 26-33, Wednesday in a meet hosted by Wyoming Area.
Both teams arrived at the final day of the regular season with unbeaten records.
With the championship on the line, Borton and the team as a whole ran their best races to date this season.
“This is the time of the season for that stuff to happen and for us to kind of raise up our level against a very good team like Lake-Lehman,” Dallas coach Matt Samuel said. “That’s a good thing. It means you’re headed in the right direction.”
Over the early stages of the race, Dallas and Lake-Lehman runners traded slight edges with each other. Scoring unofficially at the one-mile point, Lake-Lehman had a one-point edge.
The race, however, changed over the latter part of the second mile. Borton ran out in front of Lake-Lehman lead runner Jade Fry and the second half of the Black Knights scoring lineup began to lose touch with the Dallas pack.
After the runners passed the midway point on the 3.1-mile course, Samuel could see things changes in his team’s favor.
“The complexion of the race changed a little bit there,” he said. “It’s never over. That’s not nearly enough.
“It’s always good to get out well, but the race is not won at any of those points, it’s won at 3.1 miles.”
Dallas was still going strong at that point.
Wyoming Seminary’s April Kupsky used a big finish to win the six-team cluster meet on the Luzerne County Rec Field course in 19:09.
Borton was second overall, but first in the Dallas/Lake-Lehman portion of the meet in 19:15.
Five runners broke the 20-minute mark with Fry finishing third and Lake-Lehman teammate Abby Paczewski outsprinting Dallas’ Madison Baloga to the line by a second.
Jace Garnick came in sixth and, through three runners, Lake-Lehman had the advantage. Dallas, however, was much stronger through the five scoring runners and the seven that can alter an opponent’s score.
“Our race strategy this whole year has been to go out fast,” Borton said. “We were just trying to do that again, then just hold off the leaders, then kick at the end.”
As she ran out in front, Borton had enough chances to see that the race was unfolding according to plan behind her.
“There’s a lot of turns where you can see back there,” Borton said. “I knew Lehman had two girls back there, but then we had a nice pack behind them.”
Lake-Lehman, Wyoming Area and Wyoming Seminary all went 2-1 for the day.
“We have a very strong pack,” Samuel said. “I think a couple of our girls are a little disappointed with their own finishes, but I’m of the mind that it’s the pack which makes this thing work. I know they realize that and it’s a good thing.”
Dallas beat Tunkhannock and Wyoming Valley West by the maximum 15-50 score.
Lake-Lehman topped Wyoming Seminary, 22-39, and Wyoming Area, 15-49, to finish the regular season at 17-1.
The teams meet again Wednesday in the Ed Narkiewicz WVC Coaches Conference Meet at the Wyoming County Fairgrounds.