Some people say it's better to get blown out then to lose a heartbreaker.
I strongly disagree.
If you get blown out, you never had a chance. You weren't even close to winning or achieving what you set out to do.
I suppose it's easier to deal with in the short term, because it's not such a shock. It wasn't as if you were close or winning and then suddenly came up short or lost a lead in the final moments, or had to suffer that ache of having your goal within grasp only to have it snatched away at the last second.
But deep down, if you never had a chance, you probably didn't really fight hard enough to get there.
Salem senior Mallory Maher finished 17th in Saturday's Division II regional cross country meet at Boardman High School.
The top 16 advanced to next week's state meet.
Twenty-three other runners finished 17th in their respective regional meets in the state of Ohio Saturday.
But 17 is not as lonely a number as you might think.
No. 17 as it pertains to cross country, literally means a matter of seconds. It's a gust of wind, a slight incline, and perhaps even just a shade of bad luck. It means you're right there. It means you worked extremely hard to be in the thick of the race, as hard and in some cases harder than other competitors, but likely just didn't get the shade of luck or stroke of good fortune someone else may have got that day.
To put 17 in even more perspective ...
Mallory finished No. 17 in Division II with a time of 20:54.34. That was better than 113 other runners in her division. It was better than 1,011 other competitors across the state Saturday. By just qualifying for regionals for the second-straight year, she beat out literally thousands of other runners in addition to the the 1,000-plus she defeated Saturday.
Overcoming the odds is something Mallory is used to doing.
The only daughter of a single father Bruce, Mallory has persevered in the face of tragedy following the loss of her mother Cindy 10 years ago.
She has excelled as not only a runner but also in the classroom where she holds a 3.7 GPA and is the Salem Cross Country Academic Award winner - a stat that doesn't show up on Baumspage.com.
Her coach Amie Cochran praised her efforts not only Saturday, but as the team's clear-cut leader in a rare rebuilding year for the program.
"Her leadership is why you see freshman Hannah Shaffer doing so well," Cochran said. "She looks up to Mallory. All our kids do, even the junior high kids. She fought the whole time. She made up so many places in those last two miles. She's overcome so many odds along the way. She's a fighter and always will be."
In a 2007 Salem News profile on the Maher family, her father related something Mallory said at age 12.
She said, "Dad, my goal is for me playing a sport and one day to have another player from the other team say, 'you played really hard today.'"
An emotional Maher sat Saturday after crossing the finish line in tears. Struthers' Catlyn Walker, who finished at No. 16, sat down next to Mallory, put her arm around her and very likely told her something to that effect.
Being No. 17 might not be easy. But it means you fought.
It's the advice Mallory's mother Cindy gave to Bruce, and the advice Bruce instilled in his daughter.
"Her last words to me were 'Don't ever give up, and to fight, fight, fight," Bruce said.
No. 17? Somewhere Cindy is smiling.