AUSTINTOWN - Going the distance has paid off for United senior Allison Parks for the past three years in Division II, and she's closing her United career back at state in Division II.
Parks will return to state in the 1600-meter run for the fourth straight year and is adding the 800-meter run this year as she advanced out of the Austiontown Fitch Division II regional Saturday.
the Division II state track meet for a fourth and final time as she placed in the required top four in the 800 and 1600 runs in Saturday's Austintown Division II regional meet.
"Exhausting, but it feels really good though," Parks said.
Parks earned her first spot with a second-place finish (an area-best 5:10.20) in the 1600 run, which she considers her strongest event.
"I love the mile," Parks said. "I always have loved it. I love the competition. I love these races where I don't just have to get by, I can actually run with these girls and do my style, and I just love it."
She got to showcase her style and her ability to come from behind in the 800 run. Assigned to the unfamiliar position of the eighth lane, Parks struggled a little but then picked up the pace and ultimately cruised to a third-place finish as she broke her own school record in 2:17.39.
"I was nervous at first because they put me in the eighth lane which I hadn't done for awhile," Parks said. "I've known from the past that you just can't give up because in that last hundred, everything could change."
Parks will now make it to her fourth and final trip to state before she follows her family's footsteps with the U.S. Naval Academy this fall, and for as talented as she was, she's excited that this chapter is about to end on a high note.
"The feeling is much better now," Parks said. "I was more worried when I made it to state in my freshman year because then people tell me 'Now you have to make it to state next year.' I say it every year. As long as I do my best, I can't be mad, right?"
She was fifth at state in the 1600 run last year.
While Parks will make her final state meet appearance next week, three from the South Range girls team will enter the state meet for the first time.
Senior Raianne Mason was on her last chance in her Raider career to clinch state, and she made that state dream a reality as she finished fourth in the 300 hurdles in 46.37 seconds.
"This was my last chance to make it," Mason said. "I hadn't made it before, and I knew I had to get there. The competition has been very tough, and I knew they were going to be strong all day."
South Range sophomore Mollie Pierson remained absolutely confident throughout the day as she became the regional runner-up in the 3200 run (a personal-best 11:33.40), falling behing regional champion Abby Soltisz of Crestwood (11:28.62).
"Woke up this morning, everything is just going right," Pierson said. "I just told myself that I'm going to PR (personal record). When I see my friends and family, I just get excited."
Pierson - who finished ahead of teammate Matti Dunham who placed 10th (12:01.86) - picked up speed in the race, and knew she had the energy to keep up with the lead pack.
"We were all in a pack throughout the whole race," Pierson said. "Then we got to the second mile, and by the last 800, I was hurting, but then I would be hurting more and would be so sad if I didn't push it."
Sophomore Emily Moretti will also experience her first taste of state next week after she finished third in the long jump (16-feet-5 1/4)
"I didn't expect to go this far with my first year in the long jump," Moretti said. "They've coached throughout the year and they've helped me and I'm just glad to be able to make it."
Moretti's expectations and outlook on the long jump has changed as she improved from last year's freshman jitters in the sport.
"I wasn't really good at it last year when I tried," Moretti said. "They didn't have a lot of long jumpers for this year, so I decided to give it another try."
South Range freshman Xena Maali was ninth in the 1600 run (5:33.62), while Pierson did not run the 1600.
Also for the United girls, junior Maggie Briceland was 11th in the 800 run (2:27.25) and freshman Brynn Hofmeister - who led in the second lap - was 16th in the 3200 run (12:58.14).
For the Salem girls, junior Alyssa Wright finished fifth in the discus (129-3), junior Marissa Swindell was sixth in the 400 dash (59.43) and senior Megan Lehwald was ninth in the long jump (15-feet-11 1/4).
The girls will gear up and get ready state track meet on Friday and Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.