HERSHEY — Carlisle knew it had quite the challenge ahead of it.

In the District 3-AAA girls cross country championship, there were at least seven teams that had the talent to make it on to states.

The problem was, only four teams earn a bid.

In the end, the Thundering Herd did more than just squeak into states. They took home the gold, scoring 140 team points, 23 better than second place, Wednesday afternoon at Parkview Cross Country Course.

With the amount of talent around them, it’s a title that undoubtedly means a lot.

“That was really amazing,” said Maddie Kole, who led Carlisle with a fifth-place finish at 19:46. “I had faith in our team, but we knew it was going to be really hard. We went into the race knowing there was a chance of us getting first and a chance that we might miss out on states.”

Just as much of the Thundering Herd did, Kole has improved vastly on the 2013 season. Last year, she earned a trip to the PIAA championship, but did so without earning a medal at districts, taking 28th.

This year’s race was a much different story. The Carlisle junior cut nearly 40 seconds from her mark in last year’s district championship and catapulted 23 spots.

Kole wasn’t the only Herd runner in the top 10, as senior Leanza Lopez came in at 19:52, good for eighth place.

But by taking first as a team, the whole Carlisle lineup will make the return trip to Hershey next week for the state championship.

That’s something that will go a long way for Kole.

“With knowing my team is behind me and knowing they’re pushing to help the team try to make it to states, it’s really helpful,” Kole said. “Last year at states, I went to states individually with one other teammate. I didn’t fell as motivated without my whole team in there to push me.

“Now with everyone there with me, I’m really looking forward to it.”

Joining Kole and Lopez at states will be Haily Midgely (37th, 20:41), Caitlyn Padgett (41st, 20:48), Sarah Frick (49th, 20:58), Lauren Clay (52nd, 21:02) and Emma Bateman (80th, 21:25).

Email Christopher Hopkins at chopkins@cumberlink.com or follow him on Twitter @chopkins44

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