NEWVILLE — One thing is known about Casey Padgett — he has a proclivity to pull off impressive finishes in the second half of races.
He did it in May in the District 3 Track and Field Championships in the 3200. On Saturday at the Mid-Penn Boys Cross Country Championship, the Carlisle senior did it again.
Padgett erased roughly a 15-second deficit about a mile-and-a-half into the afternoon race, zigging and zagging through nearly 30 runners ahead of him as the field wound through the woods at Big Spring High School and over Kill Hill to win gold.
When Padgett emerged after Kill Hill, his golden curls immediately recognizable, he was in the Top 5. By the time he rounded one of the last bends about 800 meters from the finish, he had overtaken State College’s Brady Bigger. And Padgett never trailed after that.
“It’s crazy, it’s crazy,” he said after his winning 16:11.89. “I wouldn’t have told you halfway through the race that I had it, but coming down that last loop I went past him, and I felt good. It feels awesome right now.
“This year I’ve kind of struggled with the second mile, and today I just really had it. I started moving through people once we got back in the woods, and I just kept going and going. And I just felt so good. Once I passed the two-mile, I had about 10 kids in front of me, and I got to my coach right before Kill Hill, and he said to me, ‘You got 10 people in front of you, but you’re going faster than all of them.’ He’s like, ‘Get past this kid and go for the next group.’”
Padgett made winning his first and only Mid-Penn title look easy, smoothly overtaking the final runners on that last mile with plenty in the tank.
“I didn’t think it’d be that easy,” Herd head coach Ed Boardman said. “That’s what we train to do.”
“I felt really good, absolutely amazing,” Padgett said.
He admitted he didn’t think he would win against a crowded field, but Padgett was certainly expected to claim one of the higher podium spots on the day. He picked off Bigger (third), second-place Weber Long (Greencastle-Antrim) and Mifflin County’s Brayden Harris, who was one of the race’s favorites but finished fourth.
Now Padgett is thinking another lofty medal at the District 3 championships in two weeks back at Big Spring.
“I think that this shoots confidence way through the roof,” he said. “Hopefully at least a Top 10 finish, maybe Top 5, we’ll see about a win.”
Padgett and Evan Peachey (13th, 16:42.93) were the Herd’s two medalists, and the collective finished fourth behind two of the state’s best teams in Hershey and State College.
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Kase’s legs ‘back under’ him
Like most teams, the last two weeks for Boiling Springs have been relatively light of competition.
Since the Carlisle Invitational, the Bubblers only competed in division duals. So for senior Evan Kase, the Mid-Penn championships were a chance to “get your racing legs back under you.”
It was a little more than that, as Kase claimed an 18th-place medal, crossing in 16:54.86 despite competing in a field stacked with big-school runners. He was one of a few from smaller schools to claim an individual medal.
“Definitely [a good race],” he said. “Carlisle wasn’t really a great race. I was coming off of a hard month of September with a lot of racing, a lot of training. … I think this is a good confidence booster for the team.”
Patriots see shades of ‘07
Aiden Gonder finished eighth, but it was a team performance that stood out a little more.
Gonder said after his 16:27.29 it was the first time, according to his coach, since 2007 that Red Land had at least four runners in the Top 35 at Mid-Penn’s. Twelve years ago the Patriots had five, Gonder said.
He was once again the highlight, though, steadily staying inside the Top 20 all race in a field that never really separated itself.
“It felt like we stayed together for a good bit. Everybody was really pushing, everybody really wanted to be up in the top,” Gonder said. “There’s definitely some good competition up there, especially in the last mile, I guess, there’s a lot of movement going back and forth after Kill Hill.”
The senior trailed a pair of Shippensburg runners — Hayden Hunt (16:23.45) and Elias Spence (16:25.64) — who finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
Those Red Land teammates on the podium included Grayson Stanley (26th, 17:03.25), Matt Johnson (28th, 17:06.92) and Wyatt Fox (31st, 17:09.42).
Rounding out the Sentinel-area’s Top 25 performances was Cumberland Valley’s Jordan Tiday (19th, 16:55.65), Northern’s Reid Weber (22nd, 16:59.58), Mechanicsburg’s Kyle Costello (29th, 17:07.16) and Carter Paul (30th, 17:09.34).