It was a sight that caught Rachel Ingram totally by surprise, especially toward the end of the 3A Tri-Peaks League girls’ cross country championships Friday at Monument Valley Park.
“The bike was right in front of me,” the Colorado Springs Christian School junior said. “I had never seen the bike I think. Well, maybe at the beginning of a race but definitely not at the end.”
Ingram, of course, was referring to the bicycle-riding pace setter, who’s job consists of keeping runners from straying off the beaten path during a 5,000-meter race.
A basketball player first, one who helped lead her Lions to the 3A state championship game earlier this spring, Ingram broke new ground on Friday. She finished her race in a personal-best time of 19 minutes, 9 seconds. Fourteen seconds later, St. Mary’s senior Hannah McReavy – widely regarded as the top runner in 3A – stopped the clock.
As news circulated about Ingram’s victory, employees in the CSCS athletic department scoured yearbooks and other documents to compare to a similar accomplishment during the school's 46-year history.
They couldn’t find one.
“We’re pretty sure Rachel is our school’s first to win a league individual title from what we can figure out,” first-year girls’ coach Abbie Morgan said. “She rises to the challenges I put in front of her. That’s what every coach wants from their kids. If kids can trust their coach and the process, things will happen.”
If she had never seen the pace-setting cyclist, odds are that Ingram had never tasted the thrill of victory.
Friday was her first at any level.
“From when I ran in Landsharks in elementary school or any other time, I had never gotten first,” Ingram said. “This was my best race ever, and I’m not really sure how it happened. Before the race, I didn’t feel very good. I just wanted to stay close to Hannah, then around the last mile, I decided that either she’s going to win it and break away and I’m going to lose, or I have to break away from her and take the win.”