Marathon High School’s cross-country team has one more obstacle to overcome — the state championship in Tallahassee this weekend. Well, two, if you count the weather.

“It’s possible Tallahassee will be impacted by Tropical Storm Eta,” said coach Jim Murphy. “It’s been a unique year.”

Both the MHS boys’ and girls’ cross country teams qualified for the state championship, despite the COVID-19 rules that dictate only the top four teams in each region are allowed to participate. At regionals this past week, the boys’ team placed second, and the girls’ team placed third.

“That was our goal, to have both teams qualify for the state championship for the second year in a row,” said Murphy. Marathon High School was the only team from the Keys that qualified to race in the state championships. Murphy said the team was able to balance individual health while also emphasizing the team effort and accomplishments.

This will be the last race for seven seniors — twins Owen and Jonathan Pitchford, twins Allison and Sarah Paskiewicz, Haley Buxton, Katerina Nikiforova and Patrick De Medeiros. In all, there are eight girls and six boys headed to the state championship.

Weather aside, Tallahassee is a welcome destination for Marathon runners, as many students record personal records at the culminating race of the year. In 2020, the race has been divided, however, to make for smaller groups of runners. MHS’s 1A division will compete on Friday morning, Nov. 13.

“It’s just a fast race. Even though there’s a gigantic hill they have to run up twice, I think the atmosphere gets the student athletes into the zone,” Murphy said. 

The girls’ team made a strong showing at the regional meet, placing third, with the help of Katerina Nikiforova, sisters Allison and Sarah Paskiewicz and Rain Banks.
For the second year in a row, MHS senior Jonathan Pitchford finished in first place at the regional competition. CONTRIBUTED
Owen Pitchford and five other seniors are headed to Tallahassee this weekend for the cross country state championship.

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