By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- With the winner taking over first place in the Big 10, the girls from Amsterdam and Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons ran accordingly hard.
"You know we all tried hard when we all can't stand at the end of the race," said Amsterdam cross country's Deb Johnson, who finished in fourth place.
"It was pretty funny," added Amsterdam head coach Stu Palczak. "Both team didn't stray very far from the finish line after the race. ... Maybe it's a cliche, but they all really put it on the line today."
ND-BG edged Amsterdam, 26-30, in the day's meet, as the Lady Knights' Talya Williams paced her team with her first-place time of 16 minutes, 30 seconds in the 2.6-mile race at Amsterdam High School.
Amsterdam knew Williams was likely to break away from the pack and record the meet's top time, so the Lady Rams focused on finishing plenty of runners right behind her. Besides Johnson's fourth-place finish, Megan Ottati finished in second place with a time of 17 minutes, five seconds, Delilah Quinones came in fifth and Chantal Dopp was the eighth runner to cross the finish line.
"The Amsterdam girls were coming hard at the end and doing their best to change the outcome," said Palczak. "But, it just wasn't meant to be today. ... We thought if we could split their one and two (runners) -- which we knew we could -- it would then be our pack against their pack. I felt pretty confident in (leaving it to) that, but it just didn't work out today."
To some degree, the Lady Rams (3-1) were just happy Tuesday to cross the finish line without anything going really wrong. Coming in 13th place, senior Kelly Paris finished the race in obvious discomfort from a pre-existing injury to her right Achilles tendon.
After running the first half of the race behind her, Johnson passed Paris and could tell her teammate was hurting.
"I felt really bad for Kelly," said Johnson. "When I passed her, she was really trying her hardest, but she's got a really bad injury."
But Paris finished the race -- a feat Amsterdam's top finisher barely managed. As Ottati crossed the finish line, she took a pair of off-balance steps before falling backwards into the arms of Amsterdam boys head coach Kevin Wilary.
"I don't really know what happened there," said Ottati. "I just kind of passed out. I think I was just a little dehydrated. I hit that line and I was out."
Ottati recovered nicely after hanging out for a few minutes following her race, feeling strong enough to take part in the Lady Rams' cool-down exercises.
Though disappointed with the loss, Amsterdam received several encouraging performances. Notably, Quinones continued her strong season with a time of 17 minutes, 45 seconds.
"She's really picked it up this year," said Ottati. "She's doing great."
Following the race, Palczak said his team resolved to try to avenge its loss to ND-BG (3-0) in a couple of weeks when the teams meet again the Big 10 championships in Saratoga Springs.
Ottati said she thought her team could build on Tuesday's close loss to help make that happen.
"We're a lot stronger this year," said Ottati. "We had our ups and down in this race, but, overall, I think we did really good."