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For McCarty, it's first ... at last

November 15, 1998|By RON SOMERS / Sports Editor

PARKTON, Md. - Always there were the expectations.

Always there were the disappointments.

For three years, North Hagerstown's Kari McCarty was "supposed'' to win the state high school cross country championship.

Every year, something happened, and she didn't.

As a precocious freshman, she was favored but took second.

As a sophomore, same thing. Second.

Last year, as a junior, she ran fifth.

But this year, for a change, McCarty was not expected to win. River Hill's Lee McDuff had beaten her in the season opener and had run strongly all year. Middletown's Randy Buzzell was the defending champion.

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But McCarty's performance Saturday was anything but expected.

She blistered the hilly three-mile course at Hereford High School in 19 minutes, 49 seconds to win the state girls Class 2A title. Her time was 25 seconds faster than that of runner-up Kate Frande of Mt. Hebron.

Buzzell finished fifth in 20:37 to lead Middletown to the girls Class 2A title with 46 points. Mt. Hebron was second with 96 points.

"I felt horrible like last year,'' McCarty said.

But she said she kept thinking this was her last cross country race in high school. So why not go for it?

"If I can keep it together a little farther ...'' she said she told herself. "I was really determined today. ''

McDuff had broken from the lead pack of five and seemed to be in control of the race.

But McCarty kept plugging away.

"Before I knew it, I looked up and Lee was there,'' she said. "She was struggling up a hill, then she stopped.''

But McCarty did not simply breeze by.

"I grabbed her arm and I said, 'C'mon.' She said, 'I just can't,''' McCarty said.

Indeed, McDuff couldn't. She collapsed and was taken by ambulance to Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

"She is OK,'' River Hill coach Earl Lauer said later Saturday night. "The doctors said as best they can determine, it was dehydration."

He said it could also be diet, and that perhaps McDuff, who weighs 90 pounds, hadn't been eating enough.

But the race went on, and McCarty was not to be beaten on this day.

"As soon as I got in first, I'm like ... oh ... my ... God ... I'm in first place,'' McCarty said.

It was a relief to finally finish first.

"The last three years, I expected to win,'' McCarty said. "This year, I didn't expect as much, and that took a lot of pressure off me.

"I've had a lot of disappointments. This means more than any other race.''

Her dad, Jack McCarty, was overwhelmed with emotion.

"She's worked so hard, so many years,'' he said. "So many years, something happened.''

The joy of the victory was tempered by the death of her uncle, Rick McCarty, who passed away early Saturday morning.

"That was kind of rough,'' Kari said. "He followed my running.

"My family was real upset. If I win, it will help some.''

Indeed, Jack McCarty managed quite a few smiles among his tears. The expectations had finally been fulfilled.

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