Pine-Richland distance runner comes home from states with personal bests, medals

Sunday, June 5, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Natalie McLean went to the PIAA track and field championships last year for the first time as a sophomore and took home plenty of lessons.

This year she applied them and the result was a pair of medals.

McLean, a junior at Pine-Richland, placed fifth in the girls 1,600 meter May 27 and followed with a third in the 3,200 the next day.

“I wanted to get a (personal record) in both events, but I didn’t set any place goals, because I knew it was going to be up against a competitive group of girls. To come away with two medals was better than I could’ve imagined,” McLean said.

She ended up setting new personal best times in the 1,600 (4:56.54) and 3,200 (10:37.47).

McLean’s two medals were part of a very successful weekend for the Rams. Meredith Price finished right behind McLean in the 3,200 in fourth and the boys 400 relay team of Brad Gelly, Nick Hartwick, Joey Dudkowski and Luke Rudolph placed fifth. The 400 relay team also won a WPIAL championship.

For McLean, the weekend started with a clean day in the 1600.

“That race was great,” McLean said. “It was my first medal at the state meet, so crossing the finish line was a real confidence booster. I felt really good that day, so I told myself to go out and try to medal. I did recovery and the next day I felt good again. So, I figured why not go for two medals? The first day definitely gave me confidence.”

That led into the 3,200, which she said is her best event. McLean is also a cross country runner, so she prefers longer distance events.

Another added element in the 3,200 was racing with Price.

Price moved into second place at the mile mark. McLean found an extra gear to move into position behind her and eventually pass her friend and teammate.

“It was great being able to race with her and see a familiar and friendly face out there,” McLean said. “She made a move and got into a really good position. That helped push me to get up there. We definitely pushed each other at the end. We both wanted to be up there on that podium together.”

To celebrate a good weekend of running, the team went to dinner and had a joyful ride back home.

“The van ride home is always fun, because I get to hang out with my teammates,” McLean said. “This year was a little sentimental, because it was my last race with the seniors. We had a lot of fun, played some games and talked a lot.”

McLean went to get some ice cream with family once they returned home, a welcomed treat after a long weekend of intense running.

She said she’ll take a little bit of time off before preparing for cross country in the fall. She will also be starting to look at her options for running in college prior to putting a punctuation mark on her Pine-Richland career.

“This meet gives me a lot of confidence,” McLean said. “It was a good way to end junior year, because it’s a big year for college. It gives me a place to set goals for senior year. I’ll be focusing on the 1,600 and 3,200 because I like the distance events.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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