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Pre-County Meet: Salisbury’s girls, West’s Pence claim first

By Bret Strelow
bstrelow@salisburypost.com
Muddy water had splashed onto Leslie Pence’s legs, soaked her pink socks and seeped into her turquoise sneakers.
Her left shoe was untied for the last half-mile in a downpour, but the West Rowan standout still managed to edge Salisbury’s Emily Shields in a late game of Slip ‘N Slide at Dan Nicholas Park.
Pence outleaned Shields at the line to claim first place at the Pre-County Meet on Tuesday, and Salisbury won the team title with 39 points. Pence and Shields each recorded an official time of 20 minutes, 35 seconds.
“We were slipping around,” Pence said. “We slid when we crossed the finish line. It was hard, but it was fun.”
Katherine Shields, Emily’s twin sister, took third with a time of 20:55. With second- and third-place finishes, plus top-10 showings from Jenna Bryan (eighth) and Karen Presnell (ninth), Salisbury beat runner-up Carson by 12 points.
Margaret Kaufman (17th) rounded out the scoring for the Hornets, and Sierra Zemanick led the Cougars with a fourth-place finish. Carson teammate Jordan Murdock crossed next.
East Rowan won a tiebreaker over South Rowan for third in the team standings, and West placed fifth.
Katherine Shields led the pack of 41 runners in the early going, and her sister kept pace with Pence coming across the bridge that precedes the finish line.
“I was just trying to stay with her the whole time,” Emily Shields said. “Whenever I tried to pass her, she would just go faster.
“I was like, I should be able to outsprint her because usually I can outsprint people, but me and her are both good sprinters, so obviously that was not a good idea. It was good because I felt like I’ve really improved from last year, so I was happy.”
Heavy rain began to fall midway through the 3.1-mile race, and Pence was prepared for sloppy conditions.
She made a trip to the mountains last week and crossed through rivers during a trail run.
“This wasn’t too bad,” Pence said. “It actually felt pretty good coming down. You couldn’t really feel it in the trees until it really started to pour.”
The same runners finished in the top three last year as sophomores at the County Meet, but this time the Shields sisters switched positions.
Emily, who ran a 24:00 as a freshman and improved to a 20:31 in 2008, took another step forward by assuming the role of runner-up.
“I used to beat her all the time, and suddenly she’s gotten way better,” Katherine said. “I don’t think she’s got me forever ó we’ll keep going back and forth ó so maybe the next meet will be different.”
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NOTES: Camille Craddock (sixth) and Brenna Pruitt (seventh) were the top finishers for South, and West’s Mary McCatherine crossed in 10th. Ashley-Kate Kesler (13th) led East.

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