State Finals – October 31st, 2020
The State finals were run this past Saturday at the LaVerne Gibson Cross Country Course in Terre Haute. It is a challenging course with its rolling hills and many turns throughout the middle part of the race. It is very well manicured and spectator friendly. It is laid out in a way that spectators can cheer on the runners multiple times as the course loops back and forth. The 2k, 3k, 4k, and finish line can all be reached with a short jog before the runners arrive. It is a setting where runners are being encouraged with loud cheering more than any other cross country venue most have ever experienced.
Delta’s Nicki Southerland made the trip as an individual qualifier, but five of her teammates, along with some cross country parents as well, went to spend their Saturday supporting and cheering her on. Nicki was one of the few individuals considered as a top contender to win. She had two of the three fastest times in the state this year, albeit on faster courses than the state course.
Nicki found her way to the front of the pack early and came through the mile mark side by side two others. Only the lead gator was ahead of them. Nicki held position with the leaders until the halfway point, where the two leaders and three other top ranked runners, gapped her by a few seconds. By the 4k she still held the sixth position, but the gap up front had grown. With 800 meters to finish, Nicki increased her intensity and closed an eight second deficit on fourth and fifth place. She caught and passed them with just under 400 meters to go. She was making gains on third. Her pace over the next 100 meters made it look likely she would overtake third. Unfortunately, with less than 200 meters to the finish, her legs began to go heavy and not turn over as they had for the finish of every other race. It was now a struggle to just get across the line. The runners she had just passed came back by her… and then two more competitors went by before Nicki could reach the line.
After crossing the finish line, she imediately had to be assisted as her legs struggled to walk and support her. It soon became apparent that it was more serious than just the fatigue of an extremely hard run race. She was soon on the ground with nauseousness and difficulty staying alert. Medical personnel were alerted and came to give aid. Nicki was carried to the medical area to help get her warm, get fluids in her, and eventually give her some oxygen to expedite her recovery.
Due to the time needed to get her back on her feet, Nicki was unable to make it to the awards ceremony. She had finished ninth in a field of the State’s best and earned All State status. While it is certainly not the experience Nicki (or anyone) was expecting, it was an effort of which she should be proud. While it was not the place nor time (18:30) she wanted, those of us witnessing it know she gave absolutely everything she had on that particular day. She is to be congratulated on both her All-State placing and her great effort.