It can be argued that Urbana High School’s Sarah Askine produced one of the best cross country seasons in the state last fall, as she finished third or better in all three postseason meets.
But when the majority of people reflect on the 2011 Urbana cross country season, the first name that comes to mind is Emily Mulhern, casting a bit of a shadow over Askine’s accomplishments.
It’s not a slight to what Askine achieved but rather an acknowledgement of what Mulhern pulled off in 2011: The freshman swept the county, region and state championships as she earned All-Gazette Runner of the Year honors.
But Askine’s performance, which helped the Hawks win county and regional crowns and place third at the state meet, did not go unnoticed by Urbana coach C.J. Ecalono and her teammates.
“I think outside the team, she’s overshadowed because everyone talks about Emily Mulhern this and Emily Mulhern that, but not myself and the 21 other girls on the team,” Ecalono said. “They know what she’s capable of doing. They know her ability and they know she gives her best meet in and meet out.
“Emily’s fast but they all know that Sarah is also competitive and aggressive and they know how great Sarah is and will be toward the end of the season.”
Mulhern, for one, credits Askine for driving her and the rest of the squad as a whole last season — a role Askine will perform again this year as a team captain.
“Sarah’s a great partner,” Mulhern said. “She’s so encouraging and she’s a mother figure to our entire team. She helps us. Last year, we went 1-2 at counties. It’s so nice to have my biggest competition also be my teammate.”
Askine, who began her cross country career in middle school with the Lightning Running Club under coach Darcy Strouse, enjoys competing with and against Mulhern and alongside teammate Kelly Winklbauer, a sophomore who placed fifth at the county meet and ninth at the state meet a year ago.
“I love running with Emily and Kelly,” she said. “We ran briefly with Lightning, and when they got into high school [last year] it made the team so much better. Kelly keeps pushing me and I’m always trying to catch Emily. It’s competitive between us but we’re good friends. It’s a lot of fun. I love it.”
Askine raced her way to second place at the Frederick County Cross Country Championships in a time of 19 minutes, 54.27 seconds, and she was second at the 3A West Region meet in a time of 19:38.42. She finished last season by taking third at the 3A state meet (20:08.5). She hopes to break 20 minutes at this year’s state meet.
“Oh yeah, I’m going to miss Sarah next year,” Ecalono said. “Not only her talents but also as my captain, my leader, my go-to girl, the girl who talks to the girls and gets them doing this or that. She’s the person I count on the most.”