By four-hundredths of a second, Heather Sandvik of the Westerville North High School girls cross country team realized a dream Nov. 2 in the Division I state meet.
Sandvik already is thinking about making even more decisive statements in 2014.
The Warriors' junior finished 16th (18 minutes, 57.85 seconds) at National Trail Raceway, .04 ahead of 17th-place Maggie Wagner of Cleveland St. Joseph's Academy to earn a place on the podium and all-state honors for the second consecutive year. The top 16 finishers stand on the podium and the top 25 earn all-state.
Sandvik was as high as eighth place with about a mile to go, but was passed by several runners in the final half-mile.
"I was actually surprised at how the pace was so fast at the beginning," said Sandvik, who was 63rd at state as a freshman and 20th last year. "At about a mile-and-a-half they broke off into a pack of maybe five or six and I was in the second pack. I just tried to stay and keep pushing and stay strong. I just wanted to place at state, and that's what I did. I definitely will be going for something bigger next year."
Heather's twin, Haley Sandvik, was 75th (19:41.29) in her second consecutive state appearance. She was 91st last year.
"I started a little fast and I just tried to hang on. The finish was a little hard because I don't have that great a kick, so I got passed a lot," Haley said. "I just wanted to place better than I did last year, so I tried to go out fast and then just hang in (and) stay with a big group so I could get a better pace."
The Warriors did not compete at state as a team. Mason (76) won the team championship over runner-up Beavercreek (107) in a 16-team field.
Pleased with the Sandviks' performances, coach Johnny Jackson nonetheless thought the course might have hindered them.
"The course slowed us down a little bit," Jackson said. "If it's dry, I think (Heather) easily finishes inside the top 10. But the podium was the goal from the beginning of the season. Once you've been here this many times, getting here is no longer the goal. That's supposed to be automatic. You have to get on the podium, and she did. It was great."
In the OCC-Cardinal Division meet Oct. 12 at Hilliard Darby, Heather Sandvik's first-place finish (18:22.26) led the Warriors to third (83) behind Dublin Scioto (54) and Hilliard Bradley (72) and ahead of Dublin Jerome (89), Westerville Central (90), Canal Winchester (135), Darby (178) and Westerville South (195). Haley Sandvik was third (18:44.4) and junior Jocelyn Sharpe was 12th (19:55.03).
North was fifth (110) in the 11-team district 1 meet Oct. 19 at Watkins Memorial behind champion Hilliard Davidson (48). Heather Sandvik was second (18:41.37) and Haley Sandvik was seventh (19:13.39) as the top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North.
At regional, Heather Sandvik was second (18:56.22) and Haley Sandvik was 10th (19:12.69) as the top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to state. North was eighth (214) of 16 teams behind champion Gahanna (90).
North loses three seniors in Morgan Bernhard, Allison Fugger and Alex Mobley. Bernhard and Mobley were in the top seven most of this season.
Expected returnees include Sharpe, sophomore Mary Swatzell and freshman Claire Wetta.
"We still need to get that pretty good fifth runner," Jackson said. "If I can get 20 more girls (into the program), I think that fifth runner will be inside that 20 somewhere. That's the only thing we're missing. We normally do the best with what we have. I'll stack my team up against anybody's. A lot of other teams do it with numbers. We just do it with what we have."