NOV. 10, 2021 — Not only did Katelyn Wilkes win the Class C Sectional Cross Country Championship and a trip to the state meet, but she won a Jeep, too.
The Midlakes junior was the first runner to cross the finish line, ahead of approximately 80 other runners in Class C completing the 3.1-mile race on Saturday, Nov. 6, at Letchworth State Park. The win completes a friendly family wager made by her father, Jim Wilkes.
"I'm sticking to the bet," he said by phone three days after the race. "She always wanted a Jeep. When I get her one, it’ll be a nice one."
The Sectional win caps off Wilkes’ ascend to the top of the Section V Class C cross country championships, which included a 10th place finish as a freshman and a sixth-place finish last year. Wilkes finished with a personal best time of 20:08, about 16 seconds ahead of the second-place finishers, LeRoy's Charlotte Blake.
"She has been consistency getting better since seventh grade," said Julie Backus, her coach. "She has gotten taller and faster. There’s been no lull."
Overall, the girls' team finished seventh in team scoring while the boys' team locked down sixth place.
"First, I wanted to make it states, which is (placing) in the top five in sectionals," said Wilkes. "Once we got further into the season, I realized who I was actually going against, and I realized that I had a chance at winning sectionals."
Wilkes worked hard to shave off nearly a minute of her personal best time. During the summer, she logged almost 400 miles, running 4-6 six miles three times a week, with additional workouts to focus on speed and form.
Wilkes, who also runs on Midlakes indoor and outdoor track and field teams, will compete in the state cross country race at Chenango Valley State Park on Saturday, Nov. 13.
"I tried to push myself a lot over the summer to get in shape for this," said Wilkes, adding that she “just tried to pick a race pace and hold it” for the sectional race.
Backus, a teacher at Midlakes Elementary School, said many of her students came into school on Monday celebrating Wilkes' title.
"My fourth graders knew," said Backus. "I came in and they were like, ‘She won! She won!’ All the kids were so excited. It was a huge adrenaline rush to have her be out front like that."