PARSIPPANY _ The second-to-last hill on the cross country course at Central Park was in sight and Ivory Piskula was intent on attaining a PR.
All runners, of course, have that objective each time they step to the starting line but their minds, bodies or both don't cooperate.
Piskula, a Morris Hills senior, had the ultimate PR on Tuesday, Oct. 10 at the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Large Schools Girls Championship, finishing in 18:54.93 and besting her previous top showing by more than 30 seconds.
"Kate Shaw, a girl from Mendham, pushed me along," Piskula said. "When I saw that hill, I decided to push out and see if I could finish her in the race. I wanted to see if I could get a PR."
She said she was "so surprised" by her time. Piskula's previous PR was 19:25.37 in the third NJAC batch race on the same course. That day, she was runnerup to Shaw, a sophomore.
"I had a hard week of training," Piskula said. "I shifted my mentality into knowing I could do it. I try to stick with the front pack and see how my body is feeling at the end."
Apparently, Piskula was in fine form for the entire race and encountered no difficulties. She stuck to her plan and, in the end, was way ahead of Pope John's Katelyn Nolan, who was second (19:20.11). Shaw claimed third place.
"Ivory is just a quiet, humble kid," Scarlet Knights coach Mark DiGennaro said of Piskula, a student in Morris Hills' Math and Science Academy. "She's not big on the spotlight. It's not about her. It's about her teammates."
DiGennaro attributed her success to several key indicator workouts.
"You buy into the culture and Ivory bought in," DiGennaro said. "She's a quiet leader."
Piskula's athletic endeavors go beyond cross country. She finished ninth in the state in the 800 at the Meet of Champions last spring. She also is a defender for a club ice hockey team.
Mendham, with Nolan and Lindsay Portalnd among the top six, claimed top team honors among the large schools and scored 54 points.
"It feels really good," said Mendham senior Marissa House. "We all push each other."
"I'm excited for the counties," Sophia Draxler said. "We work off each other. It's cool to get an accomplishment like this senior year."
In the small schools division of the NJAC, Villa Walsh sophomore Blythe Dudley improved on her top time, traversing the course in 18:31.02 to take the gold. The Vikings garnered top team honors as well.
"I had a good warmup and I mentally prepared myself," said Dudley, a Bernardsville resident. "Everyone is so fast. All I wanted to do was hang on."
Dudley, who did 5Ks with her parents when she was younger, enjoyed the fast pace and ran alongside Emma Bradley of St. Elizabeth and Dalena Einreinhofer of Wallkill Valley for the majority of the time. Like Piskula, she made her move at the next-to-last hill.
"I felt like I wanted to push ahead and I persisted," she said. "I had to keep going."
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