Cross Country Preview: Lyons, Rinehart making anticipated return to course

Liberty's boys and girls cross country teams took off on a practice run Wednesday afternoon, but seniors Maeve Lyons and Heidi Rinehart stayed behind to get a few extra stretches in.

The girls were plagued by injury prior to the start of last season that kept them from competing. Rinehart said she suffered shin splints as a sophomore during track season and developed a stress fracture she didn't discover until the summer. Lyons, the 2015 Times Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, said she developed a stress fracture in her foot at the start of her junior year.


Girls Cross Country Preview Capsules

"We've been running buddies since freshman year, we went on every run together," Rinehart said. "Last year we spent a lot of time together even though we weren't running, we would be together at practice and at timing at meets. Now we're both leaders on the team and I can always relate to Maeve and she can relate to me because we both had alarmingly similar experiences."

Lyons and Rinehart stretched side by side as they helped lead that part of the team's practice. They say they're both healthy, and they're determined to come out driven more than ever in their senior seasons. And that means putting their injuries in the past.


Lions co-coach Pete Lester said even though the girls team faced adversity with the loss of Lyons and Rinehart, it should make Liberty stronger.

"We're just excited to watch them run again," Lester said. "They look good, they're picking right up from where they left off and at our scrimmage with South Carroll the other day, it was really nice to see those two ladies in the front pulling people along. They're veteran runners, they've been a part of our program for a long time and it's the same thing we're seeing on the guy's side."

Winters Mill starts the fall as the reigning county meet champs. The Falcons won their first in program history behind Times Runner of the Year Emma Kartalia. Century and South Carroll were next, and both teams return some talented runners this season.

Boys Cross Country Preview Capsules

The Lions finished fifth at the county meet, with Lilly Rainey taking 12th place as their top performance. Rainey, a junior, hit a personal record at the county meet, finishing in 21:44.5. She came in 19th at the Class 2A West meet, and 37th at the 2A state meet the following week.

She returns this season, along with senior Natalie Lansinger and sophomore Jenna Zietowski to help even things out with Lyons and Rinehart on the course.

"We've got some ladies who will be running right up on their heels," Lester said. "We're looking for our ladies to have a pretty solid year and the best part is just seeing them run again because they're competitors and they're fun to watch."

Liberty's boys dominated in 2016 by winning county, region, and state championships — it was the Lions' second straight 2A crown — but the rest of the county is likely gunning for the top spot. Century returns a handful of all-county performers after earning runner-up at the county and state meets last fall.

Lyons admitted to feeling the pressure to do well after her stellar sophomore season — she felt pain, she said, but kept running and it only got worse.

"It was a really big eye-opening experience for me to just be at the meets and see all my teammates running and not being able to run myself," Lyons said. "That just really motivated me to get well and make sure I was healthy for this season."

She finished second at the 2015 county meet, 10th at the region meet, and sixth in the state. Rinehart’s performance shouldn’t go unnoticed — she finished second in the region and sixth at states.

Co-coach Dan Jones has referred to the girls as a "dynamic duo."

"I'm just so happy she's here to push me and I'm here to push her," Lyons said. "I think this season, more than ever, we're just going to keep growing closer together and get better together. I'm so excited to watch it happen."




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