Her fastest 5k in the past was on the street, 20:21 in October 2019. She finished 75th at Nationals 2018, but was on the outside looking in last year after placing 9th on the team at Regionals, when we take the top 8. Before yesterday’s race, she asked two times what her goal should be, even though I’m sure we’d talked about this countless times, it was likely the reassurance she needed. The mystery of the unknown can leave an athlete teetering on taking a risk and being brave, or performing cautiously and getting a predictable result. The quote “If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done, You’ll Always Get What You’ve Always Got” (Henry Ford?) comes to mind. Can she finally break 20-minutes in the 5k in the sole XC race of the season, while on the hilly course in Kentucky? The answer was a gritty “Absolutely!”
It’s hard to say whether one athlete works harder than another, as I’d like to think they are all working at their highest capacity and potential. But watching Charlie run 1k after 1k after 1k, seemingly passing runner after runner, getting stronger throughout the race, and pushing the chips all-in on the final uphill 400m stretch (and trust me, it’s a hill!) was one of the best performances I’ve witnessed. A well earned 19:38 5k, All-American status (15th in her age division), and a huge personal best on the national scene is the perfect way to cap off a year! What a performance!