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An ecstatic and exhausted McKenzie Evans is shocked (above) as she crosses the finish line first in the 3,000 meters Thursday at Hayward Field. Evans won the 2A crown that had been teammate Katriel O’Reilly’s a year earlier. Evans set a new meet record of 10:28.57 with the win. (CASEY KELLAS/The Observer)
O’Reilly finishes second in 3,000 as Union teammates take top two spots in 2A race
EUGENE — It was finally McKenzie Evans’ day.
The Union junior won the state title in the 3,000 meters Thursday at the state meet in Eugene, setting a meet record with a time of 10 minutes, 28.57 seconds.
She beat teammate and defending state champion Katriel O’Reilly, who finished second with a time of 10:41.79.
“I can’t believe it,” an emotional Evans said after the race. “I’m so exhausted. This feels awesome.”
It was just a year ago at the state meet that Evans was the runner-up to O’Reilly in both the 3,000 meters and the 1,500 meters.
And Thursday was looking like that might be the case as well.
O’Reilly and Evans separated from the pack with four laps to go. But Evans made the move past O’Reilly entering the final lap, pulling away before crossing the finish line faster than anyone ever has at the 2A state meet.
“I just took a risk and went for it,” Evans said. “It worked out. I was more just focused on me and how I felt — I knew I had to kill that last lap — and I did.”
O’Reilly said she was happy for her teammate.
“It was a good race,” O’Reilly said. “If I was to get second to anyone, it (would be her).”
Neither Evans nor O’Reilly said they anticipated the outcome.
“Going into it, not really,” O’Reilly said. “We race and we train together, but we have never raced a race that close. I realized four laps into it that she wasn’t dropping and I was in trouble.”
Union distance coach Steve Sheehy may have been the happiest of the three.
“I’m very, very proud,” Sheehy said. “You can’t ask for two better runners than those two girls,” Sheehy said. “They’re great teammates. They put in a lot of time together. It was a wonderful race — and obviously the best race McKenzie has ever ran.”
Evans entered the race with the seventh-fastest time in the state in the 3,000 (12:44.91), while O’Reilly had the fifth-fastest (12:23.14).
On Thursday, there was no doubt who the fastest 3,000-meter runner in the 2A is.
For one day at least.
Because both runners will be back next year for their senior seasons, where another showdown at the state meet may loom.
“They’re the two best ever in Union High School history,” Sheehy said. “It’s really nice that they’re on the same team at the same time.”