New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
Emily Maxwell was focused when she reached the finish line at the WPIAL Cross Country Championships last week.
So focused, in fact, that she missed one important thing — she won.
“It didn’t hit me that I won until making the tape,” Maxwell said. “I was just so focused. I was just trying to get that final kick in.”
Led by Maxwell, a senior, Laurel High won its first WPIAL title in cross country at Cooper’s Lake in Slippery Rock last week. Her performance earned her Lawrence County Athlete of the Week honors, an award sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff.
Along with the win, Maxwell and her team qualified for the PIAA Championships, which will be held Saturday at Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey.
“She’s improved tremendously since her freshman year,” Laurel coach Greg Schmitt said. “She’s always knocking off about 30 seconds a year. Her freshman year, her time was 20:50. She ran as fast as 19:36 this year.”
With a time of 20:14, Maxwell became the first girl to win the WPIAL individual championship in Laurel history. She also is the first girl in school history to make the state meet four years in a row.
“I’ve definitely learned it is a whole different thing whenever you get there,” Maxwell said. “These are the best people in the state you’re up against. It’s just a humbling experience to be there.”
Maxwell is seen as a leader by her coach and teammates, something Schmitt believes will be hard to replace next season.
“It’s her personality,” Schmitt said. “She brings a lot of charisma to the program. It’s her being outgoing and accepting new runners. She makes all the new runners feel welcome and like they’ve been part of the team and the family for a long time.”
Maxwell and her teammates have a tight bond, often spending weekends together watching movies and having bonfires. One of their favorite things to do is watch the TV show “Call of the Wildman.” The series is about Kentucky woodsman “The Turtleman,” Ernie Brown, who owns a nuisance animal removal business. Brown catches wild animals like opossums, raccoons and turtles from households and releases them back into the wild. He is known for his unintentionally funny behavior in what many call a nontraditional occupation. After he catches an animal, Brown yells his catch-phrase “Live Action.” This has become the motto for the Lady Spartans.
“One day we were watching ‘The Turtleman’ and all joking around,” Schmitt said. “He was always just hopping into ponds and catching wild turtles and stuff like that. We all thought it was funny because we found a huge snapping turtle this year on the course. We just all started watching and got into it. Before races we’d always go ‘Live Action’ as our team thing. It’s kind of our motto now.”
Laurel finished undefeated in the WPIAL at 9-0 this season before winning the WPIAL event, which were great strides for a program that was an unknown years ago.
“It’s a great feeling for those girls who worked so hard all year long,” Schmitt said. “When I first got here in 2008, we only had two girls varsity runners. Now we have a full team that won WPIAL and went undefeated this year in section.”
No matter the outcome of the upcoming state competition, Maxwell still plans on running in college.
“This is just the beginning for her,” Schmitt said. “Whatever school is lucky enough to get her, they’re going to have a great runner on their hands.”
ALL ABOUT ... EMILY MAXWELL
Known for: Maxwell’s time of 20:14 won her the WPIAL Cross Country Championship at Cooper’s Lake last week. Her efforts helped Laurel win its first WPIAL cross country championship as a team in school history.
Parents: Jerry and Connie Maxwell
Future Plans: She plans on running cross country in college.