PEORIA – Alexa Haff saved her best race for last.
The Hinsdale Central freshman – who established herself as the cross country team’s top runner early in the season – set a personal record en route to a second place finish at the Class 3A state meet Saturday at Detweiller Park.
Scorching the field with a career-best 16:45, Haff’s blistering time was runner-up only to New Trier’s Mimi Smith, who finished with 16:43.
Coming off first place finishes at the conference, regional and sectional meets, the Red Devils’ phenom relished her inaugural state finals experience.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way I executed at state,” Haff said. “I went into the race wanting to give it my all and not have any lingering regrets. I don’t think I could have done any better. I am just so excited with the way things turned out.”
Thanking her coaches, parents and teammates who assisted her all year, Haff admitted that she was nervous before the starting gun went off, but her pre-race jitters quickly evaporated.
“My teammates were really instrumental and calmed me down before the race,” Haff said. “Especially the upperclassmen; they told me to just relax and run my race. I was able to get out with the first group and I felt really good the whole time.”
A part of the front pack for the entire race, Haff took advantage of the flat course and near perfect weather conditions. She actually led late in the race, but was overtaken by Smith in the final 800 meters.
Following the race, Haff said one of the most rewarding moments was socializing with her fellow runners.
“Normally we just leave or regroup with our teams after meets,” Haff said. “But I was able to congratulate and get to know Mimi, Madeline [Perez from Glenbard West] and some of the other girls.
“We have a lot in common and share a lot of the same experiences. It was so much fun bonding with them; it was probably one of my favorite part of the weekend.”
Haff said that she celebrated her second place finish by indulging in sugar for the first time in months. Now, she plans to enjoy a two-week break before considering her next steps.
While she currently has no plans to compete in any races on her own, Haff assumes she will regroup with her team for winter “Polar Bear Club” runs. But, for now, she is enjoying a well deserved break and a little extra recognition around the Central campus.
“Everyone at school has been so nice,” Haff said. “Students I don’t even know are coming up and congratulating me. It’s been a whirlwind, a lot to take in. I’m just happy that I could make my parents proud and represent my team and school.”