Emily Casey had a lot of firsts in her last year of cross country at Holy Spirit.
She made her first appearance at the Meet of Champions, won the Cape-Atlantic League Championships for the first time and broke the course record at the Atlantic County Championships as she collected her third consecutive title.
"My goal was to come out my senior year and do this," Casey said. "I did everything I wanted to do, and I'm really excited about it."
That's not all Casey did this year.
She finished eighth at the state Non-Public A finals, where she had the fastest time of 19 minutes, 42 seconds among all area girl runners. She also had the fastest time (20:36) among all local girls and finished 14th at the Shore Coaches Invitational at Holmdel. At the Robert Kiessling Memorial Championships, she finished second in 18:59.
Casey is The Press Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
"This is really exciting for me," Casey said. "I would look at people in previous years and think I would be really honored to get something like that and my senior year I did."
In spite of all her accomplishments, breaking the county championships record is her most memorable moment. Her time of 17:18 easily broke the record of 17:39 set in 2003 by Mainland Regional's Andrea Campbell.
"I was nervous going into that race and didn't know what to expect," Casey said. "I never thought I'd break the record, and I surprised myself and I'm really proud of myself."
She earned her first CAL championship in 19:23 and beat last year's winner, Millville standout Alyssa Harris, by almost 30 seconds. In her first MOC she finished 35th out of 173 runners in 19:37.
"I was really excited to go (to the MOC)," Casey said. "I never made it before and it was a really good experience. The best of the best are there and I got my best time all year at Holmdel earlier in the season so I was really excited for the meet."
Casey led her team, No. 9 in The Press Elite 11, to their third consecutive National Division title and the Spartans went undefeated (11-0) for the third straight year. The senior is undefeated in dual meets for the second year in a row.
"Emily has been one of the best distance runners in the history of Holy Spirit High School," coach David Pfeifer said. "Obviously, she had an outstanding season and she's been a great leader and big motivator to the rest of the team."
Casey is not completely sure if she will run in college. If she does, she is looking at Richard Stockton College or Rowan University.
"I'm going to miss my team, the coaches and the whole program a lot," Casey said. "I owe a lot to them, they really improved me over the years."
Contact Nyssa Dougherty: