The Spartans have a new state champion!
Tiffany Herrera, a junior at Saint Mark's High School, took first place in the Division II High School Cross Country State Championship. She crossed the finish line in front of 115 other runners, from 15 different area high schools, with an impressive time of 18:51. And, if that wasn't enough... she ran 40 seconds faster than the Division I Champion!
Herrera is the first ever female state championship cross country runner in Saint Mark's history. She broke her own school record for the Killens Pond course (18:53), which she had established last season at the state meet.
“Representing Saint Mark's makes me so happy because our community here is like no other. We are one big family that supports and cares for each other and I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else,” she said.
Herrera has had the state championship in her sights for quite some time. “At the end of indoor track last year, when I found out spring track wouldn’t be happening due to the pandemic, I tried to look at it in a bright way and started taking my training more seriously,” she said. “My goals for this cross country season were to set a personal record and to win States. During all of quarantine and summer, on all my runs, I would just keep visualizing myself finishing first at the state meet and our team bringing home a trophy.”
Herrera has been building toward this success for years. As a freshman, she took third place at States and was named 1st Team All State. In her sophomore year, she placed second at States and was, again, named 1st Team All State. Her junior year has been a whirlwind of accomplishments and accolades. In addition to her recent state championship win, she had an undefeated season, was Catholic Conference Champion and was the #1 ranked female runner in the state of Delaware. To top it all off, she is the fastest female runner in Saint Mark's history (18:07 set at Bellevue), breaking the previous record by a whopping 20 seconds.
Herrera's coach, Michael DiGennaro, who happens to be the 2019-2020 Delaware Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year, is beaming with pride. "Tiffany is extremely coachable and is willing to do whatever is necessary to be great. From the moment she stepped foot on campus, she has led this team with the competitive spark that has made us contenders at the state level for the last three seasons. She simply asked what it would take to be a champion, and then she spent an entire summer and fall focused on that one goal. We are all very proud of her accomplishment as our first ever state champion!"
Principal Tom Fertal is impressed by Herrera's grit and determination. “As a Spartan family we are so very proud of Tiffany. Her tenacity is a testimony to her own character and to the dedication and support of her teammates and coaches. At Saint Mark’s we seek to inspire all students to pursue excellence. Mission accomplished Tiffany!”
To make things even more exciting, Herrera wasn't the only Spartan bringing home a victory last weekend. The Saint Mark's Girls Cross Country team took an impressive second place overall in the state championships. The team is made up of Herrera, her twin sister Stephanie, Natalie Donaldson, Kaileigh Brady, Kelly Barker, Hannah Heredia, Jordan Ormsby and Marissa Cirillo.
DiGennaro can't stop smiling. "Over the last three years we have shared some unbelievable moments as a program, and our future continues to look bright. What we love about the group is that they know how to work extremely hard, but they can have fun and make it entertaining at the same time.”
While the cross country season has ended, Herrera's training is far from over. “Now, since cross country is over, I’m focusing on track. My goals are to hopefully go under five minutes for the mile. Also, I would love it if I could get another state champ title and that our team places well at the state meet,” she said. “Next year, for cross country, my biggest goal would be to keep lowering my 5K time and finally bring home a first place team trophy.”
“After high school, I would love to run at a Division 1 school. I want to take my running career as far as it can go. My ultimate goal would be to have a chance to run in the Pan American Games or the Olympics. It’s been a dream of mine forever,” she said.
Herrera graciously shares her victory with all those who have supported her along the way. “At practices I always try my best, but I am not anything without my family, teammates and coaches. They motivate and push me to be the best athlete and person I can be.”
“Coach DiGennaro, Coach Katelyn and Coach Hannah are the best coaches I could ask for. I’ve never met more supportive, caring people. They also know how to keep the sport fun,” she said. “My parents and twin sister play a big part in my training. I just want to make them proud.”
To catch a glimpse of the Spartan runners in action, check www.spartanssports.com
for a listing of upcoming meets.