By Brad Fauber
Central sophomore Lexi Keller may have felt as if she was running blind during the first-ever Elk Run Trails Invitational cross country meet held on Saturday in Elkton.
Keller and the rest of the Falcons, who were unfamiliar with the course and had little time to survey the terrain before the start of the race, knew only that the trail seemed relatively flat. Beyond that, not much was known.
"I knew it was really flat so I thought maybe I could pick up my pace a little bit and run it a little faster than usual," Keller said on Tuesday. "At one point I thought I was going a little too fast, so I had to slow it down a little bit because I didn't know where I was going."
The obstacle of unfamiliarity turned out to be not so daunting after all, at least for Keller and her teammates.
Despite not turning in one of the faster times of her career, Keller was still able to race well enough to grab third place in the meet. Keller was one of three Falcons girls to finish in the top 10 in the race of approximately 15 teams, according to Central assistant coach Larry Bullock.
The official times and scores have yet to be released, but Keller said she finished Saturday's meet around the 21:40 mark.
Keller's performance on Saturday came on the heels of her fifth-place finish (20:40.85) in last Wednesday's six-team Conference 28 mini meet at Central's North Street home course. For her efforts, Keller is The Northern Virginia Daily's Female Athlete of the Week for the week of Sept. 1-7.
Over the course of the last two meets, the Falcons have had the opportunity to test themselves against some rather unknown competition as Central has transitioned to Class 3A this season. Bullock said Saturday's meet was a good opportunity for Keller to get a feel for some of the runners she may very well see again later in the year.
"She got to run against some new competition ... she got to see what some of those girls can do," Bullock said. "I was pleased with her performance, overall.
"Just to run a new course and see some new competition was good for us," he added.
Keller, who emerged as the Falcons' number one runner and finished 19th in the Group A state meet as a freshman last season, has quickly assumed a leadership role for Central's girls squad again this season. Bullock said the Falcons coaching staff expected to see Keller come in and be a top contributor for the team again this season.
"She's performing really well for us. She shows up every day and she's willing to work hard," Bullock said. "She's a quiet leader who leads by example."
While Keller's fast start to the season may have been expected by the Central coaching staff, the sophomore admitted that she may be a little ahead of schedule in terms of where she hoped to be after the first three meets of the year.
"It was kind of my goal, but I didn't really expect to be where I am at this point in the season," Keller said.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD