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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Side-by-side: Seniors Charlotte Cullen, Raegan Borg lead district champ Mead girls cross country to state

Mead runners Charlotte Cullen, front, and Raegan Borg compete during the District 8 3A championships at Wandermere Golf Course last Saturday.  (Keenan Gray/FOR THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Raegan Borg was still struggling two days later to put into words what it meant to win the District 8 3A championship.

Borg, a Mead senior, had never won a race until Saturday. She had played second fiddle to talented teammate and senior Charlotte Cullen.

But there Borg was chugging up the final hill at Wandermere Golf Course before the brief downhill sprint to the finish line. She passed Cullen, who was struggling to finish because of a health issue. Cullen had become lightheaded to the point of nearly fainting. It was all she could do to finish.

Together, Borg and Cullen led Mead to a district championship. They hope they can help their team land on the awards podium Saturday in the state meet Saturday at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.

“I was pretty emotional,” Borg said. “I didn’t know what to think. I was kind of in shock. I never thought I’d do something like that in my life.”

It was just the second time Borg had beaten Cullen. The last time was their sophomore year.

Now the two turn their attention to state, where they’ve made incremental improvement the past two years.

Cullen and Borg finished 20th and 22nd, respectively, as sophomores and 11th and 12th as juniors. Cullen finished in 19 minutes, 3.7 seconds last year and Borg crossed in 19:09.3.

They weren’t happy with those times. They wanted to be no worse than in the mid-18s, but a 40-mph wind had a big say in things.

“It (the wind) was mainly against us,” Cullen said. “I felt it more than most because nobody was in front of me to block the wind and I wasn’t blocking it for anybody else either. I was in no man’s land. When it hit me, it hit me really hard.”

Cullen has looked at the forecast for Saturday. There’s a 50% chance of rain, but the good news is the forecast calls for a high temperature of 56 degrees – much warmer than the 38 degrees the runners faced at districts.

Cullen, Borg and senior Elle Vanning have been superb leaders for a young team. The rest of the Panthers’ lineup features three freshmen and a sophomore.

Coach Dori Whitford calls her fourth through seventh runners her “babies.”

Borg and Cullen have enjoyed leading the team.

“They motivate me,” Borg said. “I love those girls with my whole heart. Going to the (starting) line and seeing their passion … honestly, having a team that pushes you as much as they do really motivates you.”

Whitford has told her team to race the course and not be distracted by expectations .

“They will give it their best on that day,” Whitford said. “There’s no way anybody on this team could disappoint me. They’ve been just wonderful. They have high expectations for themselves. I tell them not to run the race on the internet.”

Still, Cullen wants to finish in the top five. She gave an oral commitment to continue her education and running at the University of Missouri.

Borg also wants to run in college and is considering a handful of schools.

Cullen and Borg also have been examples in the classroom. They both sport 4.0 grade-point averages and are in the running for valedictorian honors.

Cullen and Borg like the state course. Whitford will remind them again what’s key about attacking the Pasco course.

“The secret to the race is running the first mile smart,” Whitford said. “If you do that, you can control the next 2 miles. There’s nothing cooler than when you’ve run the race right and you have nothing left because you’ve been right on the edge.”

Cullen and Borg, close friends, have contrasting running styles. Cullen has long-legged strides and Borg, because she’s shorter, ends up taking more steps.

“We call Raegan the tallest little person,” Whitford said. “And Charlotte, when they’re side by side, is all legs.”

Borg has high hopes for her team.

“I think we have a pretty good chance,” Borg said. “Every race we’ve stepped up to the plate. If we continue to do that, we’ll have a chance to get on the podium.”

“They’ve risen to the heights that we’ve needed them to,” Cullen said.