Great Redemption: After missing States a year ago, Lefever returns to place fourth

By on November 9, 2016
Zach Lefever of Ephrata is shown near the start of Saturday’s State Meet in Hershey. Lefever went on to place fourth overall with a time of 15:59. Photos by Preston Whitcraft

Zach Lefever of Ephrata is shown near the start of Saturday’s State Meet in Hershey. Lefever went on to place fourth overall with a time of 15:59. Photos by Preston Whitcraft

An untimely bout with appendicitis kept Ephrata’s Zach Lefever from experiencing the State Cross Country Meet a year ago.

Saturday, in what was his final high school meet of his career, the Ephrata senior let it all hang out in his last race on the sports biggest stage.

Sitting in ninth place at the two-mile mark, Lefever finished with a blistering kick that had him feeling pretty awful for about a half hour or so following the race.

But his post-race struggles were overcome by the joy of earning a fourth-place finish with a time of 15:59. Lefever passed several runners down the stretch to join an elite group of four District Three runners who took the top four spots.

Carlisle’s Noah Affolder captured the title with a winning time of 15:33. Nathan Henderson of McCaskey was second in 15:48 with Carlisle’s Sam Affolder (15:50) holding off Lefever for third.

“I pretty much stayed in the same position until about 800 meters and that’s when I just hit that other gear,” Lefever explained following the race. “When I got at the top of that hill, everything that I possibly had left I just went for it.”

“That last mile was incredible,” added Ephrata Coach Mike Hershberger. “That last mile he made up a ton of distance. It was an incredible last burst by him.”

Lefever’s fourth-place finish is the highest place ever by an Ephrata boy’s runner, surpassing Chris Ingram’s eighth-place finish in 1991.

“It’s an honor,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to represent my school in such a big race and a big atmosphere. I’m proud to be able to accomplish this.”

Lefever, who announced following the race that he has accepted a scholarship to run for the University of Pittsburgh, said he felt redeemed from last year’s misfortune.

“It means everything to me because it’s such great redemption,” he said. “From last year, not being able to race at all to fourth place…it’s awesome. It’s all I could ever ask for.”

Lefever said the race fit his style to a “T.” After a fast first mile (4:54) in which he was sitting eighth, he settled into the pack and waited to make his move.

“It was a fast first mile, and that was faster than I sometimes open up in the two mile in track,” he said. “It was very fast so I just tried to stay there and just tried to kick at the end. That’s usually my gameplan and that’s kind of how it worked out.”

He was asked if he was surprised that the top four spots were occupied by District Three runners.

“No offense to everybody else but I kind of felt that’s how it was going to turn out,” he said. “With how strong the District Three race is and how strong everybody is, and how much speed we have coming from District Three, I kind of saw that coming.”

Hershberger added, “I think it’s an incredible finish for him,” he said. “Our District is incredible. They took one through four and Zach just ran a great race, especially with the ground he made up. The Carlisle boys and Nathan are incredible, and for Zach to be running in that category is just amazing.”

“I told him beforehand, it’s just nice because he is not running to impress anybody,” Hershberger continued. “He’s not worried about colleges…he’s all set. It was just a celebration at this point so it was a really good finish to his high school career.”

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