LEXINGTON - Ciara O'Shea jumped out to an early lead in the 1,600-meter run on Saturday at the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Class 3A State Meet.
She wasn't able to stay in front, though.
South Laurel senior Phoebe McCowan - who beat O'Shea in the same event last month in the regional competition and has signed with the University of Kentucky - briefly took charge after a couple of laps.
"I got pretty nervous," said O'Shea, a sophomore at Madison Central. "I know (Phoebe) has incredible speed, especially closing in the shorter distances. I just knew that if I didn't give up, maybe I could pull her back in and come out with the win."
O'Shea did just that.
The Central standout surged past her long-time rival and pulled away to claim a state title. O'Shea posted a time of 4:56.83, beating McCown by six seconds.
The sophomore added another championship a couple of hours later by blowing away the field in the 3,200 meter run. She posted a 11:11.09, topping Jessica Secor of DuPont Manual (11:23.63).
In the past three seasons, O'Shea has claimed five KHSAA state titles, including three Class 3A Cross Country crowns (2019, 2020 and 2021).
"It feels surreal to compete at such a high level with such amazing athletes from all over the state and just to know that I can win and be among the best," O'Shea said.
Led by O'Shea and junior Kaitlyn Cain, Madison Central finished eighth in the team competition with 28 points.
Madison Southern finished 36th with two points.
Cain was the runner-up in the pole vault competition. She cleared a height of 11-06.00, while Lafayette's Sarah Ferguson took the title in a new state-record mark of 13-00.00.
O'Shea also qualified for the 800-meter run, but on a hot, humid day she decided to skip that event to focus on the longest race of the state championships.
"I found some shade up in the trees and just relaxed until I had to get ready for the 3,200," O'Shea said.
Secor, who had the fastest-qualifying time in the field, went to the front quickly.
That didn't seem to bother O'Shea at all.
"Jesse is an amazing runner. I knew she was pretty fresh," O'Shea said. "I just figured I'd sit in and let her set the pace for a little while. Then, whenever I felt good, I could take over and see what I can do with it."
With three laps left, O'Shea went around Secor and never had to look back.
Madison Southern's Kaylynn Wright also qualified for three events at the state meet. The junior finished seventh in the long jump with a best jump of 16-06.25. She also finished 11th in the triple jump and 12th in the 100-meter dash.
Madison Central's Kirsi Rogers was ninth in the high jump after clearing 5-00.00.
Madison Southern's Kayleigh Moberly was 15th in the high jump (4-10.00), Madison Central's Emma Wilson was 17th in the discus (89-01), Madison Southern's Nadia Meeks was 21st in the 100-meter hurdles (18.20) and Central's 4x100 relay team finished 23rd.
DuPont Manual claimed the team state title with 58 points. West Jessamine was second with 53 points.