Last Saturday was a big moment for Valparaiso sophomore Sarah Worthington.
After six postseason races, dating back to their freshman year, Sarah finally edged out twin sister, Emily, at the finish line of the IHSAA New Prairie Semistate. Sarah notched a personal record of 19 minutes, 4 seconds according to Athletic.net to take 16th place while Emily also earned points with a 20th-place finish (19:39.3).
With the exception of last season’s state championship race at LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, it was the first time in a postseason race that the Worthington twins finished more than 10 seconds apart in a race. Not that Emily and Sarah compete against each other as much as they compete with each other.
“We know we are doing pretty good as a team when they’re close to each other,” Valparaiso girls cross country coach Boomer Nellessen said. “It’s very easy to group them together.”
While it may be easy to group them together, it’s nearly impossible to tell them apart. Sarah has a mole on the left side of her neck that makes it easy to distinguish, if one knows where to look. The sisters do their hair a little bit differently and when a race starts, Emily is normally the one who is racing toward the front.
“I like to go out and get a bit of a fast start,” Emily said. “I like to be in that lead pack at the beginning.”
Sarah has been content to hang back, until something happened on Saturday where she finally topped her sister for the first time in postseason competition. It’s not like Sarah has been lagging behind Emily this season. Emily finished sixth and Sarah seventh at both the IHSAA sectional and regional races at New Prairie earlier this year. They were separated by one and two seconds respectively. Last season they finished within one and two spots of each other in the same race and then Emily topped Sarah by six spots in the semistate.
The biggest difference between the two came at the state meet when Emily finished in 130th place (19:52.4) and Sarah finished in 155th place (20:16.1). With last season’s meet under their belt, the Worthington twins are eager to get back to Terre Haute on Saturday to improve on their times.
“I know a lot more about the course this year and what to expect than I did going into last year,” Sarah said. “Last year I didn’t know what we were getting into. I’m just trying to treat it like any other race and keep my nerves down.”
The Vikings are predicted to finish 11th according to Indiana Runner, a cross-country website that follows running across the state all year. Valparaiso finished 12th last season, coming in just behind Lowell and edging out Crown Point (13th), Chesterton (16th) and LaPorte (19th).
“Last year we put too much emphasis on where we were going to place as a team and as individuals,” Emily said. “This year we’re just focused on making sure each person goes out there and runs their hardest race. If we all run to the best of our abilities, that’s what success will look like for us.”