Hickman cross-country runner 20th at national meet

Saturday, December 10, 2011 | 9:42 p.m. CST; updated 10:36 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 10, 2011
Hickman junior Nicole Mello crosses the finish line at the Foot Locker National Cross-Country Championships on Saturday in San Diego. Mello finished 20th out of 40 runners.

COLUMBIA – Eating ice cream at the beach with her father was how Hickman junior Nicole Mello celebrated what she called an amazing race.

Mello, a junior runner for Hickman High School, placed 20th on Saturday at the Foot Locker National Cross-Country Championships in San Diego.

She said the event, which featured 40 of the top high school runners from across the nation, was a new challenge for her because most of the girls ran at a similar pace and stuck together in a pack throughout the race.

“It was really just the best learning experience I could ask for," Mello said by phone from California. "I’m not always going to be out front, and I’m not always going to be by myself.”

Mello, who said she is nervous before most her cross-country races, said she wasn’t as nervous for this race. Before the race began, Mello said each runner was introduced to the crowd of spectators and ran out onto the course while their accomplishments were read aloud.

“It was amazing, I could not stop smiling,” Mello said. “It was like the spotlight was on you. It was a once in a lifetime thing.”

Although she was boxed in by runners during the race and had to work around packs of girls, Mello still managed to finish in 18 minutes, seven seconds. She said she was happy with the results because she raced her best.

Mello already knows that one of her goals for her senior year is to qualify for the national championship meet again. But for now, she’s going to try and relax for a few weeks off while she still can.

“My season’s done for now, I just want to take some time off and enjoy everything I’ve worked for."

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