For Aisling Cuffe, it was a new strategy that produced the same result.
Executing a conservative early pace and resigning herself to the pack for the first half of the race, Aisling Cuffe broke free at the midway point to win the Footlocker Northeast cross country regional race, her second in a row.
And while her time, 17:51, was slightly slower than the record-shattering 17:45 she ran here in 2009, it bodes well that she managed do so with such a relaxed approach.
"I just feel like I'm probably the fastest I've ever been," Cuffe said after the race. " I think I'm around 20 seconds faster than last year and I never thought I could even do that."
Now, Cuffe will travel west to San Diego for the third consecutive year for the Footlocker Cross Country National Championship, where she finished fourth a year ago remains the lone title to eluded her grasp during a magnificent and dominating high school career. She will go there not just hoping to win, but expecting to.
"That's been the goal since August so why change now?" said her head coach Dave Feurer. "Anytime she doesn't win, she's disappointed."
A win in San Diego would add to an undefeated season that has included wins at the Great American Cross Country Festival, the Manhattan Invitational and both the New York state and federation championships.
At Regionals yesterday, Cuffe was not as concerned about breaking records as she was about conserving her legs, an attitude she did not have at last year's race, where she broke the Sunken Meadow record by 23 seconds and won by 45 seconds.
"It's nice to know I can run that fast, but I don't have to used up all my gears in every race," Cuffe said.
Whereas last year Cuffe already had established a sizable lead through the first mile, she sat back Saturday while New Jersey state champion Megan Venables did the heavy lifting early on, leading the front pack through a 5:38 mile, up Snake Hill and in and into the picnic table area that precedes the course's devastating incline, Cardiac Hill.
For fans who expressed surprise that Cuffe wasn't already dominating by the race's midway point - and there certainly were a few - she explained her approach after the race.
"In previous years…what i would do is just run away from them in the beginning," Cuffe said after the race. "But when you get to Foot Locker, it doesn't work like that. I really just wanted to stay in the pack and not have to lead the pace."
By Cardiac Hill, however, the status quo was back to normal and Cuffe was back in the lead and on her way to the win.
Joining Cuffe in on the Northeast regional team are four more state champions, but not many familiar faces. Just two other girls will be making their return trip to nationals: Maine state champion Abbey Leonardi, who was runner-up for the second straight year, in 18:02.0, and Lauren Mullins, of Binghamton, N.Y., who was ninth last year and finished fifth this year in 18:11.
The other state champions are New Jersey's Venables (4th, 18:11), Pennsylvania AA state champ; PA's lone representative; Angel Piccirillo (6th, 18:27), and Connecticut's Jackie Nicholas (9th, 18:28).
The other qualifiers were Megan Lacy (3rd, 18:08), New Jersey's Caroline Kellner (7th, 18:27), Massachusett's Catarina Rocha (8th, 18:27.9), who, as a sophomore, is the youngest girl on the team and Ariel Beauregard Breton (10th, 18:28) also of Massachusetts.