For four years Long has been the mainstay of this Perkiomen Valley team, always finishing in the top 10, but never taking the big prize she always craved so much.

This time the Perk Valley senior was not to be denied. Leading a trio of front runners most of the way, Long went into yet a higher gear on the final 200 yards to take the 2004 Pioneer Athletic Conference girls cross country championship at Daniel Boone Homestead with a time of 19:42 to lead her Vikings to a third straight team title.

"I am so happy there is no words for it," Long said.

St. Pius X freshman Steph Fulmer took second (19:44), with Upper Perkiomen junior Kristin Reed taking the third spot (19:53).

Perk Valley, undefeated in the PAC-10 the last two years, again beat Pius by just a point, winning 70-71.

"Steph pushed me the whole way," Long said. "All the hard work finally paid off. I threw up before the race because I was nervous. I really didn't know how it was possible that I could physically do it. When I saw that 2-mile mark I thought, 'We got to go,' in my head it was, 'I know I got to beat you, but both of us got to go.'"

By then Reed had fallen a bit behind.

"I brought the wrong kind of shoes today, I should have worn spikes, I wore flats," Long said. "But know what, it's the runner not the shoes. When we had about 200 left, I heard my parents, my teammates, my coach all screaming at me, it lifted me up. I thought it's mine."

Long had to fight her way back from a serious stress fracture early in the season, pushing herself mercilessly knowing it was her final year.

"It was very questionable at the beginning of the season because of the stress fracture," she said. "I wasn't motivated to do anything then, but now everything I've done for the past four seasons has finally paid off."

Fulmer was a super young runner at St. Al's before she moved up to high school this year. To finish second here in such a tough field was a major accomplishment.

"The conditions were pretty tough, but it was really nice competition," Fulmer said. "I came last year to watch and see what it was all about. I knew going into it what I was going to be up against, knew any one of us - me, Kristin or Brittany - could win. I knew Brittany would come out to win, this being here last year. It was really good for her."

She felt the two slacked off a bit past the midpoint, wanting her to take the lead. Her coach, Brian Sullivan, had warned her against that kind of freshman mistake. She remembered well.

Reed, who had finished a surprising second behind Perk Valley's Sarah Roberts last year, had concentrated even more soccer this season.

"I felt like I'm really out of shape," Reed said. "Brittany and Steph had just more of a kick. I'm not ready for that kind of push at the end. Brittany worked really hard to get back after the injury this year, she deserved it."

Nobody ever begrudged Long because of her hard work, and her always being a friend to everyone in this tough sport.

"I guess we squeaked another one out," said Perk Valley coach Ryan Sullivan. "Congratulations to both St. Pius X and Boyertown, they have great programs, it was as close as it could have possibly been. Our second girl (across), Kelsey Conroy, just ran out of her mind. Of course, Brittany winning - four years she has been in the top 10 - it was nice for Brittany's moment to shine.

"And I'm so proud of the program. For three years we've been able to put different girls out there and win. It says a lot about the strength of our entire program."

"I'm very proud of our girls," said Pius coach Brian Sullivan. "And our boys, too. For a team our size and a school our size, it's pretty impressive. I was thrilled with the way Steph finished. Let's be honest, we wanted to win this race, I thought she had the talent to do so. So we mapped out what we wanted to do to put her in the best spot to win, and she did it to a T. She just runs so much older and wiser than her age."

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