SHIPPENSBURG – The final hurdle standing in Rachel Hutchison’s way of the finish line wasn’t going to deny her what the Athens had rightfully earned. Not even clipping the unforgiving road block was going to slow her down.

Hutchison was determined to finish her last race as a Wildcat the only way she could fathom. So she powered through the stumble of that final hurdle. She coasted across the finish line with nary a competitor to be found and came to the quick realization she was a state champion.

Fueled by the disappointment of falling in the same event a year ago, Hutchison conquered the 300 hurdles at the PIAA Track and Field Championships on Saturday. She briskly covered the track, acting as if the hurdles were nothing more than a minor annoyance as she posted a time of 44.69 seconds to win the Class AA 300 hurdles championship.

Williamson’s Jules Jones earned a Athens’ Ariana Gambrell failed to qualify for the final of the 100 hurdles, finishing sixth in her heat of the 100 hurdles semifinals.

There was going to be nothing to deny Hutchison. Nothing could stem the tide of her disappointment of missing out on the finals of the 300 hurdles a year ago. So instead she used that disappointment as fuel. It drove her to put in the work to make sure it didn’t happen again.

“I think I had a pretty good chance of placing last year if I hadn’t tripped over one of the hurdles in the prelims,” Hutchison said. “I think it motivated me. Not making it to where I believed I could make it pushed me to be right here.”

And even though the relief of actually accomplishing what she set out to do canvassed her body as she crossed the finish line, she acted as if winning was what she expected to do all along. Because let’s be honest, it is what she expected.

She rode the line all season of confidence and cockiness, never crossing into the territory which could potentially derail her dreams. Instead, she ran every event as if she knew she could win but worked in between events as if she still had something to prove to the rest of the world.

“I believed this was possible,” Hutchison said. “I kept my composure and wanted to stay humble and not worry about anybody else.”

But Hutchison couldn’t help but worry about the competition to her left in Lane 4. She was the second seed for the final because Western Wayne’s Trina Barcarola had been the only one of the eight finalists to post a sub-45 second time in Friday’s prelims.

That left Hutchison with wondering about where Barcarola was going to be the entire race because of the stagger of the start. But Barcarola, who won the 100 hurdles and the pole vault earlier in the day, stumbled over an early hurdle giving Hutchison the opening she needed.

Hutchison ran a PR despite clipping the final hurdle and was .69 seconds faster than Deer Lakes’ Kiera Cutright, who finished second.

“It’s something I have been dreaming about since last year, and it blows my mind that I was able to work this hard and keep myself this focused to accomplish something like that,” Hutchison said. “You get to the state level and you think, ‘How am I doing this?’ The thing I felt knowing I was first was unbelievable. It’s a feeling you don’t ever feel, and it’s kind of dream-like.”

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