On the Fast Track: Freshmen Paschka and Teply key to early cross country success

Efa Paschka manuevers past the hay bales at the Mason Invitational meet.

Camden Paeltz | The Chronicle

Some speedy freshmen are leading the charge for the girl cross country team’s fast start. 

The Comets opened their season with a victory at the annual Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Preseason Cross Country Invitational. Many of the top teams in Ohio compete in that race, and the Comets had not won it since 2014. That year they went on to finish as state runner-ups.

Efa Paschka led the way finishing fifth overall and first for Mason. Freshman Bella Teply placed ninth, and returning runners Carlie Condit, Grace McKay and Addison Stephens all placed top 35. Their efforts led the Comets to their first preseason meet win in eight years.

Paschka said that winning the preseason meet proved to the team that they can compete with anyone in the state, and gave them a lot of confidence and momentum heading into the season.

“All the top talent in the state showed up to that,” Paschka said. “I hope to improve a little bit on my placement. If I can, I think our team is going to be very good.”

Freshman Tessa Palmer has also been an early season standout. She has been one of the team’s top ten runners in each meet,  including being the sixth finisher at the preseason meet which is one spot away from scoring.

Mason won their second race of the season, the Moeller Prime Time Invitational, where Paschka placed first overall and Teply placed third. Condit, McKay, and Avery Legault each finished in the top 15.

Paschka and Teply were immediately placed with the top training group when summer conditioning began. The group consists primarily of upperclassmen. Teply said working with the veteran girls helped her and Paschka get acclimated with the team and culture and in turn, improve as runners.

“We have more fun practices during the summer,” Teply said. “It’s not running motivated sometimes, it’s just fun. It’s not all about running. They help us as a team because we’re becoming closer together. I think it helps that we’re becoming closer outside of running because then we can help each other, and get to know each other better.”

The Comets were victorious at their third race of the season, the Mason Invitational, and again Paschka and Teply were the top two finishers.

Teply was the Comets’ second finisher in their first three meets, but she did not expect this heading into the season. Teply expected to be just another member of the front pack to start the season, but said her mindset changed once she started competing and realized she was a top runner on the team.

“I was just like, ‘I’ll see what happens,” Teply said. “My goal time for the beginning of the season was over 20 minutes. I ran a 19:15 first meet. Then I needed to redo my goals. I wasn’t expecting to do this well.”

Paschka has already broken barriers in her freshman season. She shattered the record in the team’s four-mile time trial in August. Her debut time in the 5k of 18:53 is just ten seconds off of being on the Comets’ top-ten all-time leaderboard. Most importantly, she has led the team to an undefeated start. 

Paschka said she is thrilled that her season has started with two team wins and back-to-back individual top-five finishes, but is focused on continuing to reach new heights and build off her early success.

“I feel like I just want to keep improving my time and do well in races and help the team,” Paschka said. “I want to break 18 minutes in the 5k. I just can’t stop once I set these bars. The better I do the more I just want to keep improving.”

Bella Teply races in the Mason Invitational where she placed 9th overall.

Photos by Camden Paeltz