y coach Jorge Chen tells the story of Lizzie Lacy’s birth into the Knights’ running program.
Having joined her freshman year to just be around her friends, Lacy was placed on the junior varsity team and would hang out near the back of the pack in practice.
But during that season’s first meet, the Westmoor Invitational, something went off in Lacy’s mind.
She did so well that a week later, she was racing at the varsity level for Menlo.
“And the rest, they say, is history,” Chen said.
It’s a history that currently finds itself at its peak with her senior season chapter still waiting to be written. But the part of her history that is her junior season campaign might be hard to top.
“The season was awesome,” Lacy said. “And not even just for me. We weren’t sure how well we were going to do but a lot of the freshmen that Menlo got really stepped up. The whole season was one big surprise.”
Lacy is the Daily Journal Female Cross Country Runner of the Year after a year of ups that culminated with a surprising and uplifting sixth-place finish at the CIF State Cross Country Championships — the highest finish by a San Mateo County runner and the best in school history.
Her finish at state was the perfect ending to a junior year that saw her finish second in the West Bay Athletic League (with a FIrst Team All-League nod) and a sixth-place finish at the Central Coast Section championships.
Going into that race, Lacy was seeded 16th — with one huge obstacle in the form of Harker’s sensation Niki Iyer in her way.
“I thought she would have to run a perfect race to finish 10th, maybe eighth,” Chen said. “It was a great race. It wasn’t a surprise to me that Lizzie did so well. But the placing she came in was a surprise. Placing podium was a hard feat to accomplish because [she] pretty much had to run a perfect race. And Lizzie ran a really smart race.”
“It was the smartest race I’ve ever run,” Lacy said. “I ran exactly how I had planned to.”
It’s a combination of skill and intelligence, coupled with an attention to detail, that Chen said put Lacy over the top this season and had her peak during the biggest race of the season.
Lacy’s time was 50 seconds better than her sophomore year performance and she defeated three other CCS runners in Division IV who had beaten her the week before — overall, she was the third-best Central Coast Section runner at state.
“It was insane,” Lacy said. “I had no idea I had the ability to do that. I just thought it was ridiculous.”
And then there was the personal accomplishment of taking down Iyer who Chen said had dominated Lacy during the beginning part of the season. As the season progressed, Lacy crept closer and closer to Iyer — but no one expected her to actually catch the Harker freshman at state.
“Coming to the second mile, I wanted her to be in the teens (in the standings), but I looked up and she was eighth,” Chen said. “And that kind of blew my mind. Niki was sixth or seventh and there was Lizzie, 10 meters behind her. At that point, I knew Lizzie was going to get her. She literally gave everything she had in the fuel tank. All the coaches in the WBAL, they came up to me and said, ‘Lizzie did so well.’ I was obviously very happy. Lizzie works really hard. She’s the kind of kid, whatever you tell her to do, she’ll do it to the ‘T.’”
“I was definitely nervous,” Lacy said, about the home stretch of that race. “But once I passed someone, I wanted to make sure I left them behind. I was nervous. [Iyer] knew I was in a good place and I knew I had to maintain that to do well. That’s what kept me going. I was really worried, but I just went for it.”
By finishing sixth at state, Lacy jumped into the Menlo record books. Her race was the best finish by a Menlo cross country runner ever — the previous best was by Martin Keck who finished 10th in 1997.
Lacy also led her Menlo team to a league championship this year — only their second ever and first since 1984.
“To me, it really speaks to the potential of Menlo’s program,” Lacy said about her place in history. “Next year, Zoe Enright is going to do really well and we have a couple of great freshman. So, if I did that well, I know as a program we’re going to do ever better.”