The Northwestern girls cross country team has been unbeatable for as long as most on the team can remember.
The Lady Tigers haven't lost a duel meet since 2010, and have won the last four Colonial League regular season and league meet championships in convincing fashion en route to three straight District 11 Class AA titles.
But a fourth district crown seemed unlikely last Thursday after Allentown Central Catholic took the top three spots in the race, with Colleen Dady finishing first in 19:17.
Runners are usually pretty durable athletes. When it comes to distance running, that resiliency tends to be even more crucial, especially throughout the long grind of a track or cross country season.
Most athletes are racing multiple times per week while logging additional miles training when they're not competing.
As with most anything else, it takes an appropriate balance of activity to make it through the year unscathed.
Regardless of one's skill or experience level, injuries happen, and are often unavoidable.
Close games and Northwestern softball have gone hand-in-hand this season.
Entering play Monday, the Lady Tigers had been in four extra-inning affairs, all of which were decided by two runs or less. The team also split two games that ended in regulation which were decided by the same margin.
Facing a Lehighton team that was coming off two dominant wins in which it averaged over 19 runs per game, it seemed unlikely that the Cardiac Cats could risk playing catch up once again.
Talent, depth and leadership are all traits that have separated the Northwestern Lehigh track and field program from its peers over the past few seasons.
Those skills were on full display last Thursday as Northwestern swept Colonial League rival Palmerton, with the boys picking up an 84-66 win and the girls claiming a 104.5-40.5 victory.
The Tigers (5-0) claimed victory in a highly competitive boys' meet by placing at least two in the points-earning places in seven events and by sweeping all three relays.
The words of Northwestern baseball coach Len Smith were a perfect summation of the Tigers' Colonial League clash against rival Northern Lehigh.
"That's why you play the game," he said of his team's 6-5, come-from-behind win on Tuesday.
Trailing 5-2 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, Northwestern manufactured four runs and five hits, capped by Josh Williamson's game-winning RBI single to claim a remarkable 6-5 win.
"I tell the kids to never give up until that final out," said Smith. "We're very fortunate that the kids hung in there and battled back.
The Northwestern wrestling team has been through quite a bit this season.
An outbreak of impetigo early in the year decimated the lineup and forced the team to constantly adjust. All while maintaining some form of routine and order, no small task for a squad that features zero seniors.
But no matter the circumstances, the Tigers kept fighting and never quit.
Success, in any sport, is never a sure thing.
Even the most accomplished and talented athletes go through trying times, testing their resolve and commitment.
But the best remain dedicated to their craft, never wavering in the face of adversity.
It's that kind of unparalleled devotion that separates Northwestern Lehigh senior Haley Yost from her peers.
Yost medaled at the league, district and state meets this season, finishing no worse than fourth and improving her position and time in each race from a year ago.
Sometimes a win or a loss isn't always indicative of a team's performance, let alone a true measure of its talent.
Such is the case with the Northwestern wrestling team, a squad that has been ravaged by injuries and forced to forfeit several matches on a regular basis this season.
That trend continued last Saturday, as the Tigers dropped a 54-24 decision to Colonial League rival Palmerton.
Despite Northwestern's seven forfeits in the contest, Palmerton coach David Lavin made sure the Bombers didn't overlook an undermanned Tigers squad.
HERSHEY - For the second consecutive year, the Northwestern boys cross country team earned a trip to the PIAA Championships after claiming the District 11 Class AA title.
That performance certainly set the bar high for a squad that was also coming off a second consecutive 24-2 season and a runner-up finish in the Colonial League meet. But for coach Chris Stitzel, the real accomplishment was just making a return trip to Hershey after losing a number of key runners to graduation.
HERSHEY - Northwestern's Haley Yost and Carly Pierce have come together to give the Lady Tigers a dynamic duo this season. The two propelled the team to another 26-0 regular season to go along with Colonial League and District 11 Class AA titles, with both claiming top-five finishes in each race.
That teamwork was on display once again during Saturday's PIAA Championships, as Yost finished in fourth place with a time of 19:25 while Pierce took 20th in 19:54, more than good enough to earn the two talented runners medals in the Class AA race.