When Princeton cross country coach Pat Hodge has runners qualify for the sectional meet, he gives them nicknames and puts those names on cards they can display in the bus window.
This year, he dubbed sophomore Lexi Bohms “Showtime” and junior Jenna Loftus "The Shadow.”
“I had Lexi as ‘Showtime’ because she always came through in the big meets,” Hodge said. “I had Jenna as ‘The Shadow’ because I told her she was either right ahead of Lexi or right behind her. It would have been a shadow experience if they had both been in the same flight at the sectional. Whether they ran together or had to run separately, they were always very close together all year long.”
The PHS duo ran in seven of the same meets, with Bohms finishing ahead of Loftus four times and Loftus finishing ahead of Bohms in the other three.
In the regular season, Bohms ran in five meets, winning one, placing second three times and taking fifth once; while Loftus placed top four in all eight of her regular-season meets, including a pair of wins and three runner-up finishes.
Bohms led the Tigresses at the Class 1A St. Bede Regional by placing eighth in a personal-best 21:29, while Loftus finished 15th in 22:07. The pair helped Princeton finish fourth as a team.
At the Seneca Sectional, Loftus placed an area-best 32nd in 21:53, while Bohms took 36th in 22:03.
For all they accomplished this season, Bohms and Loftus are the NewsTribune Girls Cross Country Co-Runners of the Year.
“They both had very good seasons,” Hodge said. “From the first meet, they were right up there. They kind of interchanged beating each other throughout the season. They both ended up running really well at the regional and sectional. It’s always good to see them end the season still improving.”
Bohms and Loftus said they were able to help each other succeed.
“I think we really pushed each other since we run similar,” Loftus said. “We both have enough kick at the end and we just pace each other really well.”
Bohms said her and Loftus have similar strengths and weaknesses.
“We’re both pretty bad at hills, so it’s great (our home) course is pretty flat,” Bohms said. “At the end, we both know how to kick it. We’re good at pacing each other. If one is going too fast, the other will know to help her slow down and get back in line.”
The duo working to push each other almost didn’t happen this season.
If not for the COVID-19 pandemic pushing volleyball to the spring, Loftus would not have been running cross country this fall.
Last year, Loftus ran cross country and played volleyball, but this year decided to focus on volleyball in the fall and focus on her running when track season came around.
“I’m really happy with the way it worked out,” Loftus said. “Hopefully, I’ll still get to play volleyball. Last year I didn't give cross country a fair shot because I double sported. I discovered that cross country is not easy to double sport because you have to be running a lot to stay in shape. If you’re not going to the practices, that’s really difficult. This year, I was happy to get the opportunity to try it out.”
Hodge said focusing on cross country paid off for Loftus.
“Last year when she was doing volleyball and cross country, she started out as our No. 1 runner the first couple meets, but once volleyball season got into full swing, she lost a lot of the distance conditioning,” Hodge said. “She was struggling a little bit toward the end of the year. I’m glad she had a chance to get a full cross country season in to see how well she could do when she was able to do it exclusively.”
Bohms came into the season hoping to build on a successful freshman year in which she placed top 10 at the regional and 35th at the sectional.
“This year at all the meets I was thinking about last year’s times and how I wanted to get better,” Bohms said. “I feel like that helped me push myself a lot.”
Bohms managed to push herself to another top 10 regional finish despite missing two weeks due to quarantine right before the postseason.
“With flights, I had to choose between Lexi and Jenna for No. 1,” Hodge said. “Based on last year, I knew Lexi was kind of used to being up there a hair more. I decided on Lexi No. 1 just to see what happened. I didn't know exactly how she would do, but she just ran a fantastic race at the regional. It was her best race by 45 seconds for this year. She really came through.”