BETHLEHEM — Out on the cross country course, Christopher Dock's Madison Landis loves to go after people.
"She's able to read other runners,' says her coach, Justin Wikerd. "She's able to kind of feel them out, and it's not something you usually see. Once she's in race mode, she just loves going head to head.'
Landis went head to head with the rest of District 1 Class A on Friday and came away with the title.
The Pioneer sophomore raced to a winning time of 20 minutes, 5 seconds on a cool, crisp day out on the course at Lehigh University, becoming the first runner since Janine Powis in 2009 to win an individual district crown for Dock.
"My coach told me I had a shot but it didn't really feel real until today,' Landis said.
Also making states a reality were five runners from North Penn along with two each from Central Bucks West and Pennridge. The Rams' Marissa Sheva, back from an absence due to Mono, battled to a ninth-place finish in Class AAA.
Gwynedd Mercy qualified as a team, defending its crown in Class AA.
In her first district championship appearance, Landis had planned to mark up on the top runners and then — by the second mile — make her move. That plan changed a little bit.
"I got out in front so by the second mile, I just had to hold the lead,' she said. "I could hear the crowd kind of cheering so I didn't know if (New Hope-Solebury's Andrea Detlefsen) was gaining on me. I think that motivated me.'
Landis turned it on and won comfortably by 28 seconds. The only obstacle was the final straightaway, lined with fans on each side.
"That felt so long,' she said with a laugh. "I could see the finish line but it felt like it wasn't getting any closer. Just gotta take it one step at a time, I guess, so I just hung in and finished it off.'
The first-year cross country runner actually prefers hillier courses as opposed to relatively flat ones like the one at Lehigh.
Hillier courses simply "make things more interesting,' she said.
One of her favorites, quite fittingly, is at Hershey, the site of next week's state championships.
Landis ran at Hershey once earlier this season and will get to tackle the course once again next Saturday. The two-sport athlete has been balancing both soccer and cross during the fall and so far, she's been able to make it work.
"She's an amazingly talented runner,' Wikerd said. "She's a strong runner, and just has that push. I'd like to see her go after a medal spot next week.'
Landis placed second last week at the Bicentennial Athletic League Championships, nearly catching Class AA's Caroline Harmon for top honors. Harmon, of Lower Moreland, snagged a spot in states in Class AA on Friday.
The top team in AA was Gwynedd Mercy, which defended its title by overcoming a strong challenge from Nazareth Academy to repeat as district champs.
Nazareth went one and two, as Veronica Wheeler and Karli Visconto were nearly side by side, crossing in 19:04. The Monarchs, however, packed it in tighter overall, placing all five of their runners in the top 20 with a gap of just over a minute between runners one and five.
Stephanie Szekely led the way with a fourth-place finish, crossing in 19:51.
"I'm very proud of the girls,' said coach Larry Wilson. "They worked extremely hard and wanted to (qualify) as a team. We worked a lot on pack training and staying with each other, running tighter, and they were able to do that today. The last thing I told them before they raced was that this could be their second year in a row winning it and that they had a chance to make history.'
The Monarchs did just that, joining a distinguished list of repeat champions, including some others during Wilson's long, championship tenure at Gwynedd.
The Knights' Ryan Grace and Ryan Tung are also Hershey-bound, placing 15th and 29th in Class AAA. The North Penn girls just missed out on qualifying as a team, placing sixth, but Brianna Mengini, Phoebe Clowser and Melanie Vlasic all earned trips to the big meet.
District One Cross Country Championships
at Lehigh University
Class AAA Boys
State-Qualifying Teams: West Chester Henderson 58, Conestoga 159, Council Rock North 186, Pennsbury 271, Penncrest 280
1. Tony Russell (WCH) 14:59; 2. Ross Wilson (CRN) 15:15; 3. Chris Kazanjian (Penns) 15:22; 4. Jake Brophy (CBE); 5. Matt Kazanjian (Pennc) 15:28; 6. Reiny Barchet (WCH) 15:29; 7. Chris Cummings (WCE) 15:30; 8. Sam Webb (Penns) 15:32; 9. Casey Comber (HH) 15:34; 10. Paul Power (SF) 15:36
Other Local Qualifiers: 15. Ryan Grace (NP) 15:47; 29. Ryan Tung (NP) 15:57; 35. Joey Logue (Pennr) 16:04
Class AAA Girls
State-Qualifying Teams: Unionville 39, Pennsbury 56, Central Bucks East 163, Strath Haven 187, Great Valley 188
1. Courtney Smith (U) 17:18; 2. Olivia Young (U) 17:47; 3. Olivia Sargent (Penns) 17:57; 4. Aislinn Devlin (DW) 18:02; 5. Hannah Molloy (Penns) 18:04; 6. Kacie Breeding (U) 18:07; 7. Tate Dawson (CBE) 18:13; 8. Kaelyn Heinicke (CRN) 18:20; 9. Marissa Sheva (Pennr) 18:27; 10. Gretchen Mills (U) 18:28
Other Local Qualifiers: 11. Maddie Villalba (CBW) 18:33; 14. Kara Steinke (Meth) 18:35; 18. Lotte Black (Wiss) 18:42; 19. Brianna Mengini (NP) 18:43; 26. Lindsey Gerlach (CBW) 18:52; 27. Phoebe Clowser (NP) 18:52; 35. Melanie Vlasic (NP) 19:01
Class AA Girls
State-Qualifying Teams: 1. Gwynedd Mercy Academy 59; 2. Nazareth Academy 71
State Qualifiers: 1. Veronica Wheeler (Naz) 19:04; 2. Karli Visconto (Naz) 19:04; 3. Sydni Stovall (ST) 19:48; 4. Stephanie Szekely (GMA) 19:51; 5. Caroline Harmon (LMore) 19:55; 6. Taylor McElwee (MerMercy) 19:57; 7. Lizzie Harmon (LMo) 20:02; 8. Allie Flint (GMA) 20:02; 9. Brittany Finn (UMo) 20:03; 10. Brenna Twomey (VJM) 20:06; 11. Danielle DeColli (VJM) 20:08; 12. Moira Abbott (VJM) 20:15; 13. Rachel Landis (UPerk) 20:22; 14. Caroline Stickley (Oct) 20:26
Class A Boys
State-Qualifying Team: New Hope-Solebury 42
State Qualifiers: 1. Greg Wagner (Jenk) 16:35; 2. Greg House (NHS) 16:57; 3. Danny Schlussel (NHS) 17:04; 4. Jack Roth (DP) 17:25; 5. Jason Liu (Jenk) 17:27; 6. Isaac Stemler (PMC) 17:29; 7. Michael Gunden (Dock) 17:31; 8. Colin McClusick (NHS) 17:36
Class A Girls
State-Qualifying Team: New Hope-Solebury 32
State Qualifiers: 1. Madison Landis (Dock) 20:05; 2. Andrea Detlefsen (NHS) 20:33; 3. Hannah Singer (NHS) 21:38; 4. Annette Kempf (DelCoCh) 21:45; 5. Megan Bishop (Dock) 21:46; 6. Mary Satterthwaite (Jenk) 21:51; 7. Katie Guerra (PhilMC) 21:58
Follow Kev Hunter on Twitter @khunter10.