---- — On a roller coaster day of emotions, Groveland’s Kacey Hill finally came crashing down.
Thanks to one measly second, or about the amount of time it takes to blink.
That’s exactly by how much she missed qualifying for this year’s Boston Marathon, which takes place in less than two weeks.
It was back on Jan. 13 when the 22-year-old Pentucket graduate was running the Disney World Marathon in Florida, hoping to qualify for Boston by recording a time of 3 hours and 35 minutes.
It was Hill’s third marathon, her second coming last summer when she ran a 3:55:32 at the Vermont City Marathon. Encouraged by her performance, she decided to attempt to qualify for Boston this year.
Improving by 20 minutes in less than a year was an ambitious goal. But Hill, a member of the SISU Project running club, trained hard and felt it was doable.
The Disney World race drew 26,000 runners, requiring Hill to start in a pack that would take a minute to get to the starting line. But since her time would be recorded by her running chip, that was not a problem.
And, by tagging onto a group planning to break 3:35, she was confident despite the warm temperatures. Even with the race starting at 5:30 a.m., it was already 60 degrees and, three hours later, it was in the low 70s.
“I was feeling pretty good and I was right on pace for the first half,” said Hill. “I thought I was going to make it.”
That high feeling came plummeting down by mile 21, however, when she started tightening up and members of her 3:35 group began pulling away.
“I thought it was over and I started thinking that well, at least I tried it,” said Hill, who is a junior majoring in biology at UMass Lowell.
Several miles later, however, she received great news.
“I didn’t realize that they (members of the 3:35 group) had finished early,” she said. “The leader doubled back and told me I could make it — he said ‘you’ve got to get to Boston.’
“I couldn’t go much faster than I was, but I tried to pick it up. Then we got to the finish line and he said that I had made it. I was so excited, smiling at everybody, feeling euphoric.”
That feeling didn’t last long, however. When she met up with her boy friend, John Rheaume, he told her that — based on her official time — she actually had not qualified.
A short time later, Hill found out that she had missed the cut by a mere second.
“I was devastated,” she said. “I had just been so happy and then it was like hitting a brick wall. It was like the worst thing that had ever happened to me.
“I wasn’t pleasant to be around for awhile. It got better as time went on, but it still bothers me sometimes. To miss it by a second ... sometimes I say to myself: Are you serious?”
To her credit, Hill did not go begging to the SISU Project or any other running club looking for one of the random numbers allotted by the BAA. She also decided not to run for a charity organization.
“I want to be a Boston qualifier as much as I want to run in Boston,” she said. “The charity runners are great, but I just want to get to the starting line because I got the time I needed.
“It would be such an accomplishment for me. When I was in elementary school, I had to use an inhaler (for asthma) and I could hardly run around the gym, so qualifying would be a big deal for me.”
So Hill will bypass Boston, unless she serves as a volunteer as she has the last few years. She has turned her attention to the May 26 Vermont City Marathon, striving to qualify for Boston in 2014.
“I’m shooting for a faster time,” she said. “I’m going to start with a 3:30 group and try to run that. Then, if I fall off, I’ll have a little margin of error.
“I’m feeling pretty good about my chances, but it’s a little intimidating. A lot of people say, ‘Oh, you came so close before, you’ll make it,’ but you never know.”
And if she falls short again?
“I think I’ll be really disappointed, but I’m only 22 and I know I’d have a lot of opportunities,” she said.
You’ve got to appreciate the resolve and the spirit. It’s what the Boston Marathon is all about.
Meet Kacey Hill Age: 22 Hometown: Groveland Education: Pentucket High School graduate; majoring in biology at UMass Lowell Running club: SISU Project Marathon experience: Philadelphia Marathon (4:08:47), Vermont City Marathon (3:55:32), Disney World Marathon (3:35:01) Running goal: To qualify for the Boston Marathon