Photo by Kyle Brazeil
How quickly things have changed in the past month for the Pennsbury Lady Falcons. Before the November 3rd state championship race, many were unsure if Pennsbury could defeat then PA#1 Unionville after losing to them twice. Perhaps the run of dominance had met its match.
Instead, they made history.
"We knew Unionville was a great team and they showed it," said head coach Don Little. They beat us twice. At Foundation we lost badly and even though the girls had faith in the program there was work to be done. At Districts we fell short but had closed the gap considerably. At the State meet the team ran exceptionally well. That win put us in a great mind set for the NXN regional."
Fast forward to today and Pennsbury has joined the conversation of being the best female cross country team to ever compete in the state of Pennsylvania. What we do know is that they are the latest team to 3-peat as AAA team champions by defeating Unionville. To add icing to the cake, they are the first PA team to ever win an NXN Northeast Regional Championship.
For head coach Don Little, even though it took awhile to find their best form, this was all part of the plan for 2012.
"It was no secret that our intention was NXN this year as we started racing a month later than last year; but we also wanted to win Districts and States," said the head coach. "We did not win every race, we were not ranked number one the entire season, but the girls stayed the course and in the end, for us, it made all the difference."
Staying the course proved effective in the end, especially with such a young team. Outside of 2009 state champion and Foot Locker Finalist Sara Sargent, the team had four freshmen in their top seven, including three of the top four! The other three teams in the top four on Saturday ran with a combined four freshmen. Despite the experience disadvantage at the regional, they repeated what they did at states, placing four in the overall top fifteen to score 61 points and win by an even bigger margin than they did at states (78 points).
As difficult as many of PA's top courses may be, coach Little used those to his team's advantage to prepare for the regional. After all, the courses here are similar to the regional layout.
"The training leading up to states was very helpful as the Bowdoin course is challenging in a similar way - it is hilly. We went to Tyler State Park and carved out sections as best we could. We are fans of difficult courses. I know for the spectators Hershey is not ideal, but it makes for great cross country."
The Bowdoin, NY course is basically uphill for the first half of the race and downhill for the 2nd half. Beyond that, strategizing for the race was difficult.
"The race plan proved difficult since we didn't know many of the other teams or girls. We caught a break on the starting block and with the assignments. Our plan focused more on position and key locations and the girls yelling 'Bonsai' at the highest point on the course (Coach Sargent Special)."
Coach Little is looking forward to the experience of going to Portland, Oregon with his team for the very first time. It is also the first time for any PA girls' team to reach the NXN Finals.
A truly historic moment for Pennsbury's program and for PA!