9/7 WKND Feature: PTXC-5 lives up to its billing - top runners show why are leaders in PA



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PTXC 5 - Presented by New Balance

Meet Feature by Lex Mercado
First repeat champion betters past and present PA stars

They say that when you compete against the best, the best gets brought out of you. That statement certainly applied Saturday, as a tougher, deeper PTXC field did not break down defending champion Kennedy Weisner of Elk County Catholic, but pushed her to a performance that her optimistic about her chances of bettering her 2012 campaign.

In previous seasons, Weisner had a race under her belt before the annual PTXC meet. This time around she was starting her season at Kutztown. The lack of a tune up race didn't have a negative impact on her performance. Weisner produced an insurmountable gap from the chasing trio of Elizabeth Chikotas of Saucon Valley, Mady Clahane of Cumberland Valley and Marissa Sheva of Pennridge before the first mile was even completed. She powered through the 2nd half of the course as if she was in midseason form and her final time would suggest she is way ahead of the game, much to her delight. "I'm feeling really good about running that time this early," said the Class A champion. "It's my PR. The course was great, the weather was great, and I felt great."

And she was great. Her personal best of 17:49 beats the course record she set last year of 18:24, a 35 second improvement. In the brief history of the meet being run at Kutztown, that's better than PA alums Maria Seykora, Sara Sargent and 2011 Foot Locker Northeast Champion Angel Piccirillo (who ran her's two days after a tropical storm). Her previous lifetime best was 18:15 that she set on the opening day of last season on her way to a state championship and a Foot Locker Finals berth.

"My summer training was good. My best workout was probably the 1000 meter repeats I did recently. I felt really strong."
And her strength may help her repeat a PTXC trend. In the history of this meet, the winner of the girls gold race has gone on to qualify for the Foot Locker National Championships (Sargent, Cuffe, Piccirillo, Weisner). A repeat win and a lifetime best sets Weisner up to repeat that feat in 2013.

Deluca has an 'out of the park' start to the season

Deluca's performance should certainly change his moderate goals of making it to states and seeing how far he can go in 2013. Past PTXC winners have used the platform to make themselves a household name in PA distance running. Wade Endress won PTXC 2 on his way to a fantastic senior season, Brendan Shearn won PTXC 3 and became a state champion and Foot Locker Finalist. Sam Williams won PTXC 4 and was instrumental in Northeast Bradford winning the first ever boys Class A championship.

Dominic Deluca finished behind Williams last year, but this time around, Deluca got his win.
"I came down here last year and raced really well, but this year I hit it out of the park," said the Dallas senior. His performance of 15:43 was the first performance under 16 minutes since the move to the Kutztown layout in 2011. It was also the first time he has broken 16 minutes in his career, coming close at this meet a year ago (16:07).

"I've done a lot more running this summer than last year," said the Ed Narkiewicz league champion. "We backed everything up a week, so we haven't really done any workouts. But I do love hill workouts."

Deluca starting using those hill workouts to great effect at the 2k mark, as he made his move to try and pull away from strong kickers such as runner up Jeff Groh of Lower Dauphin. The senior attacked the back rolling hills as his competitors attempted to gain back some of the ground they lost earlier in the race, but Deluca was not going to be caught on this day.

"I didn't empty the tank completely, but I look forward to doing that very soon and seeing what I can do."
When he does empty that tank, he can potentially join the class of PTXC champions who have succeeded on the highest level.

Pennsbury girls start title defense in style

New Pennsbury girls head coach Greg Sargent was pleased with his sqaud after their PTXC 5 performance. The three time defending AAA champions had a 1-5 spread of 55 seconds and scored 84 points to win by 74 points over district rivals Central Bucks West and Chambersburg. Olivia Sargent is now the new Sargent leading the Falcons. Her 8th place finish marks the 3rd time at a PTXC race that either Olivia or Sara were the first runners to score for their team. She led a sqaud that features returning state team title medal winners Erica Gray and Hannah Molloy. The scoring five of Pennsbury all ran 20:00 or faster on the Kutztown layout. Coach Sargent didn't to get too excited about the victory, knowing full well that there is still a long way to go.

"It was a good day today," said the coach. "The group ran well today. It was such a nice day out and the course was great. We will see how we do at the next meet. It's early"

Central Bucks West were level on points with Chambersburg with 158, but earned 2nd on the 6th runner tiebreaker. CB West returned five of their top seven from their 3rd place finish a year ago. They were led by Maddie Villalba and Meghan Iatarola. Their scoring five finished inside the top fifty overall, a good indicator for their chances moving forward. Chambersburg placed two in the top twenty led by Courtney Group's 10th place finish. The district 3 sqaud is led by a top three of seniors who have state meet experience who will look to guide their younger teammates back to the state finals in November.

Lower Dauphin off to a flying start
Lower Dauphin were a team to watch according to some coaches heading into the season. When you have a team with a lot of experience and arguably one of the best 1-2 combinations in the state, there's always hope for optimism.
Runner up Jeff Groh (15:48) and 6th place finisher Cole Nissley (16:05) set the pace for Lower Dauphin to win the team title with 77 points to win by 15 over Severna Park (MD). Both of their performances would have won the PTXC individual title each of the past two seasons. The team placed four in the top fifteen, which will help them in big races throughout the season. Severna Park kept it close with a better 1-5 spread and better 5th runner, but Lower Dauphin will have time to piece the back end of the team together.  Red Land earned 3rd place honors for the 2nd year in a row at PTXC with 123 points with two runners inside the top 12 overall.

Girls Blue Race down to the wire

Lower Dauphin held off class A powerhouse Central Cambria by one point, 82-83 to win the Blue race team title. The Red Devils of Central Cambria made their return to PTXC to get an idea of how the team stacked up against some other smaller division school. Head coach Randy Wilson credits their early season success to a new attitude from his younger runners.
"Since the summer, the younger runners have wanted to put in a full summer of training," said the three time AA state champion. "Their dedication is something that has changed the attitude of the team. Our teams have always had the talent to succeed, but we are excited about where this team can go due to their incredible work ethic."

The team were led by three freshmen on Saturday. Samantha Koss, Sydney Gilkey and Jordan Hayward all finished in the top twenty with two others inside the top 35. Despite the graduation of 2012 Class A runner up Alyssa Brandis, coach Wilson believes the summer dedication has improved the overall quality of the team.

"We had a front runner last year, but we would sometimes struggle behind her," said Wilson. "So far this season, we have performed much better as a group. Training together since June has been a big catalyst for that. We ran well today and I think we are on track for a good season."

Having young runners in a program that has had been very successful in years past, but a seize the opportunity attitude in the 2013 Red Devils will keep this team in the mix for a title come November.

In the girls blue race, Devi Jagadesan of Wyomissing held off Lower Dauphin's Ella Breidenstine to take home the individual title with a time of 19:46, 5 seconds better than Jagadesan.

Comber earns big race victory

Casey Comber of Hatboro-Horsham went through an early season battle in the boys blue race. Surrounded by a large group of runners in the front pack, the junior picked his spot before he made his move to make the race his.

"I knew I wanted to go out with the lead pack," said the Blue race winner. "They were getting weaker because they were getting slower around the back end. At the two mile mark I started to kick it in."

His move was a risk since he was feeling a little tired on the back hills about half way through. He did manage to hang on and take the victory in a time of 16:46. Despite winning, the junior is aware of the tough road that lies ahead if he wants to mix it up with some of district 1's best runners.

"I'm on my way, but I am not there yet. 16:46 is pretty good, but it is not quite where I want to be," said Comber. "District 1 has a lot of quick runners. There's a lot of quick runners that I won't be able to run with just yet, but it's all about racing against the right people and seeing what you can do. Go out fast with the right guys and see what happens."

A victory at one of the premier meets in the state is one way Comber can set himself up to achieve his goals of a top three league finish and a state qualifying berth.

Middle school race grows, performances fast

The PTXC middle school race is a great opportunity for young runners to feel the atmosphere of a big high school invitational without the expectations of performing as well as their older peers. The young boys and girls kicked off the festivities and created highlights of their own.

The Saucon Valley middle school girls teams were very dominant in tackling the Kutztown course, taking five of the top seven overall female places to score an incredible 17 points. The 1-2 7th grade sister combination of champion Kiele (10:03 for 2500 meters) and Brooke Reifenstahl (10:05) set the pace with Alexa Chiakowsky completing the 1-2-3 sweep 17 seconds behind them. The 17 points is a meet record for the middle school girls race and their 1-5 average was 46 seconds.

The boys competition was a closer affair in the team title race. Cedar Crest managed to hold off a strong top three of Elk Lake to win the team title by 6 point, 64-70. Elk Lake had the individual champion in Cody Oswald, who shattered the nine minute barrier with a time of 8:53. Elk Lake had three of the top six finishers in the race, two of them 8th graders, which is a good sign for the future of the Class A district 2 program. Cedar Crest countered with four in the top fifteen overall and had six in the top 25 overall to help seal the title.

177 runners competed in the 2500 meter middle school mixed race, the biggest field PTXC has had in the 3 years at Kutztown University.
Flash Highlights: For the first time, PTXC had a repeat champion. Senior Kennedy Weisner of Elk County Catholic took over the gold race about 1000 meters into it and never looked back. Her time of 17:49 set a new course record. Elizabeth Chikotas of Saucon Valley took runner up honors behind Weisner in 18:03 while Mady Clahane of Cumberland Valley improved on her 4th place finish with a 3rd place performance in 18:09. Marissa Sheva of Pennridge ran 18:28 for 4th and sophomore Mikayla Stoudt of Parkland ran 18:49 to finish 5th. Pennsbury started their title defense with a comfortable team victory, scoring 84 points to defeat Central Bucks West and Chambersburg with a 55 second 1-5 spread.

In the boys gold race, Dominic Deluca of Dallas took home the gold medal, setting a new course record with a time of 15:43. Jeff Groh of Lower Dauphin was close behind in 2nd in 15:48. Andrew Milliron of Jefferson, WV ran 15:51 to finish 3rd, Colin Abert of Easton ran 15:59 to finish 4th and Ryan Forsyth of Severna Park rounded out the top five in 16:02. Lower Dauphin had four in the top fiftenn overall to hold off Severna Park for the team title 77-92.

In the girls blue race, Devi Jagadesan of Wyomissing held off Lower Dauphin's Ella Breidenstine to take home the individual title with a time of 19:46, 5 seconds better than Jagadesan. Keirra Zack of Northern ran 20:00 even to take the bronze medal. In the team standings, Lower Dauphin were victorious over Central Cambria by one point, 82-83 thanks to having two runners in the top ten.

The boys blue race was won by Hatboro Horsham's Casey Comber in a time of 16:46 to win by 15 seconds over Kyle Shinn of Wyomissing Area. George Balser of Paul VI finished 3rd in 17:03. Coatesville comfortably won the team title over their district rivals Hatboro Horsham 81-122 thanks to three finishers inside the top eleven overall.

The middle school girl race was dominated by Saucon Valley. The district 11 team had four of the top five finishers led by the 1-2 sibling combination of champion Kiele Riefenstahl (10:03) and her sister Brooke (10:05) to score an incredible 17 points. For the boys, Cody Oswald of Elk Lake ran 8:53 to win the race and was the only runner under the 9 minute mark. Tyler Leeser of Milton Area ran 9:01 to finish 2nd. Cedar Crest narrowly overtook Elk Lake for the team title with a 64-70 victory.