The Final k: STATES: A little twilight zone to the Boyertown back-to-back in AAA


Welcome to The Final K – post- weekend stories and notes on athletes, teams, coaches and races to be published mid-week during the 2007 cross country season.


11/3 PIAA State Championships:

A little twilight zone to the
Boyertown back-to-back in AAA

Central Cambria won a title.
But they took home so much more.

Coatesville doesn't rebuild. They reload. 

Cross country rings true in Wellsboro.

Experienced coach, expert spotters,
and soccer lead North East to 9th state title.


Stories from Previous Weeks

Click for 11/3 State Championships

Click for Districts Week 10/23-27

Click for Conference Week 10/17-20

Click for October 13 Weekend

Click for October 6 Weekend

Click for September 29 Weekend

Click for September 22 Weekend

Click for September 15 Weekend

Click for September 8 Weekend

Click for September 1 Weekend


A little twilight zone to the Boyertown back-to-back in AAA

By Kimberly Jaick Soden

One of the first things Mark Dennin did after winning the AAA boys state cross country title last week was to get on a cell phone.
"Someone had called Jason [Weller, the 2006 state champion] while I was finishing, so they gave me the phone," he said. "At first he was like, 'are you serious?!' "And then he was like, 'you're not kidding?!'" "He couldn't believe it."

Dennin, a senior at Boyertown, and Weller, a Boyertown alum, became just the second pair in state history to win back-to-back titles for their school.

The only other twosome were State College grads Eric Holmboe and Gary Black, who won the 1976 and 1977 titles, respectively, at Penn State. Holmboe ran 15:06.3 and Black finished in 15:09.4. At Hershey last year Weller clocked 15:04. Dennin finished in 15:30.

Jason Weller 2006, Mark Dennin 2007 - same bib # - same result!

Dennin never considered himself a real factor in winning this year's state title, even if he was able to run some of Weller's hardest workouts with him last fall. He also finished 10th at last fall's meet.
"I was telling himself last year that he was the best hill runner in the state, that he owned the hills and that I'd be able to stay with him," Dennin said. "It gave me a lot of confidence."
Still, it wasn't until a fellow runner he knew told Dennin with 600 meters to go in the race that he was going to win it that Dennin started to think of himself as a state champion. Sort of, that is.
"I wasn't really aware of how big the lead was," he said. Dennin won by 29 seconds. "People where yelling stuff, but I wasn't sure. It was almost like an adrenaline rush. I knew it was my race to lose at that point and that I just wasn't going to lose it. I knew they could surge pretty well and that if there were any way they could catch me that I was going to get rid of that completely."
With Boyertown's second straight gold medal in his possession, Dennin has turned his focus to the Mid-East Regional Championship meet next Saturday, and Foot Locker regionals on the 24th.
"I think we have a good chance at winning" the Mid-East meet," he said. Dennin's personal goal for Foot Locker's is to qualify for the national championships.
He's also starting to narrow his college choices. Under serious consideration are Georgetown, Columbia and Penn. However, he still wants to visit Iona and Princeton before making a final decision. Dennin is hoping to major in either political science or government.
If he choices Iona, that will be another thing he has in common with Weller, who is a freshman there this year. That, and the fact that both boys won their state titles wearing the same bib number, No. 1025.
"We're not sure if that's a coincidence," he said.


Central Cambria won a title.
But they took home so much more.

Editor's Note: The girls of AA state champion Central Cambria were kind enough to take some time after their whirlwind return to Ebensburg to answer a few questions from And after their week, time was at a premium. It started, of course, with the big win in Hershey, and the day finished with an official escort into town, a parade... and then a school assembly, a presentation from the school board...and, well, you get the picture. It was a big deal. Not just because they won, or because they beat every AAA team in the state except one (in merged results). It was because it was the FIRST-EVER state title for a Central Cambria team.

Yep.... a big deal. So the girls took time after all that to each answer six questions. And there were a lot of consistencies in the answers.

Without their M&M (Morgan & Mariah), they would not have laughed nearly as much. Without three coaches who RAN with them during every practice and every workout, they would not have felt the support or received the guidance they needed. Without their star leader (and big sister to two of the team) Carly, they would not have had a standard to aim for... or a KA to rally behind, or notes and quotes and the right words at just the right time. Without a one-point loss at a meet in late September, they may not have found the resolve to dig even deeper. Without parents who did everything they could to keep their athletes healthy and happy, they wouldn't have had the strength or attitude to pursue big goals. But most of all, without each other, they would never have become a team. And it was a team that won this first-ever title for little Central Cambria. Yep... a very big deal.

The following answers are in reverse order from their finish at States. You'll read about Morgan's injury halfway through the season, and her refusal to abandon her teammates. And the 2-7 girls changed spots from race to race. So this order is only a snapshot of this team. The trophy at now at their school gives the whole picture.


Morgan Eckenrod, Sophomore

1. Talk about how far you've come as a runner this season, and what impact your teammates, coaches and parents have had?

From last year to this year I feel that I have gotten a lot better. I dropped over a minute from my time last year. Last year I was a freshman that didn’t know what to expect and this year I was a stronger and more confident runner. My teammates were very important to me because they pushed me at practice and because we shared a very close bond like sisters. Our team is very close throughout the whole year and we also do things outside of cross-country together. Randy, Tammy and Christa put in so many hours to help our team get to where we got this year. They took the team to a camp this year and they physically ran with us at every practice. They have sacrificed countless hours with their family in the summer and the fall to train with us and help us achieve our goals. My mom and dad were the backbone to me becoming a better runner. They were always there for me and they help me with nutrition by making good meals and getting everything that I needed.

2. What were the turning points and/or obstacles for you personally, and for your team this season?

I had two turning points this season. My first turning point was in the middle of the summer when I realized I could run some of the practices with the boys. I knew I was a lot better this year than last year. My other turning point was in the middle of the season when I realized I had a leg injury that severely hampered my ability to run. The only way that I could heal was if I stopped running, which I refused to do. I ran the last half of the season because I was determined to help our team achieve our goals. The team got extra motivation when we finished second to Lewisburg at the Spiked Shoe Invitational. Our team was determined to never to come in second again.

3. How did you stay relaxed before a race, and who on the team provided the comic relief or talked common sense to get you ready to race? What was the funniest thing someone did or said during the season?

I don’t think I was ever totally relaxed because of the high expectations for our team this year. Our team had a race day routine that helped us mentally and physically prepare for every race. Our coaches made sure that we did the same routine the same way every single race. I tried to be the funny one on our team when we went up to the line to help the freshman and my teammates stay relaxed, although I was probably the most nervous.
The funniest thing was when our team had a dance off the night before Manhattan in our hotel.

4. What did you learn about yourself and your team this season?

I’ve learned that I am a good runner with a lot of potential. Before my injury I was on pace to really improve my times from last year. I learned that it takes all seven members of a team to win. When the pressure was on, our bond got closer and we got more motivated to do our best. We never cracked under the pressure. We just performed.

5. With everyone back next year, do you think that what you have learned this year can help you repeat?

Most definitely. We are more determined than ever to repeat our goals, even without our top runner.

6. What was the reaction at school and with people you know to your team winning a state title?

Everyone was so excited from the community, to our school, and including our school board. We were greeted in town by hundreds of people and escorted to the school by firetrucks, ambulances, and police cars from Ebensburg and the surrounding communities. Our school had an assembly to honor our team as the first-ever team state champions at Central Cambria.


Ashley Stump, Freshman

1. Talk about how far you've come as a runner this season, and what impact your teammates, coaches and parents have had?

I have spent a lot of time practicing trying to improve my time and speed. This being my first year, I came into the season nervous and not knowing what to expect. As the season went on, my nervousness went away and I became more confident. My coaches, parents, and teammates always pushed me to do my best. They always complimented me and told me to set goals for myself.

2. What were the turning points and/or obstacles for you personally, and for your team this season?

My turning point was when we lost to another team by one point and that is when I realized that we could lose to anyone if we didn't stay focused. We have to continually strive to do better.

3. How did you stay relaxed before a race, and who on the team provided the comic relief or talked common sense to get you ready to race? What was the funniest thing someone did or said during the season?

I kept busy, I always tried to do something that would keep my mind off of it. Morgan was always there to brighten the day. I could go to her for anything, and she would always know what to say.

4. What did you learn about yourself and your team this season?

We can accomplish anything if we work hard and stick together.

5. With everyone back next year, do you think that what you have learned this year can help you repeat?

Yes, if we stay focused, work hard, and set goals, we can have another great season.

6. What was the reaction at school and with people you know to your team winning a state title?

This was the first team championship in any sport that our school has won. They had a parade when we returned that day. Our school had an assembly on Monday. Everyone was excited and congratulated us on our accomplishment. It all still seems like a dream.


Emily Wright, Freshman

1. Talk about how far you've come as a runner this season, and what impact your teammates, coaches and parents have had?

I think I've come very far this season as a runner. When we first started in the summer I couldn't even run a 3.1 mile course. I had never trained for that distance. From this season, I really learned a lot of things, like how to pace myself; (I can't sprint an XC course like an 800); how exactly to run up a hill and hit the top and work to really keep a steady pace. I also learned at certain parts of a course where and when to kick it in. It's just exciting for me to have accomplished so much with my team as a freshman. If you told me a year ago I'd be standing on the podium at states with a gold medal around my neck I wouldn't have believed you. This whole experience has brought up my confidence too. The girls on my team are my best friends. We all push each other whether its during a race or a hard workout. They made me want to train as hard as I could this season because I wanted to help the team as much as I could. I couldn't ask for better coaches either. Without Coach Wilson, Coach Sossong, and Coach Pearson, we would never be where we are now. They all did the workouts with us and made us work up to our potential. My parents have always been there for me during this; all they asked from me was to do my best and know that I could be a state champion if I set my mind to it. I kinda started out a little rough in the beginning of the season, but I knew after the state race I picked it up so much more. A lot of that I give props to Carly because she showed me how much talent and confidence I have. She told me never to give up, and as much as I wanted to at times, I never did. And I listened. It has really paid off.

2. What were the turning points and/or obstacles for you personally, and for your team this season?

For me personally my obstacle this season was myself. I had to work my butt off to overcome my doubts when it came to hills, or a part in the race where I became tired. Every time I got to a hill I had to tell myself "I can do it." During all the hard hill repeats we did, that's where it all counted as opposed to the day of the race. I didnt tell myself Iwas gonna run up every hill and feel good; but it was when it hurt I had to push through it. Probably the turning point for the team was when we took 2nd place at Spiked Shoe. That's when we all realized we had to pick it up and train harder then ever if we wanted to win states.

3. How did you stay relaxed before a race, and who on the team provided the comic relief or talked common sense to get you ready to race? What was the funniest thing someone did or said during the season?

Staying relaxed before a race was difficult for me throughout this season. But, I tried my best. I kept myself occupied by doing leg swings, striders, talking to my teammates, and telling myself to not worry. On the team I'd have to say Morgan Eckenrod and Carly were the ones who kept us laughing and relaxed before races. Since Carly has been through all of the races she knew how to calm us down, and keep us focused. Morgan is just a really funny person to be around and she always lightened up the mood. We also had our K.A. on our hands, which always gave us more confidence. The funniest thing that happened this year was at the Pre-State Meet at Hershey where at the start line it really smelled horribe. Then Carly out, of nowhere, said "It smells like S***, we are the S***, BUT we arent gonna run like S***. It all made us bust out laughing and that's pretty much been our motto.

4. What did you learn about yourself and your team this season?

I learned about myself that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to, and that I can overcome my doubts like running hills and still staying strong through the race. I learned about my team this year that everyone has something different they excel at with running, and when you put all of us together you get an amazing team.

5. With everyone back next year, do you think that what you have learned this year can help you repeat?

I think if we all continue to train hard and really push one another, we have as good a chance as any team to be contenders for a state championship again. The feeling of standing on the podium getting a gold medal and the state championship trophy is hard to describe, and I would like to experience that again. Annie Cekada will be our senior leader next year, and with basically the whole team back, I have no doubt we will all work hard to get even better.

6. What was the reaction at school and with people you know to your team winning a state title?

Our school has been so proud of us ever since we won Saturday. Mr Bussard, our principal along with the rest of the teachers, students, and staff have done so much for us this whole week. After states on our way home we were escorted back into town by the fire companies and we had a parade back at the high school. Then in school Monday, they showed a slideshow that went through our whole season and really explained what cross country was all about. We were introduced at the school board meeting and probably more stuff will be happening soon. When I went back into school Monday the first thing someone said to me was "WOW, you're a state champion, and ONLY a freshman." And I know it is really amazing that there are three freshman in our top seven who helped win the title, plus two sophmores, a junior, and senior. It didn't really set in at first that I was a State Champion.  It feels really great to have achieved such a huge goal only as a freshman.  We couldn't have done it without everyone putting in their share and having Carly on the team really helped us. Having such a great role model means a lot because we all look up to her. We wanted it and we got it.

Kendall Seymour, Freshman

1. Talk about how far you've come as a runner this season, and what impact your teammates, coaches and parents have had?

At first I didn't want to run; I refused and complained about it. My parents noticed a talent and pushed me to succeed. Now as I look back, I'm glad I had that little push.

2. What were the turning points and/or obstacles for you personally, and for your team this season?

My personal obstacle was overcoming the pressure and improving my confidence. I gained a lot of confidence when we won Pre-States and when I realized that I was running with the best girls in the state.

3. How did you stay relaxed before a race, and who on the team provided the comic relief or talked common sense to get you ready to race? What was the funniest thing someone did or said during the season?

Before the meets and invitationals I did multiple things to calm myself down. I listened to exciting music, I jumped up and down to keep loose, and our coach printed out inspirational quotes for us to read. During the season, our team had too many funny moments too count. I'd have to say having my cousin, Mariah Seymour, on the team was rewarding because she always kept us laughing.

4. What did you learn about yourself and your team this season?

I learned that one person or eight people can make a little dream come true. Carly fulfilled her dream of winning states her sophmore and senior years. Now, our team had the great experience we thought years ago was impossible.

5. With everyone back next year, do you think that what you have learned this year can help you repeat?

I think we could still have a chance of winning another state title if everyone continues running this well. Our team is balanced out nicely; we have 3 freshman, 2 sophmores, 2 juniors, and a senior. We should have an exciting year coming up.

6. What was the reaction at school and with people you know to your team winning a state title?

The entire school, our family, and friends were in shock, but our team just seemed to be in relief to have the pressure finally off our shoulders. They organized a parade when we returned home, and had an assembly to recognize the cross country team.


Kelsey Seymour, Sophomore

1. Talk about how far you've come as a runner this season, and what impact your teammates, coaches and parents have had?

During the summer I had to do a lot of my workouts in the pool by myself because I had a stress fracture, so when i started off the season I was not where I wanted to be, which was very frustrating. But it also made me work a lot harder, and I don't think I reached my full potential until States. Throughout the process of my stress fracture I had a lot of doubts of wheather or not I was a good runner and if I was talented in running because I didn't start off my season very well. My coaches and my parents really reminded me that I was a good runner and that I could do it if I worked hard, and they just helped me through the whole process. Also my teammates Annie Cekeda and my sister Kendall really helped me get back to where I was. Us running in a pack helped pull each other along and push one another.

2. What were the turning points and/or obstacles for you personally, and for your team this season?

The Spiked Shoe Invitational was really a huge turning point for me in my season. I started out running a decent race and not really pushing myself as much as I would have liked, but with a little bit more than an 800 left I realized I could use my talent in the 800 for cross country and then I ended up passing about 7 or 8 girls. From then on in the season I tried to use my confidence in track for cross country. I personally think the biggest obstacle our team had to face was at the same invite losing to Lewisburg. In a way it really helped us and motivated us to work harder if we wanted to win States. I think losing to Lewisburg could have been the best thing that happened. That race not only made me want to work harder, but I know the other girls stepped it up as well.

3. How did you stay relaxed before a race, and who on the team provided the comic relief or talked common sense to get you ready to race? What was the funniest thing someone did or said during the season?

I stayed relaxed before the race by visulizing the course and how I wanted to go up the hills, and where Iwanted to kick it in. It gave me confidence whenever I would do that and gave me motivation to achieve my goals. The funniest person on our team would have to be Morgan. She is always trying to make everyone laugh. Carly was the one who really motivated us by giving us talks, telling us what we needed to do, writing us notes, and giving us quotes which really helped. I would have to say the funniest thing someone said to me was when we were on the line for the pre-states meet in Hershey and the bathrooms were directly behind us and Carly said to us "it smells like s***, we are the s***, but we are not gonna run like s***" and then they shot the gun off and I was laughing so hard. The funniest thing someone did was when we were aqua jogging at our local pool and Morgan decides she is gonna change from her swimsuit to her cloths and she gets her underwear on and then she is standing there in her underwear in sports bra because she can't find her shirt and pants and couldnt get them undone. So our whole team, plus some other people saw Morgan just standing there in her underwear. It was so funny!

4. What did you learn about yourself and your team this season?

I learned that I set my goals high and I am willing to do anything to achieve them. I also learned how much confidence plays a role in running. My team learned that we were all working for the same goal and how much we needed to encourage and support each other.When we recognized someone was being negative or not feeling confident we really tried to encourage them by making notes and just talking to them.

5. With everyone back next year, do you think that what you have learned this year can help you repeat?

I think that we know what works for us as in workouts and we know how to motivate ourselves and we love the feeling of winning and we definatly have a lot of talent for next year. So I think it is really gonna help because I know we all want to come back and be back-to-back state champions. It will not be the same without Carly, but hopefully she can come to some of my meets and still be there for me when I feel down or just need advice. I'm really going to miss her and I'm sure everyone else will also.

6. What was the reaction at school and with people you know to your team winning a state title?

Everyone was really excited for us and they all knew we could do it! Our school made a big deal about it and we had an essembly and they had a parade for us on the way home and made signs for our school and for around Ebensburg. I don't think al ot of people were shocked because they knew how much time we put in to the sport and how hard all of us worked!

Annie Cekada, Junior

1. Talk about how far you've come as a runner this season, and what impact your teammates, coaches and parents have had?

This season has been great. The team really  sticks together like a family. The team really keeps each other going and we have a lot of fun together. Our coaches are great and always keep us motivated  and they make running fun. My family is also really supportive of me and helps me to stay motivated.
2. What were the turning points and/or obstacles for you personally, and for your team this season?

I think the idea of winning states turning into reality was the biggest turning point knowing that we did it.
3. How did you stay relaxed before a race, and who on the team provided the comic relief or talked common sense to get you ready to race? What was the funniest thing someone did or said during the season?

I think everyone took their turns at motivating the team before meets. There were many funny moments this year. I don't know if I could pick just one.
4. What did you learn about yourself and your team this season?

I learned that hard work really can pay off and that teamwork is the most important part to  succeeding.
5. With everyone back next year, do you think that what you have learned this year can help you repeat

I hope that this year will help us all have confidence for next year and we are planning on working hard all year again.
6. What was the reaction at school and with people you know to your team winning a state title?

Everyone seemed very excited and congratulated us. A lot of people know how hard we worked for this and are glad that we achieved our goal.  

Carly Seymour, Senior

1. Talk about how far you've come as a runner this season, and what impact your teammates, coaches and parents have had?

This season has been such a big change for me and the team. I came in with a lot of confidence from last years accomplishments, yet having the team do so well put a whole new spin on the goals I made for the year. My parents and coaches basically have kept me sane through the whole training and racing season. When you are constantly wondering if you're doing enough or doubting your ability they were always there to push and encourage me. My parents have definitely dedicated a lot of their time to this season having three kids on the team to make sure they were well fed, healthy, and mentally prepared for the season. We owe a lot to them.

2. What were the turning points and/or obstacles for you personally, and for your team this season?

Personally the obstacles this season was probably being able to come back from last year and perform better than the year before. There is a lot of pressure and expectations that I put on myself as a competitor and I really had to put in some hard work to keep improving year after year. The team has been pretty put together this year, other then Morgan's injury the last couple weeks of the season, yet that didn't set our team back at all.

3. How did you stay relaxed before a race, and who on the team provided the comic relief or talked common sense to get you ready to race? What was the funniest thing someone did or said during the season?

Before a race I stayed relaxed because I have a lot of experience and knew that my responsibility as the senior was to calm the younger girls down and be confident. I have always tried to be somewhat of an inspiration to the other girls to put their heart out on the line and race well. The coaches provide the most common sense talk to get me ready personally, yet I think my mother (guidance counselor) had a lot to do with putting things into perspective to calm me down. Morgan and Mariah were the girls that were always making jokes and making us laugh at the line and they were so much fun to have on the team. The funniest thing that happened this year was probably when we did the soulja boy dance and the constant jokes about our spankies.

4. What did you learn about yourself and your team this season?

What I learned this season was to believe that anything is possible. I didn't think after coming off such an incredible season last year that there was any way I could improve or have a season measure up to it. That was proven wrong this year as I feel stronger and faster than ever. I also learned the same from my team because I never expected such a young group of girls to step up to the plate with me and have the same big dreams of a state title. They taught me that it doesn't matter how young or inexperienced you are, if you work hard, you can achieve your goals.

5. With everyone else back next year, do you think that what you have learned this year can help you repeat?

The girls have such a great chance at repeating next year and I wish I could be a part of it. The girls are going to have to step up as leaders and believe in their talents as much as I believe in them and they will do even better.

6. What was the reaction at school and with people you know to your team winning a state title?

The school's reaction was so great. The community, teachers, and students were in such awe of our achievement and they really showed us how special a team championship really was. We have never had a team title in the school history and coming from a small community, everyone knew of our hard work and dedication and took it to heart when they found out we won.

AA Champs Central Cambria - photo by Brian Wright




Coatesville doesn't rebuild. They reload.

By Kimberly Jaick Soden

Losing its top five runners from last year's national championship team wasn't much of a big deal for Coatesville, which rebounded this fall to capture silver at the PIAA Class 3A boys championship.

"There were a lot of guys last year who were on JV who could've been varsity on almost any other team in the state," junior Christ Rosato said. "And we had new guys. Pretty much everyone stepped up."

Coatesvile's 6 & 7 runners from 2006's national
become 1 and 2 (and 2 and 1) in 2007
and nearly repeat
as state champs.
Junior Chris Rosato (l) and senior Andrew Mahoney.

Stepped up they did as Rosato, last year's No. 6 man at states, rose to No. 2 on Nov. 3 to help Coatesville finish runner-up at Hershey.

Senior Andrew Mahoney, who switched off with Rosato for the sixth and seventh spots last year, led the team at Hershey a week ago. The boys finished 16th and 23rd, respectively, to earn their first individual medals.

"[Becoming the top runner] was definitely a lot different," Mahoney said. "It used to be the five of them would take off and I'd just stay with them as long as I could. At the first meet [this year] the guys weren't as strong so I learned how to lead them."

Rosato and Mahoney said Coatesville had hoped to return to the top of the state podium, but they were still pleased with the performance.

Assistant Coach David Lapp was more than pleased. "I think they ran as well as they possibly could," he said. "We where 17 points behind (North Penn, which is undefeated in Pennsylvania and New York]. We worked all the way through so we could be rested for states and we beat teams that beat us earlier. I told the guys in June that weren't rebuilding, that we were reloading."

According to Lapp and his returning varsity members, Coatesville picked up two new runners this year along with moving junior varsity guys up. No. 4 man Brian Wolf, a junior, and No. 5 guy Ben Goodwin, joined the team this year.

The squad also has two swimmers in seniors Kevin Ammon (No. 6) and Zach Wilson (No. 7), who will now be hitting the pool. No. 3 man Billy Hackmeister, a sophomore, but first-year runner, rounds out the team.

Next up for most of the runners, minus the swimmers, will be indoor track after some much-needed rest. Andrew Mahoney was invited to be a member of Pennsylvania's Mideast regional team, so he's now gearing up for that.

Then there's next fall. "It'll be the same thing, 'reload,'" Lapp said. "We'll be ready again next year."


Cross counry rings true in Wellsboro.

(Bell photos by Karen Chambers)

Wellsboro had a great year in cross country. After all, finishing 10th in AA at states is no small achievement.

But it was a solemn celebration following their October 25 District win that this team will probably remember forever. And it wasn't just because of their remarkable come-from-behind win. It went deeper than that.

With less than a half-mile to go in the District 4 race, Wellsboro was in 2nd place, just nine points out of first, but only three points ahead of 3rd place and nine ahead of 4th. Only two teams would qualify in AA.

Over that last half mile, the kids who had done a lot of hill work, used the final hill to solidify and improve their positions. They would finish in a three-way tie for first with Northeast Bradford and Danville, and win the District 4 title on the 6th man tiebreaker after he had moved up ten spots.

At the awards, there were high fives and smiles all around. The team closed up camp and boarded the bus to return to PA Grand Canyon country along Route 6. The area has spectacular mountain and valley views as its roads wind through curve after curve.

As the Wellsboro bus approached town, first year head coach Sue Owlett's thoughts turned to her sophomore year in high school when a cross country teammate was lost in a tragic accident.

It was the winter of 1980, and Wellsboro cross country captain Todd Antoine was driving his girlfriend home when his car left the road, overturned and came to rest upside down in a creek. Antoine was able to work himself free. Taking off clothes to make working in the water easier, he returned to the car in an attempt to rescue his girlfriend.

He never made it out, and both died at the scene.

The following spring, the school, his classmates, his family and the Wellsboro community dedicated a bell to his memory, and it was placed on a small hill overlooking the track and football field.


The bell has special meaning in Wellsboro, with its ringing only reserved for special occasions. Owlett says that while the football team pretty much considers any win special, she had told her cross country team that there would be no ringing this bell unless it was worthy. "Really worthy." The team knew the story, and they knew its special meaning for their coach. In fact, they would meet every day beside the bell before practice. The big bell was always close enough to touch, but never to ring.

As the bus entered town on its return from Districts, Owlett turned to the driver and asked him to take a detour by the football field before heading to drop the athletes off. The bus pulled up. And with no instructions seemingly necessary, the team exited the door, and each team member - seniors first - took their turn - ringing the bell twice. Even the football players looked up from their practice to observe the procession.

"It was almost like it was planned," Owlett relates. "It was a really nice moment for them, and they knew its importance to me."

"Hey mom, you wanna coach?."

Sue Owlett had no idea that she would be coaching boys cross country this year. An athlete in her own right, who trains with a small group several times a week, she is a lifelong runner, having competed for one year at Division I Bucknell University. The day after districts, she won her 40-49 age group with a 1:39.45 half-marathon in Corning, New York.

So when her son Tom, a junior on the team, approached her in June with the 'you wanna coach' question, she was a bit surprised. He told her that some of the guys on the team had asked if she'd be interested in taking over the program after their long-time coach had moved on to coach the girls team. Her response was an almost immediate yes.

Owlett has not regretted a moment, and is quick to credit the middle school coach in Wellsboro with giving her a group of boys who first and foremost, enjoy the sport. Dr. Andy Sayre is an emergency room physician at Wellsboro Hospital. He had started coaching the middle school team for his daughter about 15 years ago. She would go on to be a member of the 1997 state AA team champions in cross country.

"What Dr. Sayre does is make it fun," observes Owlett. "They do little competitions all season in addition to their races; things like scavenger hunts, and a $1 store race with the prize of a dollar. And at the end of the season, the winning team (They're known as Chicken and Biscuits), are awarded either Pillsbury biscuits or rubber chickens."

Oh, the kids have races. But the Chicken and Biscuit awards are the highlight of the year.

It's that kind of atmosphere that Owlett is trying to cultivate in her program. Not with rubber chickens, but with prizes like district titles and top ten finishes at states. And having fun.

While she is impressed with her entire team this year, Owlett cites two athletes who will stand out in her memories of this group. One is last year's 3rd or 4th man who improved to either 1st or 2nd man this season. Corvin Oberholzer hopes to run in college, but he is still basking in the success he achieved this year. The boys had been motivated to work over the summer by their spring distance coach Aaron Singer, who told them they could be good. Now in his 6th year of running, Corvin had never trained in the off-season. This year he did. And he added lifting. When they were in town, team members would meet at 5:30 three days a week. The result was that individual times dropped one to two minutes for most of the team. "They believed me that if they trained, they'd make it to states, and it worked."

The other athlete who Owlett singled out was a wrestler-turned-runner who had been varsity right up until the championship part of the season. Owlett's rule is finish out of the top group two races in a row, and someone else takes your spot. "Keeping Zac Cerrone off our district and state team was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do."

What had most impressed Owlett was that Cerrone was a wrestler who had heard about her taking over the team, and asked to come out for the team. "He is the most dedicated I have have ever seen. I had never see anyone just decide to become a runner, and then do it."

Owlett is optimistic about next year. In addition to Oberholzer, she loses seniors Justin Rupert, who traded the top spot all season,; and senior Darrin Keeler.

The work ethic that took hold on the team this year is something Owlett hopes will continue. But she didn't have to wait very long for confirmation that the lessons had been learned. Her son, who will be the top returning harrier in 2008, asked to join her at a 5:30 A.M. lifting session a few days after the state meet.

To Owlett, it looks like the rewards, the effects, and especially the memories of this 2007 season, will ring true in Wellsboro for quite a long time. At the very least, they will for her.


Every member of the Wellsboro team experienced the states atmosphere. A reward for working hard.




Experienced coach, expert spotters, and soccer lead North East to 9th state title.

You can't coach coaching.

You know the ones. They stand over a cross country course; any cross country course; and they peer out over the hills and trails.

What they're actually seeing is races already run. They sense the mistakes already made. And they see their current athletes racing those hills and trails – along with their abilities, their weaknesses, and their personal goals.

And then they visualize a plan of attack. The strategy and the tactics it will take to win a state title. For North East, a AA school in District 10, it would be their 9th, and break the 4-4 tie with the North East girls.

Sometimes the difference between winning that state title can come down to some simple instructions from that coach. When that coach happens to have been involved with all eight prior state team titles, then those simple instructions take on special importance. Experience counts.

North East head coach Ted Miller brought his team to the Inaugural Hershey XC Invitational (pre-state) meet in September to not only get experience for the kids on the course, but to survey the new opening layout and to see how it may affect the outcome of the race.

Miller saw everything he needed to see on September 22nd. He saw what he termed "too many turns." He saw the new path through the woods that would force runners who were not toward the front to lose ground and get caught in the pack as the race moved away. And he saw the back hills as opportunities, both going up and coming down.

And he saw another state championship was possible.

His simple instructions to his team were to get out toward the front before the narrow path or the race could be lost. He knew there was a chance it could be lost later if his guys faded. But getting out well was worth the risk. And he knew how tough his kids were. They were fighters and he wasn't worried.

"They got out well, and gutted it out to the finish," Miller would say a few days after the race.

He also instructed his team to run wide around the turns to avoid logjams on the inside - real momentum breakers. "They did it where they could."

And he instructed them to charge the hills and pass as many as possible, because he knew the downhills were so long that recovery would have time to take hold. "I saw our kids passing people all the way up."

His advice for this course? "Just pull up your pants and run."

Spotters from North East teams of the past - all coached by Miller.

Miller, who is now 79 and in his third stint as North East coach
(See "Sept 22: He may have retired, but he's anything but retiring.") knew he would not be running around the course to monitor his team. Fortunately for he and his team, he had a strong group of knowledgeable spotters at strategic locations. All connected by phone to keep each other informed.

One was former Edinboro all-American and 1982 NCAA Division II national XC champ Greg Beardsley. Another was Joe Klein from Miller's 1982 team. And there was Chuck Randal, who was on Miller's first championship team in 1971. Beardsley's son Alex is a sophomore on the team who was injured during the post-season. And Klein's son Dylan is a junior, and ran in the 3-5 group all season.

With training complete, a strategy in mind, and spotters in place, all that was left was for Miller was to wait.

The team had lost their District title to a great race from rivals General McLane. A top McLane runner had accidently cut the course, but it was ruled that it had not affected the outcome, so the results stood.

North East came to Hershey after putting the district loss out of their minds. They had one goal - run their own races.

A kick in the program from North East soccer.

There's no doubt about it. North East would not have won the state title without their consistent #1 and #2 runners, Garrett Gray and Carter Denne. Both are seniors and both also play soccer for North East.

Miller says that adapting training for the first time in his career to keep his top two guys in shape for soccer and improving for cross country was one of the greatest challenges he has ever faced. Miller would meet Gray and Denne on soccer game days early in the morning. They'd run five miles and then do striders on the track, hitting the straights and jogging the turns.

(For a typical North East weekly workout plan, see below)

The state race results pretty much speak for themselves. North East put six in front of McLane's 4th. "We had lost the battle, but we won the war," noted the ex-Marine.

  1   North East (10)          83    3   12   14   20   34   46   81   17:25      1:00
  2   General McLane (10)     151    4    9   15   52   71  101  132   17:39      1:19
1. North East (10)
    3  Garrett Gray, Sr            16:50    5:26
   12  Carter Denne, Sr            17:24    5:37
   14  Dylan Klein, Jr             17:26    5:37
   20  Zac Mix, Jr                 17:36    5:41
   34  Rob Merkel, Jr              17:49    5:45
   46  David Swan, Sr              18:03    5:49
   81  Cuyler Lewis, Fr            18:32    5:58

Coach Miller went out of his way to point out that Dylan Klein might have medaled had he not fallen once. And that freshman Cuyler Lewis, who Miller says has incredible potential, was knocked down twice. "But every one of them laid it on the line to the finish."

Two titles in one day.

But after 3.1 miles, the two soccer players were just getting started. Not only are Gray and Denne soccer players. They're good ones. And North East is good. So good in fact, that they made it to the District 10 AA Championship game that was scheduled for 7 pm on the same day as the state cross country championships.

Seconds after the digital cameras recorded the photos of North East at the awards, Gray and Denne were on their way back home to play in the title game. When they arrived, they had a full three minutes warm-up, and started the game.

When the rest of the team and Miller arrived, it was half time and there was no score. "Our kids were all wearing their medals," Miller said. "I don't know if that had anything to do with it, but we won 4-0, and Gray had two goals and Denne had two assists." The District 10 soccer title was theirs, and they advanced to the state meet sporting a perfect 21-0 record.

Miller says he is most proud of the fact that a lot of his runners have gone on to successful college careers. "They are prepared, and I really enjoy that."

As for his plans for next year's campaign... Miller says he'll challenge the girls (1982, 2983, 1987, 1989 state champs) to match the boy's record of five state titles (1971, 1982, 1987, 1988, 2007).

Now wouldn't that be a kick?

The North East weekly plan
"You have to train them. You can't go out and eat lollypops all day." - Ted Miller

Sunday: Easy 6-7 miles, loosen from a Saturday race
Monday: Mile repeats, 5:10 to 5:11, 3 or 4
Tuesday: Meets, followed by 6 or 7 200's
Wednesday: Hard workout, alternating different boys to a distance run who had competed on Tuesday. Gray and Denne did distance. Workouts included 800's at 2:25, or miles at 5:10, 5:10, 5:00. Told them they were getting 90 seconds rest, but it was really a minute.
Thursday: Distance with a little hill work at the end
Friday: Meet, plus six 200's at 30-31
Saturday: Meets

For states, jogged course on Friday. "Walking it makes it mentally seem long."



October 23-27 Districts Week:

PODCASTS: Wellsboro and Shikellamy surprised and Lewisburg delivered in D4. Dallas' boys competed well in D2. Liberty swept individual titles and advanced two teams to states, Emmaus was Emmaus in D11. Henderson's Chris Aldrich and Carly Hamond caputured individual crowns and St. Basil held off Christopher Dock in D1.

District 2: 

Interview: Dallas Head Coach Matt Samuel


District 4:

Interview: Shikellamy Head Coach Jim Bell

Interview: Wellsboro Head Coach Sue Owlett

Interview: Lewisburg Head Coach Mark Sundberg


District 11: 

Interview: Liberty Head Coach Bill Ruth

Interview: Emmaus Head Coach Dan Wessner 


District 1:

Interview: St. Basil Head Coach Greg Green

Interview: Henderson SR Chris Aldrich

Interview: Henderson SR Carly Hamond



October 17-20 Conferences Week:

Winning streaks were preserved at the big Tri-State Coaches Association meet on October 28th at Cooper's Lake in Slippery Rock. Baldwin senior David Adley won his 6th invitational of the season, while Latrobe junior Natalie Bower captured her third straight Tri-States. Video interviews with both champs.


October 13 Weekend:

Three videos, including the post-Manhattan interviews with Central Cambria's Carly Seymour, who set the 2.5 mile Van Cortlandt Park record of 13:56; her coach, Randy Wilson; and North Penn coach Ron Jaros after his boys' team ran the best team average of the day, 12:57.1, which happens to be the 2nd best of all time. 


Carly Seymour, Central Cambria, setting course record for 2.5 miles at Van Cortlandt Park in winning the Eastern States race at the Manhattan Invitational. THe time: 13:56!!!

Vince with head coach Mike Craighead after his 2007 Steel City win.

October 6 Weekend:

There is something different this year about Vince McNally. He's hungrier than ever.

Most of last year's U.S. champs are in college. But Coatesville is still Coatesville. Winners.

If running is mental, then confidence is currency. Just ask Heather Giovagnoli.


October 6 Weekend:

There is something different this year about Vince McNally. He's hungrier than ever.

You can see it in his performances. Dominating wins at the big Gettysburg and Steel City Invitationals.

You can see it his behavior immediately after those wins. Putting aside socializing to get in needed additional miles.

You can see it in his focus on the details of stretching and warming down.

You can sense it in his demeanor as he goes about the business of making his senior season - beginning with cross country - the best season of his prep career.

And that is saying something.

As a freshman, McNally ran on the AAA state champion 4x800 in track for Conestoga Valley. That followed a medal for finishing 13th in AAA cross country the previous fall.

As a sophomore, he burst onto the national radar, pushing then-junior Craig Miller to a 14:56 at the September Gettysburg Invitational, and reeling in a 15:02 for himself, all while beating Brad Miller and a deep field. Later that fall, he would be 3rd at PIAA States behind Craig and future-Foot Locker finalist Keith Capecci of Council Rock North. His spring finished with a 2nd place 4:15.49 1600 behind Brad Miller's first and only high school title.

For both his frosh and soph years, he played basketball. His sophomore year, he got pretty beat up on the hoops circuit, and eventually decided to quit the sport for good. But recurring knee pain sidelined him early in his junior year after a solid summer of training. It turned out to be a problem that had originally been discovered when he was in 8th grade, treated and then forgotten. Until 2006, that is. A common problem - one leg slightly shorter than the other - and generally easily treated by orthodics and religious stretching.

But the injury cost McNally a three-week shutdown just as his junior cross season was getting started. He was given the clearance to train again just before the late-September Carlisle Invitational and got in several runs plus a tempo run the day before. To everyone's surprise, except his, he won the race. He went on to take 5th at states, and was looking good for a chance at qualifying for Foot Lockers. But within the first 400 meters as he passed the starting line, he had a close encounter with the announcer and went down. He recovered somewhat, but was extremely disappointed with his 13th place finish.


2005 Gettysburg: Sophomore McNally pushes Craig Miller (r) to a 14:56, and runs 15:02 to beat Brad.

McNally was back into full training mode though, and cruised through outdoor, winning his first individual title, this one in the 1600. He then earned all-American at the Nike Outdoor Nationals, running a big PR of 4:08.99 to take 6th, and finish as the only junior in that top group.

McNally was totally back, and ready for a great senior year.

Mike Craighead is McNally's coach for all three seasons. He is head of the cross country program, head coach of the girls in track and distance coach for the boys. Now in his 10th year at Conestoga Valley as a coach, the 1988 Lancaster McCaskey grad knows what it takes to win at the state level. Just like his star pupil, he was on a state champion 4x800 team. He also earned a 2nd place medal in the 800, running 1:53. He's had some pretty good times since, putting up a 4:05 mile, sub-15 5K and sub-25 5 miles on the roads; now competing for Inside Track.

But Craighead knows that he has a rare talent in McNally. And he's handling his training as such.

Craighead's approach looks at a 17-week season, with Foot Locker Nationals as the target. Now entering week #9 of the plan, Craighead likes what he is seeing.

Craighead's plan called for six weeks of 65 miles. The past two weeks, they dropped to 60 miles, and will keep that level up through districts, drop just to 50 for states, and lower toward 40 to at Foot Locker Regionals. Should McNally make nationals, they'll be under 30 by the day of the race. Craighead says they don't do anything really fast, with most runs at 6:30 pace. Once a week, he throws in a six-miler at 5:40 pace, along with a long run on grass of 80 minutes.

His workouts have been few thus far, but impressive, says Craighead. "He's only had three so far and we're just starting 800's. He had one workout a couple of weeks ago where he ran a 4:52 mile, followed by a 4:39, then followed by a 4:31. And that was in training shoes on the track." The break between miles was four minutes, plus a one lap jog.

Yep, impressive.

But Craighead is also impressed with McNally's approach to the sport. "He has become a student of the sport. I include him in the training. He gives me input. It's give and take. Then you tell him why you want to do something, and he follows the game plan."

And that planning obviously extends to the races. For Steel City, Craighead says they talked about sitting back the first mile and then not killing himself on the hill. At the top, McNally was released to go and then to see what he had.

What he had was a 29-second win over one of PA's other top runners this season, Mark Dennin of Boyertown.

"This win was important," said Craighead. "He was 3rd as a freshman, 2nd as a sophomore, so this was one of his goals this season was to win Steel City. It meant a lot to win it. There was a lot of family here."

For McNally, though, it's one step on the road to three main season goals: win states, peak at Foot Locker regionals with a competitive race that advances him to San Diego, and then earn all-American at Foot Lockers.

Craighead says McNally is more hungry this year than ever. "He's always been competitive. Now he wants to see how good he can be."

While Steel City's win was impressive, Craighead made one of those assessments only a coach can make because they know their runner so well. "He's got a lot more in his tank."


Most of last year's U.S. champs are in college. But Coatesville is still Coatesville. Winners.

Coatesville head coach Keith Andrew watched his team go through warmups and knew exactly what he had. The year was 2006, and that team would go on to win the Nike Team Nationals and stun the prognosticators of the sport who just couldn't imagine a program from Pennsylvania producing such a great team.

The 2007 Coatesville boys XC team.

But for a moment while watching those then-future national champions go through their routine, Andrew's thoughts turned to the time when most of the top varsity runners would be graduates. Knowing that he would be losing his top five runners from that squad, he was asked about his team's prospects for 2007.

After a brief pause, he answered, "in many ways, I know it will be a challenge. But I think we can be good. Our kids are not afraid of the work."

A year later, he watches as his team accepts congratulations from parents, fans and supporters after winning another Steel City Invitational. This one the fourth in a row.

And Andrew is proud. He knows exactly what he has.

Currently ranked #7 in the latest Top 10 poll, the Red Raiders of Coatesville have new #1 and #2 runners. They happen to be last year's #6 and #7 runners, Andrew Mahoney and Chris Rosato. They've traded the top spot this year, as they also helped at various scoring positions on last year's squad. But suffice it to say, Andrew knew he and assistant coach David Lapp had incredible shoes to fill.

Andrew says the leadership roles have been aptly assumed by Mahoney and Rosato. "The guys do what he (Mahoney) asks. He warms them up and stretches them out very well. And they respect Chris (Rosato) just as much. I think there are two guys out there who are leading this team by example."

While no one expected any team to replace what many have argued was the best boys' cross country team in PA history, one gets the sense that Andrew knew all along that it was the program, and not just the athletes, that deliver the performances. "This shows the depth of our program. It's a lot of miles. But you can see the reason for the miles in how well they run. And today, they're running tired. I'm happy for them."

Drew Mahoney and Chris Rosato have taken the reigns of the 2007
Coatesville cross country team. Photo of both competing on the national
champion Bridgetown XC Club team at Nike Team Nationals in
December,2006. (Photo by Brandon Miles)

With only Mahoney and Rosato back from varisty, it's even more amazing that two of this year's top five weren't even running cross country on last year's team. Steel City's #3 man for Coatesville, junior Bryan Wolf, had been in the district in 8th grade, attended Bishop Shanahan as a 9th grader, and returned to Coatesville for his sophomore year. "He wasn't doing any sport last year," Andrew shared. And their #5 man, Ben Goodwin, a senior, "was standing on the sidelines in a football uniform," adding, "They've both done a good job of maintaining. They're still getting used to our program."  Coatesville's 4th man at Steel City, senior Zach Wilson, was running Junior Varsity in 2006.

Which means, even when looking ahead a year ago, Andrew knew that he would have a shot by the time the season counted. Because it's the program.

And as always, Andrew is never short on praise for his long-time assistant, David Lapp. The team and the program are obviously benefiting from their team coaching approach.

As for this year's competitive landscape, Andrew is impressed by North Penn after seeing them dominate Carlisle, where his team took 4th. But he is really excited about the possibilities at the District 1 meet. "It'll be interesting. It's a loaded district, and there's a possibility that a team that could be left out could have finished in the top ten at States." (Note: six D1 AAA teams advance to the state meet.)

Andrew takes a moment to reflect on how different, but how ultimately successful 2007 is turning out to be, even compared with the all-time 2006 team. "It's neat watching guys who have run in the shadows of the other guys now stepping up and giving us the greatest effort they can, and reaping some of the same benefits - not totally at the same level - but they've continued the winning attitude here."

In the end, you just knew Coatesville would still be Coatesville. Winners.


If running is mental, then confidence is currency. Just ask Heather Giovagnoli.

When Heather Giovagnoli, a Spring-Ford senior, began her 2007 cross country campaign with a win at the Abington Invitational, she was a bit surprised. Although it's a low key early-season meet, and everyone is coming off a summer of training, she really wasn't expecting it.


Giovagnoli is in the center of the action approaching the mile at the 2007 Steel City Invitational en route to the biggest invitational win of her career. 

But a summer of actual training was something Giovagnoli had not exactly done before. 

She says that two summers ago, she simply went to a cross country camp, and used the mileage of that week as her base for the season. Through the season, she would improve. As a junior, that eventually meant an 18:48 PR and 19th place finish at the District 1 Championships on the fast Lehigh University course. The following week on the hills of Hershey, she slipped to a 63rd place finish.

For the rest of 2006, Giovagnoli used the base of her 2006 cross campaign to propel her to a 2:16 PR in the 800 during spring, followed by a big 4:57.57 5th place PR and medal at states in the AAA 1600.

Things looked good for cross 2007, and Giovagnoli decided to make some changes in her summer training. The biggest change? Train all summer, of course. She hit highs of 40 miles, but generally averaged about 25 miles a week with a long run of six miles. Since the season started, she has a track workout on Monday's, usually 1200's, 800's and some 400's for turnover.

Giovagnoli took her Abington win and went into the big September 28th Paul Short Run with some confidence. The race didn't go as planned, and she would finish 11th in 19:18.

But with the early season invitational win still fresh in her mind, Giovagnoli did not lose confidence. "Before Paul Short, my legs had really been bothering me," she says. So after Paul Short, she increased her stretching, and just "let it go."

A week of renewed focus on hard training, with some hill work - including a mid-week dual meet on a hilly course - gave her a fresh dose of confidence, and focus.

Yet coming into Steel City - a course with the huge 'Goat Hill' 1/2 mile monster in the 2nd mile - she didn't set a goal of finishing any better than the top ten.

Whoops. Scratch the "0" out of the 10.

"My plan for Steel City was to go out hard mile one and get into position and then not lose any places on the hill."

Following that plan put Giovagnoli in a group with just two other girls just after the mile - defending champ Rachel Wong of PA#2 Northern York, and Boyertown sophomore Elizabeth Simpson.

Giovagnoli would pass Wong and Simpson on the first part of the hill, but be overtaken by both as they neared the road. Once on the downhill. Giovagnoli passed both, but Wong overtook her soon after on the road. For the rest of the race, it was Wong and Giovagnoli, until with about 200 meters to go, Giovagnoli surged past Wong and held on for the biggest win so far this season. Giovagnoli's 19:31 was two seconds better than Wong's winning time of 2006 on the first year of the revised course, and five seconds better than Wong on this day. Simpson was solo in third at 19:47, the only other girl under 20.

Giovagnoli says that she wanted to use the downhill of Steel City as a track meet, "because I like track better."

The senior has college visits planned to both D1 and D2 schools over the coming months, and after Steel City and a dual meet October 10th, will focus on her conference, districts and states.

After her 63rd place finish at states last year, Giovagnoli says she had set a goal this season to medal. But after her second invitational win of the season and an increased dose of confidence, she does concede... "I may change by goal after today."





September 29 Weekend:

Ignore North Penn at your own risk this year. A track power excels at cross, too.

It's good to get your #1 runners back. Just ask Unionville & Cardinal O'Hara


 Front row L to R.  Brad Miles, Zack Montijo, Zach Hoagland.
Back row L to R.  Tim Stauring, Brian Kuntzmann, Dominic Camasso, Brian Quintrell


Ignore North Penn at your own risk this year. A track power excels at cross, too.

Take two really tough, battle-tested members of a nationally ranked 4x800 team. Add a transfer from a AA school in western PA with some state experience. Throw in some returning runners. Then top it off with two athletes from the sports of soccer and basketball.

What do you get?

Holy Ghost Prep was out hard at .75 miles, but only Hoagland represented North Penn
at this point on the way to their win at Carlisle.

You get one of the teams that could win the AAA state championship at Hershey on November 3rd, of course.

When the season started, North Penn was on virtually nobody's radar. First of all, they are viewed mainly as a track power, with particular expertise in the open 800 and 4x800 relay. And those are great places to start when you're looking to build a cross country team.

But in 2006, they finished 14th at the District 1 Cross Country Championships. And even though they would return their top five, there was nothing in the performances that day, or the state champ races of two members of that team - Zack Montijo was 33rd and Zach Hoagland was 74th – that indicated a breakout year like they're having in 2007.

Back to the 800 for a moment.

Fast-forward to outdoor 2007 from 2006 cross, and Montijo joins with fellow harrier Brian Quintrell to become half of the top American 4x800 at the Penn Relays. Not bad. Not bad at all. And a good place to start this season, as Montijo was the top guy on the cross team last season, and Quintrell, now a junior, was 4th man. Montijo is coming back from a minor injury at the start of the season, and his times have been dropping.


Hoagland and Red Lion's Greg Kareis nearing 2 miles @ Carlisle.

Their 2nd man from last season – Zach Hoagland – has been a dominant first man this season slicing chunks of time from courses he ran last year, his first at North Penn. Hoagland spent the first two years of his high school career at AA Grove City in western PA, just four miles from Slippery Rock, and a member of District 10.

Hoagland's times his first two years showed promise, but nothing like he's posting now. He ran an 18:29 as a freshman, and then took 29th in AA states with a 17:08 as a sophomore. Last season, his first at North Penn, he dropped a 15:56 for 31st at Districts, advanced to states, and ran 16:44.

Enter 2007, and he and his teammates decided to make this year count. First meet out of the gate, Hoagland goes 15:53 at Central Bucks East for 2nd. He took 2nd the following week at Briarwood, and was within a half-second of the course record of a Foot Locker Finalist, running 15:49. He had run 16:24.1 there as a junior. Hoagland followed that up two weeks later, going 15:40.94 for 2nd at Carlisle and a PR.

"I'm still working on my my kick at the end of races," he says.

Joining Hoagland, Montijo and Quintrell in the top seven this season are the two refugees from other sports. Sophomore Brad Miles finished 5th at Carlisle, running 16:00.87, a PR. Times like that as a soph kind of make soccer look like a part of history. And ex-hoopster Dominic Camasso, a junior who is in his first year of running, took 5th for the team at Carlisle, going 16:35.21. The 1-5 compression was an impressive 55 seconds. And with only Hoagland and Montijo as seniors, Quintrell, Miles and Camasso are being pushed by juniors Tim Stauring and Brian Kuntzmann, both vets of the varsity in 2006.

So this may be a team for 2007 as well as 2008.

Hoagland says that the national experience and focused mentality of 800 runners Montijo and Quintrell have helped the team with both speed and focus. "Brian is such a strong athlete, and 'Monty' always  comes through for us when we need him."


For the Carlisle race, it was Holy Ghost Prep (HGP) and Upper Dublin (UD) who took the race out hard, with runners in the top group approaching the mile, and with only Hoagland as company from North Penn. But according to Hoagland, that is less a strategy than it is a style of running. "We do what we normally do. They (HGP and UD) were ahead of us at Briarwood. Our guys stay patient and try to make their move later."

While Hoagland still considers North Penn's focus to be on track, he says they'd like to be known for their cross country, too. And if they keep running like this, and win states, he says the team has talked about delaying their indoor season to take a crack at the NTN regional in late November.

But first things first, says Hoagland. "We have some invitationals, leagues and then the focus is on Districts and States."

And after that September, all eyes are now focused on North Penn, as well.



It's good to get your #1 runners back. Just ask Unionville & Cardinal O'Hara

It's nice to be #1, but it's even better to get your #1 runner back. Or should we say, #1 runners?

That's exactly the place that the Cardinal O'Hara and Unionville girls' teams find themselves at this point in this season, and it's making all the difference.

At the Friday September 28 Paul Short Run at Lehigh University, O'Hara took 2nd for the second week in a row against strong competition – both by a mere two points. This time it was a PA-ranked Cumberland Valley team. The week before at the Inaugural Hershey XC meet on the state championship course, it was against PA-ranked North Allegheny. The big difference at Paul Short was the return of their top runner, senior Beth Kelly.

On the same day, Unionville knocked off NTN-ranked Colts Neck NJ at their home course. Even with the NJ team minus their #1 runner, the results would simply have been closer.

One journey took years, the other weeks.

Photo: Unionville senior Christine Smith has overcome injury to take
the #1 spot on a state title-contending team.
(Photo by Pat Montferrat,

Unionville's Christine Smith is a senior. When she came on the high school running scene in 2004 as a talented freshman, she ran #2 for the AAA state champion Unionville Indians, getting a 23rd place medal in the process. There was a clear #1 that year in her senior teammate Katie Thaeder, who had won the district and then state titles.

It seemed that Smith was destined to take her place as the team #1 and one of the top harriers in the state. But things don't always go as planned.

After a strong indoor season in which she took 8th in the mile in 5:15.27 at the PTFCA State Indoor Championships, and an opening 11:30.86 then-PR 3200 in the outdoor season-opening Pennsylvania Track Classic, things began to go the other way.

A stress fracture that was diagnosed just two weeks before the 2005 Penn Relays took away her outdoor season that freshman year. She recovered, trained, and made a fresh start of it for cross country of her sophomore year in 2005. Late in September, another stress fracture sidelined her. When the stress fracture occurred in late September, she was not even at 80% of max speed on her progression.  The doctor recommended a 6-month break from all running to strengthen her bones.  Christine did not practice at full speed until mid-October of 2006, and steadily improved her racing last fall and finished 44th at the state meet.

Most people quit at a crossroads like that. But Christine Smith is not most people. Head coach Mark Lacianca says he is proud of what Smith has been able to endure and to accomplish. The best race of her young season came at Colts Neck, when she won in 18:45 for the 5K course. "She never really had a long period of upset. She has remained extremely positive."

O'Hara senior Beth Kelly in her first meet back from an early-season
reaction to a bug bite that sidelined her for three weeks. Star frosh
Nicole Delgrosso finished 1st for the team at Paul Short.

O'Hara senior Beth Kelly's journey did not take years, but for a senior with high expectations entering her final prep cross country campaign, it may have well have been.

A bug bite near her eye in late August turned into something that would cause a complete shutdown for three weeks. That meant no running, no pool, no cross-training of any kind.

She finally got medical clearance to train again September 24th, and coming off just a few days to get her legs under her again, she ran #2 for O'Hara at the Paul Short Run, taking 23rd overall in the hugh field. While most would be happy with a 19:36 at Lehigh, for someone who has the 4th best all-time run at Belmont Plateau (18:44.7), even the casual observer can see that her times, along with the team's fortunes, are sure to improve.

But #1's only get you a good start in races, and both these teams are deep in 2007.

O'Hara head coach John McShay says that the rest of the team did an incredible job in sticking together while Beth was out. "I was pleasantly surprised. We were in every race, and it's a tribute to those girls. They do everything together, and I think racing well without her helped their confidence."

In addition to Beth, four of last year's top seven are back, including seniors Katie McShay and Caroline Grant, plus sophomores Bridget McDermott and Emily Scanlon. While the team he puts on the course now is not what was projected, McShay says it is the younger athletes who have stepped it up. The biggest surprise, he says, was McDermott. "She works hard in practice and stays with the other girls. She has had to earn her spot and obviously did all the summer workouts."

McShay also credits star freshman Nicole Delgrosso with stepping comfortably into the top spot during Kelly's absence.

He knew he had a runner with the focus and drive to be good when he read her goals after the team's summer camp in Ocean City, NJ. "She wants to break Beth Kelly's team record at Belmont Plateau. Now that is a girl who believes."

O'Hara will next race at the tough Brandywine Park course at the Salesianum Invitational in Delaware on October 6th because the seniors are taking SATs. Then they will look for a good race with Strath Haven at Delcos before starting the heart of the championship part of their season.

Unionville's Lacianca would rather go into battle with a front-runner like Smith, but if he didn't have her, he still likes his chances with the depth on this team, even though they lost two potential returners from last season's 7th place state team. Senior Marissa Guerette, who ran 2nd at Colts Neck, is only in her second year of running. Senior Kaitlin Carpenter and junior Rachel Bremer were within three seconds of each other, taking 10th and 11th in New Jersey. Also running varsity and competing for starting spots are Jess Olson, Catherine Yuh, Mariann Dreisbach, a junior, and senior Danielle Ferree, who was on the state title team in 2004.

Unionville faces Great Valley at home on October 3, and then will train toward their league meet in mid-October, and districts and states.

"This team is deeper than that state championship one." Lacianca says. "Our 10th runner this year is where our 7th runner was then."

Which means, like his brethren at Cardinal O'Hara, Lacianca likes his chances. And both coaches especially like those chances now that their #1 runners have returned to the front of the race.

Because in cross country, nothing beats one point.


September 22 Weekend: 

Small schools are on a pack attack in PA.

He may have retired. But he's anything but retiring.


Sept 22 Wknd: Small schools are on a pack attack in PA.

There's an uprising this year in cross country, and before it's over, some of the largest schools in the state may find themselves asking why? how? what happened? Who were those guys (girls included)?

In the past few weeks, several small schools have shown their competitors they have more than big dreams. They have talented teams to go with those dreams. These are small schools who are achieving at the highest level.

Lewisburg has two runners at in 3rd and 4th late in the Blue Race
at Hershey, and #5 isn't far behind.

The Germantown Friends guys nearly knocked off the #1 team in the country on September 15th. And they're not backing down, because they're heading for Paul Short this Friday and the Manhattan Invitational on October 13th. Also on September 15th, Central Cambria's girls – behind returning Foot Locker finalist Carly Seymour – showed the AAA teams in District 6 that they had something special this year.

But a week later, Central Cambria showed even more... beating every team in their race, plus every team in the other race when the results are combined. AA, AAA, former state champs... every one of them.

And the closest team to knocking them off?

It wasn't a AAA school. It was another AA squad with big plans and big talent – Lewisburg.

Third place in the combined scoring went to the Gold Race champions from AAA North Allegheny, which boasts a student population of 993 girls. Central Cambria at 235 and Lewisburg at 234 combined, don't make it to half that total.

At the start of the Blue race,
Holy Ghost Prep and North East dominate the top 20.

And the boys' small school's race wasn't much different. In the end, the #1 ranked team in the state - North Allegheny boys - nipped fellow AAA squad Holy Ghost Prep in combined scoring. But just by a single point. Holy Ghost Prep isn't exactly a huge school. The boys-only high school in suburban Philadelphia has only 374 students. North Allegheny has 1,062.

Just behind Holy Ghost Prep in the first race, and solidly in 3rd in the combined scoring, was another AA power, North East.

If you're doing the math, that means three AA and one very small AAA school took four of the top six spots in all four races.

Is it something in the kids? In the coaching? In the training?

Yes, yes, and a resounding yes.

The first ingredient is the athletes... and athletes at these schools have obviously put in the work.

Approaching 2 miles, Holy Ghost Prep's top three are together. 

Lewisburg head coach Mark Sundberg says that their top three girls – juniors Kiah Hardcastle and Sohia Ziemian, plus senior Casey Miller all worked hard together over the summer. The plan for this race was for those three to hang with Boiling Springs senior Kara Millhouse and Nazareth Academy senior Meghan Lutz. They did, and it led to 3rd, 4th and 7th place finishes, respectively.

Running as a pack certainly has distinct advantages. "I wanted them to take it out," Sundberg says. "Running together really helps to energize each other." Sundberg says his next group is working well together to develop a similar pack who can move together and move up during a big race. Two packs like that, and you'll win a lot of races.

Central Cambria's 2-4 are together at 1.5 miles @ Hershey.

Central Cambria employed a similar strategy - with the exception of Carly Seymour who was a minute ahead of any finisher in either race - and put their 2 through 5 in just 1:16 apart.

Those two teams will see each other again this Saturday at the Spiked Shoe Invitational on the Blue Course at Penn State University.

The pack mentality is alive and well at Holy Ghost Prep and North East as well. Their scoring five had compressions of 1:13 and 1:03 respectively. Holy Ghost Prep was led by senior Eric Arnold in 2nd and junior Michael Pierce in 5th. North East put Garrett Gray, a senior, in 3rd.  The difference in this race was that Prep also took 9th and 12th, while North East's next pack came in at 13th, 16th and 20th. If you're counting though, that's nine of the ten scorers for both teams in the top 20. Game over for everyone else. North East's usual #3 suffered from the heat, so they are probably even stronger.

At 2.5 miles, North East's 2-5 are following their coach's plan.

HGP's Pierce says that they're coached to think pack. "They're always teaching us to be pushing people and talking to people who fall back... pushing the rest of the team to be competitive." While Pierce was 2nd for the team in this race and the first one of the season, Arnold ran 2nd to Pierce in the two races in between. "It keeps us sharp," he says.

Arnold says another factor is they don't shy away from competition. "We're always looking for big races. We're just trying to get as much experience as we can in a short amount of time, so we're ready for Districts and States."

Ted Miller, head coach of North East, has been a part of eight state champion teams at the school since he started the program in 1961. And he's convinced that there is no substitute for the pack mentality. Shortly after the race up front with Holy Ghost Prep, Miller said he didn't know if they had won or not, and he really wasn't that concerned, because he simply had wanted the guys to get a look at the course. "I owed it to them to get down here."

The one thing he was sure of was that he was pleased with the effort as every time he saw at the race, he saw several gold shirts with NE's on them, bunched together. "I was pleased with the effort. They got out as a team and most of them were in the top 15 at the mile-and-a-half mark, and that always puts you in a good position."

As far as rematches, in addition to Central Cambria and Lewisburg in State College, North Allegheny and Holy Ghost Prep will face each other on Saturday in Carlisle. Head-to-head this time.

Whether it's in State College or Carlisle, it really doesn't matter who wins. What matters is, the size of the school is totally irrelevant. It's no different that it's ever been – athletes, hard work., and great coaching make for successful teams.

Sundberg put it in perspective when he capped up the day's racing. "I believe our race was the best race of the day. AA is tough in this state."


North East approaching two miles at Hershey.  


Sept 22 Wknd: He may have retired. But he's anything but retiring. 

Ted Miller has coached eight state championship teams. Now he's back for #9 in just the fourth year of his third stint as head coach at AA North East High School in District 10.

Miller actually 'retired' the first time in 1989 – from teaching and from coaching. He has stayed retired from the classroom, but he has never been very far from the course or the track as a coach.

His eight state titles, four with the boys and four with the girls, go nicely with an even split between boys and girls for six runner-up trophies. All at North East.

By any measure, Miller is a successful coach. State championships, top finishes, and at North East, he even has a field named after him.

So what was he doing running around a cross country course in Hershey on a hot September morning sporting a  stopwatch and a knowledgeable gaze as he watched his runners finish as the top AA team on the state course?

If you're Ted Miller, and you're approaching your 80th birthday, there's only one good reason. He's a coach.


Ted Miller sports this year's shirt,
acknowleding the program he started
at North East High School in 1961.

Legendary some say.

But to his current charges, he's simply their coach, and the guy who is going to lead them to title #9.

Miller's first run at North East went from 1961 – when he founded the program – through the early 1970's, when he left for a few years. During his first years there they had a couple of top five finishes at states, and that was when there was only one classification. During that time, he started another tradition at the school that they honor to this day – they don't back down from competition. In fact, they seek it out. "I don't like to run meets that don't mean anything," Miller says.

His first hiatus ended in 1982 when he returned and took over the girls' program. "They just took off." And that was the beginning of the state title runs. His 1982 girls, Miller says, were – in his estimation – the best AA team in state history. "They scored 55 points in the state meet, and that was with the old scoring." (individuals were not excluded from team scoring.) If the individuals had been backed out, North East would have scored 16. The previous week, they had scored 15 in a sweep of the district meet that had almost 200 runners.

Miller says that his 1982 team was before soccer competed with cross country for athletes. His message to soccer players today? "You could be a great runner."

Two of his top runner's on this year's boys' team are both top soccer players though, Garrett Gray and Carter Denne. The two seniors took 3rd and 13th overall in the Blue race at Hershey. Miller says Carter is a 1:56 800 guy and is only in his second year of cross country. Gray took 16th in the state meet in 2006. Running 3rd, 4th and 5th for the team at Hershey were senior David Swan (16th), junior Dylan Klein (20th), and sophomore Alex Beardsley (24th). Junior Rob Merkel was one spot back from Beardsley and junior Chad O'Leary was 33rd. Klein's father had been a top 2-miler for Miller in the 80's.

With his retirement in 1989, Miller took a few years away from coaching. But Harbor Creek High School called one day, and he took the opportunity. He again guided a program to a high level, and with Eric and Brian Soder as his top two runners in 2002, captured the runner-up trophy in AA.

In the interim, North East High School had honored their former coach by naming a field after him. Coaching at Harbor Creek, Miller says, kind of irritated a few at his old school, and they asked him why he wasn't coaching for them. His response? "All you have to do is ask me."

They asked, and his third run at North East began.

His first step was to renew the work ethic that had built the program over the years. Miller says it has taken every bit of three years to get the message across about the importance of year-round training.

His 2006 team was pretty good, but an injury and illnesses hit the team at the wrong time, and districts was not the race the season's performances had foretold.

But it's a new season with a seasoned coach. And the team is looking like the one to beat in AA. A win in the Red Division at Big Red on September 8th, followed by the 2nd to a very strong AAA Holy Ghost Prep, and a combined scoring 3rd against all team in Hershey on September 22nd, says they are prepared to meet the challenge.

And with North East's 3rd through 7th runners back for 2008, coupled with a strong junior high program, Miller sees no reason why the North East pack shouldn't continue.

They'll go back to training, and, Miller says, the work will continue. "I'm sure I'll find a day for some hills pretty soon."

And that should be no surprise to anyone. Miller just doesn't seem like the retiring type.


 North East with their trophy
(My fault for taking the shot late, obviously you're too fast)




September 15 Weekend:  

Central Cambria is learning to be champions from a champion.

The complete podcast interview with Carly Seymour.

Germantown Friends is the little school that nearly did (and probably will).


Sept 15 Wknd: Central Cambria is learning to be champions from a champion.

Central Cambria coach Randy Wilson sometimes has the look of a guy who knows he has the winning lottery numbers before every drawing. It's a confidence gained by watching a program he has developed become one of the top 10 ranked teams in Pennsylvania. They also boast a #1 runner who is a returning Foot Locker Finalist and is a two-time state champion - once in XC and once in the 3200.


Back Row L to R: Head Coach Randy Wilson, Kendall Seymour 9th, Carly Seymour 12th, Emily
Wright 9th, Kelsey Seymour 10th, Assistant Coach Tammy Nagel, Front Row L to R, Ashley Stump 9th, Annie Cekada 11th, Morgan Eckenrod 10th

Not bad for a little AA school in the west-central mountains in a "suburb" of Altoona. Ebensburg, to be precise.

Wilson has hit the lottery, and he knows it. But he also knows that it is his program that has been the foundation that has helped to develop runners such as Carly Seymour into national caliber athletes. That's because he can see it happening again, with help from Carly.

You see, Carly is the lone senior on a team of budding stars. Two of them are Carly's younger sisters, Kelsey, a sophomore, and Kendall, a freshman. They're joined by junior Annie Cekada and sophomore Morgan Eckenrod, plus two other freshmen who were part of a 10:06 8th grade 4x800 with Kendall... Emily Wright and Ashley Stump.

And not only can Wilson see great things happening again, but Carly can, too.


Kendall, Carly and Kelsey Seymour

Wilson says it all starts with Carly's focus. Seymour finished 50th in the state in cross as a freshman. She came back to win it as a sophomore and took runner-up as a junior, before advancing to her first Foot Locker finalist berth. "I want them (the team) to know that she didn't just roll out of bed and win the state championship," Wilson says. "We have kids on this team, and once they realize what they're about, they can make an impact."

Carly, from her point of view, says it was the state title in 10th grade that started her on the path to everything that has happened since. That's when she was able to learn to put her nerves to use as energy for racing, rather than something to sap your strength just when you needed it most.

But it wasn't until her 9th place finish, earning an all-American certificate at last year's Foot Locker Finals, that she finally believed that she belonged among the nation's elite. She knew she was good before that. After all, she had a cross country title and a runner-up to show for it. But she wasn't quite sure. Seymour says she thought that the girls who went to Foot Lockers were something special. "I thought they had a special gene or they had super powers. But I just realized that they were all regular people."

Whatever pressure she felt has been tempered even more because, as Seymour says, she now knows that it's no magic that goes into training that makes you better. "It's just that you have to put your whole heart into it and love it, and then you'll be just fine."

What her coach sees is someone who never relents. And he doesn't mean she hammers workouts. She simply does what is asked of her. Every single time. "You give her a workout, and she does it. She's not stopping. She getting it done – good day or bad – but she is always giving it her all."

Seymour admits that talent has a lot to do with her success, but she says that running is, as others have said before her, mostly mental. And that, she says, is what she most wants the others on her team to learn from her. "If you think you can do it, you can. I know a lot of girls on my team don't think they're near me, but I know the potential that they have, and if they just get it in their head that they're as good as me, I think they can come close."

Winning a state championship has been a goal of this team since the idea was introduced to the girls by Wilson.

Of course, making the dream a reality becomes a little easier with a single point at the front of most races. Wilson says that Carly's presence gives them confidence. "They think she's holding up her end of the bargain, and since she's doing it for them, the least they can do is to bring it home."

And, Wilson says, "everybody kind of feeds off of Carly. If she wasn't here, every person would be running slower." Wilson also is quick to point out that this group has something else that many cross country teams don't – a pecking order (after #1, that is.) "Two through seven could be different every day, and that's what makes a team good. Everyone is fighting for a spot."

For example you have to look no further than thte JV results at Altoona. There you'll see the winner of the race was a Central Cambria runner. Junior Brittany Tusing ran 21:18.6, which would have been 6th on the team in the varsity race.

So this little team from Ebensburg has big dreams. Carly says she has high expectations for both states and Foot Lockers. And although she is proud of her accomplishments in 2006, she has made some changes in an effort to improve. She has incorporated more core work and lifting with her comparatively low mileage schedule (long runs of an hour). Plus, she is taking more rest time, and is feeling fresher than at any time last year. It showed in a 35-second improvement on the Altoona course from 2006 to 2007.

But on the road to whatever awaits her in her drive to return to Foot Lockers and improve on her 9th place finish, Carly would love nothing more than lead her team to a AA title. "This is the best team you could ask for." Seymour says that Wilson has told them they are going to be on a state championship team. "That's what they have in their heads. We're going to go and we're going to be that good. They all have the confidence to do it, and that's what we're going to try to do."

And if anyone should know a state champion when she sees one, it's a two-time state champion named Carly Seymour. 



Sept 15 Wknd: Germantown Friends is the little school that nearly did (and probably will).


Getting a text message in the middle of a cross country meet is not that unusual. But getting a text message that says that a little private Quaker school located in Philadelphia had come within a point of upsetting the number one ranked boys team in the U.S. – now that was a surprise.

Honestly, it shouldn't have been a surprise at all.

Germantown Friends, coached by Rob Hewitt, has been on a lot of radars for a few years. They held their own at the 2006 Manhattan Invitational with Max Kaulbach (left at Hartford 9/15) 8th, Jake McKenzie (below at Nike Outdoor) 13th and Isaac Ortiz 29th, finishing 4th against two ranked teams.. They ran very well at the Nike Indoor Nationals, getting 4th in the 4x1600. And they roared through outdoor, reeling off individual marks that sounded like they were coming from a big-time distance program (because they were).

(For a list of some quick PRs, literally and figuratively, both individually and in relays, see a short list at the end of this story.)

Here's the amazing part. There are only 160 boys in the entire school. And 20% of those boys are on the cross country team. Walk the halls, and your chances are one in five you'll meet a member of the team. Challenge them to a race, and your chances won't be nearly as good.

With their reputation established during the 2006-2007 year, the team received an invitation from the meet director of the Hartford Riverfront Cross Country Festival in Connecticut for September 8th. The goal was to put together a race with some national-caliber teams, including Connecticut powers Danbury and Glastonbury. Danbury would be ranked #1 in the pre-season Nike Team Nationals pole. Glastonbury 11th. Germantown Friends 4th in the Northeast and unranked in the national top 25.

The race didn't attract the teams that the meet anticipated. But no matter... meet management, along with Danbury and Glastonbury, got everything they bargained for, and more.

Hewitt couldn't wait to get a crack at Danbury on the trails rather than on the track. Plus, he wanted to see where his team stood early in the season, while he could still make adjustments. "If we waited until Manhattan, we might not have time."

Even though the team was in the middle of heavy mileage, Hewitt knew he'd get an accurate portrait of where his guys stood. He gave instructions to each of his runners prior to the race, knowing that he had a top three who could run with almost anyone in the country. And while his next four have not garnered the accolades of the three seniors, he also knew that his two juniors and two sophomores might be up to surprising people - even this early in the season.

The race did go out fast, with the #1's from Danbury, Glastonbury and Xavier hammering the first mile in 4:40 low. "We had 4th, 5th and 6th the entire tiime. They sat under them for the first two miles and started climbing."

While his top three more than met Hewitt's expectations, he was pleased with the efforts of his next four. "I love the race our #4 ran. He was fantastic, pushing through a lot of things. He grinded it out the entire time, and that's his M.O."

Hewitt says his #5 guy did what he was asked to do, but was pleased about the performance, knowing "he has more in the tank." "And our #6 continued to move forward the whole race, and gave a nice effort. Plus, our #7 was asked to go out with our #6."

Hewitt says their goal is to close the 4-5 gap, but that considering their current mileage, he knows they are ready for this level.

"What we learned," Hewitt said, "... is that we can run with them. We didn't back down."

Germantown Friends will see Danbury (maybe not in the same race) again at Manhattan on October 13th, and the on November 24th at the NTN Regional in New York.

But first they'll stretch their legs on the fast Lehigh course at Paul Short. And Hewitt will throw in the New York Road Runners Club XC Champs at Van Cortlandt on November 11th. "That's where we'll look to hit, getting ready for regionals two weeks later."

While Hewitt would love to get the chance to race at a PIAA Districts and States, he knows that the school's independence gives him an advantage. Scheduling meets every two weeks and being able to target a single big end-of-season meet, puts him in a nice position.

But with a very small school from which to attract athletes, he has a challenge most of the public schools don't face.

He'll take it though. And he'll take the 42-43 near upset of the U.S. #1 Danbury squad. (who, by the way, was running without their #1 guy who was being cautious with a minor injury.)

"What we did does not prove we can beat them. We have some work to do." Hewitt concluded. "But it is cool to shake up the national scene."

Shake it up they did. Germantown Friends is definitely the little school that can.

GFS Cross Country Meets On Their Own (Feature story in the September 13 Philadelphia Evening Bulletin)

Individual PRs:
Max Kaulbach, SR: 5000 Meter Run - 15:24.07 | Two Mile Run - 9:16.49 | 3200 Meter Run - 9:13.26 | One Mile Run - 4:17.14 | 4000 Meter Run - 12:44.7 | 4:31.0 as a freshman
Isaac Ortiz, SR: One Mile Run - 4:24.06 | 3000 Meter Run - 8:45.73
Jake McKenzie, SR: 1600 Meter Run - 4:25.8 | 3000 Meter Run - 8:56.6
Gus McKenzie, SO: 5000 Meter Run - 16:34.1
Eddie Einbender-Luks JR: 1600 4:36, 3200 10:02 as a sophomore
Tom Waterman, SO: 800 2:01, 1600 4:36, 4x400 split of 52.5 as a freshman
Fenn Hoffman, JR: 1600 4:46
Sam Butler, SO: 1600 4:48 as a freshman
Ross Wistar, SO: 1600: 4:52 as a freshman

Team Bests from Indoor 2007:
Distance Medley Relay  10:24.86  2/24/07  PTFCA Indoor State Championship - 3rd place
4x1600 Meter Relay      18:17.38   3/10/07 Nike Indoor Nationals - 4th place

Individual finishes at the 9/15 Hartford Riverfront XC Festival

  1      1      146  Cabral         Donn          GLASTONBURY     SR 15:21.6
  2      2      198  Ahearn         Willie        DANBURY  HS     SR 15:25.5
  3      3      91   Misenti        Forrest       XAVIER HS       SR 15:42.5
  4      4      1    kaulbach       max           GERMANTOWN FRIE SR 15:44.5
  5      5      3    ortiz          isaac         GERMANTOWN FRIE SR 15:54.0
  6      6      2    mckenzie       jake          GERMANTOWN FRIE SR 16:02.1
  7      7      147  Llamas         James         GLASTONBURY     SR 16:02.9
  8      8      201  Bubniak        Joey          DANBURY  HS     JR 16:08.3
  9      9      202  Schaefer       Tucker        DANBURY  HS     JR 16:09.9
 11     10      4    mckenzie       gus           GERMANTOWN FRIE SO 16:15.6
 12     11      199  Boudreau       Parker        DANBURY  HS     SR 16:22.4
 13     12      200  Rau            Justin        DANBURY  HS     SR 16:24.3
 14     13      148  Otto           Cody          GLASTONBURY     JR 16:33.5
 15     14      203  Russell        Kevin         DANBURY  HS     JR 16:49.8
 16     15      204  Zimmerman      David         DANBURY B HS    SR 16:53.8
 17     16      208  Wallace        Levi          DANBURY B HS    JR 16:55.6
 18     17      149  Disanto        Greg          GLASTONBURY     JR 16:55.9
 19     18      5    einbender-luks eddie         GERMANTOWN FRIE JR 16:56.9
 20     19      97   Hammond        Ryan          XAVIER HS       JR 16:59.6
 21     20      6    waterman       tom           GERMANTOWN FRIE SO 17:01.8
 22     21      205  Ronan          Doug          DANBURY B HS    SR 17:04.8
 23     22      96   Roberts        Kyle          XAVIER HS       JR 17:07.8
 24     23      206  Bubniak        Dan           DANBURY B HS    JR 17:15.1
 25     24      207  Pristouris     Chris         DANBURY B HS    JR 17:16.2
 26     25      150  Summers        Blake         GLASTONBURY     JR 17:20.6
 28     26      151  Dolan          Kevin         GLASTONBURY     JR 17:40.1
 29     27      7    hoffman        fenn          GERMANTOWN FRIE JR 17:48.7


September 8 Weekend:  

Kara Millhouse surprises herself (a little)

Cumberland Valley boys win Gettysburg - Girls take 2nd

Chanelle Price gets serious about cross country

Podcast Interview with Vince McNally


Sept 8 Wknd: Kara Millhouse surprises herself (a little)

Boiling Springs senior Kara Millhouse has been on the verge of winning an invitational before. But the difference between 1st and 2nd place is often that something intangible that just can't be coached. Competitiveness.

Not that Millhouse hasn't shown the drive before. She did win a state title in the 3200 as a sophomore, beating then-future Foot Locker Finalist Carly Seymour of Central Cambria. She also pushed last year's state cross country and 1600 champion Neely Spence (also a 2006 FL Finalist) in a 2006 post-season mile to sub-5 times. She then PRed big time at the 2007 Nike Outdoor Nationals, going 10:39.14 for 2 miles.

But until this year's Gettysburg Invitational, Millhouse had not won a big invitational with top state-level competition.

Her 18:42.37 was a PR for the 5K. And it bettered her 2006 Gettysburg time by 21 seconds. More impressively, she was on an even pace throughout, barely dropping off for the last 1.1 to a 6:06 pace from opening 6's the first two miles. Impressive... especially because of the hot, humid conditions.

She's in shape. Probably the best of her career. Senior years have a way of creeping up on athletes, and helping them fine-tune their focus. "This summer I ran a lot more mileage than I have in the past," she said after her win. Since the start of the season, Millhouse says the mileage has dropped a little, "but the intensity of the runs has increased."

The increased strength was evident as Millhouse rounded the final turn with 100 meters to go just off the shoulder of Northern York #1 Rachel Wong. Millhouse insists she did not plan for the win. "I just wanted to stay with the group." But finding herself in great position for someone with her speed, she decided the opportunity just could not be overlooked.
"At the end, it was 'well, I can finish better than second'."

Millhouse, the only senior in the top six for the Bubblers; a group that consists of a freshman, three sophomores and a junior; says a major goal for the season is to lead her team to the state meet. Joining her on the medal stand at Gettysburg was Lauren Lehman, a freshman, who took 15th in 20:13.13. Sophomore Krissy Lobaugh was another 44 seconds back in 33rd.

But Millhouse – who is looking at larger schools on the east coast for her college selection – has big personal goals as well.

Sometimes that first win in a big invitational is the one that gives a runner the confidence to not just dream big, but to accomplish those goals as well.


Sept 8: Cumberland Valley boys win Gettysburg - Girls take 2nd


Surprise. Surprise. Surprise.

Well, actually, only two surprises were called for, because the boys took the Group 1 championship, while the girls captured 2nd to a highly ranked team in their Group 1 race.

However, when you look at the program, its history, and its coaching, the fact that the Cumberland Valley Eagles (full disclosure - I'm a 1970 grad) would bring strong teams into the 2007 season, should be no surprise at all.

The facts were there all the time.

They were just well hidden agrees assistant coach Derek Hockenbery. With the 2006 boys finishing 13th at states and the girls 6th, he is not surprised that his returning teams were not on everyone's radar. But, he quickly points out, they certainly could have been. First, the district race was postponed in 2006 because of flooding, giving all the district 3 teams only five days turnaround before states. And secondly, after losing no one from the top five of the boys, and only two from the top five of the girls' state teams, he had every reason to feel confident.

But the unknown is, as always, what are the athletes going to do over the summer?

That, says Hockenbery, depended a lot on what they thought about 2006.

And the answers? "The boys weren't happy with their finish last year. Not happy at all," he understates. "Same thing with the girls. Just not happy."

So the core group of Chris Contino, Matt VanDenHengel, Mark Fuller, Mike Nemeth and Ken Murphy set out to chart their futures. They got together and worked all summer. And it was all there to see as they approached the first mile in clear command of the race.

Hockenbery says the guys wanted to get out hard together, get to the mile and see where they were simply because of the narrow trail for much of the first mile. By the end of the race, Contino would finish in 4th in 16:20.99, with Fuller in 6th, VanDenHengel in 14th, Nemeth at 15th and Murphy in 22nd... all on the medal stand. Just as impressive was the 1:03 compression that helped them to the 48 points.

Photo: Theresa Burnham, 17th @ Gettysburg.
The top returning Cumberland Valley Eagle.
Frosh Leigha Anderson led the team to a
2nd to PA#2 Northern, taking 8th.

Same focus with the girls, as Katie Wiechelt, Theresa Burnham, and Darcy McKinleylester put in the miles. The three returning varsity girls were joined by freshman Leigha Anderson (8th in 19:35.32) and sophomore Jessie Huber, 21st. The 1:42 compression needs a little work, but, Hockenbery says, it's early and the girls know they have something good going on. Their 108 points were 32 behind PA#2 Northern York, which boasted three in the top nine and four within the top 23.

Oh, and when Hockenbery talks about the core group, he could very well be referring to this team's core strength. "They've gotten stronger," he says. "And it's not just from the miles. We do core strengthening as a part of every practice. It's part of our training."

As winning has become a part of their tradition. That, in the end, should be no surprise.


Chanelle Price gets serious about cross country

Make no mistake... Easton senior Chanelle Price – who is the 3rd best outdoor prep 800 runner of all time – does not see herself as a cross country athlete. At least not long term. "Once this season is done, cross is done," declared the U.S. Junior World team, USATF 800 Finals Qualifier shortly after her 5th place finish in the Gettysburg Invitational.

"When I get to college, they'll train me for the 800 all year round. I'll still do distance, but (for high school) it's just ten more races and I'm done. I'm counting down."

And so is her competition. With good reason.

Price has only been running cross country since her sophomore year. She had told her coaches in her freshman year that cross was just not for her. "But they sat me down and told me before my sophomore year that to get my (800) times faster, I'd need a base."

So she started running cross country.

"I won my first race, but I was just doing it for fun. It did put pressure on my back. I had just wanted to sit back in the middle of the pack and race." Well, winning that first meet changed Price's perspective, and her competitive nature took over.

She would go on to finish 16th at states and take home one of the coveted medals.

The result of the 2005 XC base? A 2:06.23 at USATF Juniors the following summer.

Junior year cross country saw a 3rd place finish at PIAA states, behind only Foot Locker finalist Neely Spence and Big Spring star Lara Crofford.

The result of another year of base? Well, if you don't know, you've been living under a rock. But we'll reel them off for you...
a 2:04.96 indoor after winning the mile that day. A 2:05.85 PIAA outdoor championship. That was followed by the incredible summer run of 2:04.24 (Island Games in NYC), 2:02.76 (Nike Outdoor), 2:02.38 (USATF Outdoor T&F Champs - with the pros and her current PR), and a closing 2:04.34 (IAAF World Youth).

Quite a year. And one she hasn't quite been able to assimilate. "I think about it (Nike Nationals, the Czech trip, running with the professionals) every night before I go to sleep. It's not going to sink in for a few more years. I'll have to go back and watch the tape."

Well, it was all real.

Price returned from her US and world travels at the beginning of August. And she was in need of some rest. Three weeks to be exact. Which placed her cross country training back a bit, and meant that coming into Gettysburg, she was only racing on a little under three weeks of distance training. And when we say distance, we mean about 15 to 20 miles a week. (Remember, she's an 800 runner). She had dipped under 19 minutes for 3rd place at Gettysburg in 2006, so her 19:25 5th place this year didn't exactly make her happy.

There's that uncoachable competitive nature again. But with Price, the temptation to do something too hard, too soon, is tempered by a world of experience, if not by patience. "I just can't take it out because these girls have so much mileage under them. But it is hard for me to be patient," Price adds.

The opening six minute pace was right where she was told it would be. And so was the 12 minutes for two miles. "And that's where I broke down. So that's what I have to work on," she continued. "I'm going from a 2-minute race to a 20-minute race and the mentality is different. It's hard for me to be patient, but by the time states comes around, I'll be ready."

Make no mistake. Price has begun her march toward what she believes is her destiny. To become the first high school girl to break two minutes in the 800. (Note: Currently PA has two of the top three individuals in the 800, with the 2:00.07 by Upper Dublin PA's Kim Gallagher and the incomparable Mary Decker ahead of her).

That march toward the 800 record – for the third year in a row – includes the painful hills and valleys of a cross country campaign. And for someone with the rare range of 200 meters to 3-plus miles, it's those 3 miles that she feels.

But this year, there's something else different about Price's approach.

"A coach put it to me this way... 'you're at a mark where it's the little things that are going to get you down to two minutes... the eating habits, the weightlifting, the cross country'."

And it's those little things that Price has taken to heart.

She is thinking about everything she eats. She is going to train harder than  ever during cross country. She is weightlifting every day.

"I'm really serious about it this year. Because in the 800, I'm going to be going for that two minutes in every single meet. It's going to be a tough year, but it's going to come."

But ahead of the assault on two minutes, Price isn't just letting her final cross country season ever go without setting a big goal for the state championship meet. "I definitely want to try to win it this year."

And if you know Price, you know that is simply her growing confidence, her incredible work ethic, and her unwavering competitive nature showing through.

"Neely (defending champ Neely Spence) is going to be a tough, tough competitor. I know for me track is what I want to do and cross country is what she wants to do. She's going after this like I'm going after the track titles. It's going to be hard to overcome someone like that, but I definitely will try."

So, does Price see Foot Lockers in her future?

"No. No way. After states, I'm done."



Podcast Interview with Conestoga Valley senior Vince McNally



September 1 Weekend:  

Mark Dennin, Boyertown HS

Meghan Lutz, Nazareth Academy

David Adley and T.J. Hobart, Baldwin HS


Sept 1 Wknd: Mark Dennin, Boyertown HS


It happened in Unionville as Colin Leak handed the mantle of team leader to Paul Springer. And it's happening this year as recently graduated Jason Weller has set the standard in Boyertown for senior Mark Dennin.

Weller had an incredible senior year. So incredible in fact, that few people noticed the other black-shirted warrior finishing races soon after, often in medal territory. Without Weller there, you certainly would have noticed an 11th place 15:36 at the District 1 XC Champs. And the 10th place medal at states in cross. Or the 8:46.40 3000m PR in the Invitational race at the Penn Relays. And especially the 9:19.16 PR and medal at PIAA states in May.

But Dennin was destined to spend his junior campaign as an understudy on the the big stage.

It's now 2007, and with lessons learned, habits formed, and goals reaffirmed, it is time for Dennin to take the lead role, on his team, and most likely, on the state and national stages.

Opening his season at the low-key Maroon & Gold Invitational at the tail end of his high mileage (90) week of training, Dennin cruised wire-to-wire in a comfortable 15:59.11, more than a minute ahead of the 2nd place finisher.

Dennin credits Weller for showing him the level of commitment required to even dream of running at this level. "I have seen what Jason has been through," Dennin said. "I've learned what it mean to race well, and not to be afraid of competitors and just to have faith in myself."

Over a otherwise healthy career with one sidetrack for a broken ankle at the end of winter his sophomore year, Dennin has been able to train consistently since then. He stays aggressive with his flexibility program because of tight hamstrings, but had no problems this summer as he moved toward his high week after 70's and 80's in August. He'll begin heading the other way now and train through everything until the races really count in November.

Dennin has marked October 6th at the Steel City Invitational as one of the special ones this season. That's where he will face two other Pennsylvanians who are mentioned on the Foot Locker watch list - fellow seniors Vince McNally of Conestoga Valley, and Chris Aldrich of West Chester Henderson.

Weller's parting advice for his protege? "Just run fast."

Dennin says that it is Weller's confidence in him that has been a key to his great summer of training. "Now I know I can beat anyone if I put my mind to it."

A protege no more...



Sept 1 Wknd: Meghan Lutz, Nazareth Academy

The week before going to the Volunteer Cross Country Invitational in late September of 2006, then junior Meghan Lutz of Narareth Academy knew something was wrong. "We had a league meet and I felt good for the first two miles. But then it hit suddenly." What 'hit' was pain in her shins.

The team trip to Knoxville, Tennessee had been planned for a long time. And Lutz was the team's #1 runner. "We thought it was shin splits, but with such a big meet, we just taped them up and hit the trail."

During the race, the pain hit almost immediately. "I felt like I was running in quicksand," Lutz says. "It really felt like being hit by a brick."

Lutz finished the race in 19th, and headed for home with her team. A visit to the doctor gave her the bad news. "It was broken. But it was a clean fracture, so it didn't require surgery."

It was into the boot for Lutz.

As you may have guessed by now, Lutz is not one to sit back.

The ensuing wait was brutal, she says. "I even started to try to run in the boot. But my coach got upset about that, so I took it slow."

Slow, for Lutz, meant back into the pool where she had started her athletic career. "I was a hardcore swimmer. Intense." She had switched to running after hitting a plateau in the pool. Her dad suggested running because as a swimmer, she had beaten a lot of the boys when running for workouts outside Neshaminy High School. "I showed up the first day of track in a beat up pair of Pumas, shorts and a PIAA swimming sweatshirt and said I wanted to run. The coach looked me up and down and said, 'Sure, OK,'"

Lutz had gone through a lot to get to the point she had in her new running career, and she wasn't going to let a broken leg stop her. She worked her way back to the treadmill for a mile or two. She took up spin classes. She swam. "Basically a lot of cross-training."

By indoors she was back on the track and qualified for the PTFCA Indoor Championships in the 3000. But getting around 3000 meters without incident was not in the cards for Lutz. "I got sandwiched and somebody clipped me with a spike and I went down." Others described it as a header.

But Lutz had come too far from a broken leg and rehab to quit. "I bounced right back up. It just gushed blood, but it didn't hurt that bad."

She would finish 4th in 10:32.77. A PR.

Outdoor was better. No broken bones and no falls. She even won a medal in the 3200 at states. breaking 11 minutes for the first time.

If you're getting the impression that Meghan Lutz is a tough individual, you're right. Disappointed with her junior cross country campaign, Lutz decided to give it everything she had this fall.

She took to the roads as any good distance runner would. But this summer, that wouldn't be enough for the rejuvenated Lutz. "Before I would count a run as a workout. This year was intense, though. Sit-ups, crunches, biking, swimming, everything."

Lutz showed off her new strength and senior determination at the John Sharp Viking Invitational on Friday August 31 in Tamanend Park in Southampton. The course winds through the woods. There are posts you could hit, roots you could trip on, trees to jump in front of you. Sharp turns. But this time, Lutz would have none of it. She took the lead, and when she hit the straights, she pushed the pace and beat a strong field, including defending champ and course record holder Sarah Simonetti of Pennridge.

Lutz has high goals for states. And she feels she in the best shape of her life and ready to run through anything to reach those goals.

But she won't be running any more through severe pain like she did a year ago. "Running on a broken leg just made me seem real tough."

Sorry, Meghan. Too late. You're tough.



Sept 1 Wknd:  David Adley - T.J. Hobart, Baldwin HS

When the talk turns to western Pennsylvania distance stars, one of the first programs that comes to mind is Baldwin. Just during the past decade, Dan Mazzocco and Ryan Sheehan have not only garnered state titles for the school, they have gone on to earn all-American status at Division I schools.


T.J. Hobart and David Adley at the 8/29 scrimmage with 
North Allegheny and Fox Chapel at Hartwood Acres.
The pair went 3-1 at Gateway on 9/1. 


So it's no wonder that with Assistant Coach Rich Wright still at the helm of the distance corps, that new stars are emerging all the time. Recently graduated Chris Wolfe helped the team to a runner-up to perennial 4x800 power North Penn at PIAA States in May.

Also on that relay squad were two underclassmen who bear serious watching this fall, junior T.J. Hobart and senior David Adley.

Adley essentially sacrificed his individual track stats to the 4x800 last spring. He has no regrets. Especially walking away with a Silver medal for his efforts. But cross country is a different animal, and with the season ahead of him tagged as his final prep campaign, Adley is leaving little to chance. Adley averaged 50+ mile weeks, and made sure he got in a 10-miler each and every week. And don't think for a minute that those were flat miles. Just look around the South HILLS area of Pittsburgh, and you'll see why there is very little in PA that phases a WPIAL runner.

"This is the hardest summer of work I have put in," Adley said following a scrimmage on August 29th at Hartwood Acres. In that race on the hilly course, Adley had bettered a field that included the PA #1 North Allegheny squad, along with Fox Chapel.

If it hadn't been for the Baldwin Mile, Adley may never have discovered either his talent or his love for the sport. "I started in 5th grade when I did well in a 1/2-mile fitness test. My dad convinced me to do the Baldwin Mile. I won my age group and then went out for the middle school team."

Adley is aiming for high finishes at both WPIAL's and States. And if he is a bit of a surprise on this team in cross country this year, you need look no further than his younger training partner, T.J. Hobart for some of the motivation. "He's phenomenal," Adley says. "He's pushing me all the time."

Hobart is a reformed "other sports" guy, having discovered running after a middle school coach kept asking him to try cross country. His athleticism comes as no surprise to anyone who knows the family. Hobart comes from an athletic family in which all his uncles played football and basketball. In fact, his grandfather, Jack Butler, played for the Steelers in the 1950's as a defensive back. being named to the Pro-Bowl four times.

Maybe it's those defensive back roots that account for the two most surprising attributes of this wiry, otherwise unassuming, unquestionably talented athlete – his speed and his range.

As a sophomore last spring, Hobart says he was mostly out there simply racing people, and not going for time. And coaches will tell you, just racing fast people is the best way to get fast. On his resume from last spring are splits of 48.4 in the 4x400, 1:51.7 in the 4x800 and 4:11.7 in the 1600. His open times include a 4:12.30 Mile at the Baldwin Invitational in early May. That race is a perfect example of racing the competition vs. racing the clock, because Hobart waited until the final lap to out-kick senior Scott Van Kooten of Pittsburgh Central Catholic. That's a pretty fast 'strategic' mile.

While Hobart has no idea where the raw speed comes from, he's happy to have it. He has admittedly favored track during his first two years in high school, but now says that focus has changed for 2007. "I just never put in the miles before. this year, I want to do some big things."

On Saturday, September 1, Adley pulled away from D.J. Krystek of Gateway and Hobart over the last mile of the very hilly Gateway Invitational course to win the first official race of the season. This Saturday, it's the flat Schenley Oval course for the Red, White & Blue Classic.

The winner of round two is hard to predict. But one thing you can count on this season is that these latest two Baldwin stars – Adley and Hobart – will push each other to great things all season long.