The Final K: The Pennsylvania 6 / 7 NXN, FL Watch List for Teams and Individuals

Welcome to The Final K – post- weekend stories and notes on athletes, teams, coaches and races to be published mid-week during the 2009 cross country season.


Post-Season - PA's 67 Watch List for NXN and Foot Locker contenders (update 11/18) |


Week #10 (States) - Central Cambria: A rare find in the hills around Ebensburg | Emmaus: Finding a new way to win | Ten video interviews and race highlights from the PIAA State XC Campionships | Race Flow narrative with photos by Jayson Jackson and Lex Mercado


Week #9 (Districts) - Katie Sick: She runs, she wins. - She runs, she shoots, she scores. She wins again. | Video Interviews from Districts 1, 6 and 11 - Race footage from District 6 | PA's 67 Watch List for NXN and Foot Locker contenders (update 11/2) |


Weeks #7-8 (Conferences) - PA's 67 Watch List for NXN and Foot Locker contenders | Dallastown's Chuck Lockwood learns to be a front-runner from behind | Unionville's Matt Fischer is pretty fast on two legs... and last spring, even one | PA's 67 Watch List for NXN and Foot Locker contenders (update 10/27) |


Week #6: Oct 10 - Introduction of PA's 67 Watch List for NXN and Foot Locker contenders


Week #5: Oct 3 - Sara Sargent is not your average (talented) freshman | Cumberland Valley junior Leigha Anderson is coming to the front. Fast.


Week #4: Sept 26 - Germantown Friends is opening eyes in PA, and the US - one race at a time.


Week #3: Sept 19 - LaSalle: From PCL Elite to PIAA Elite in one year |


Week #2: Sept 12Meet Katie Kinkead - A quick study off the course - and on. | Vince Perozze gets off to a quick, winning start | State College girls defend home mud @ Spiked Shoe 


Week #1: Sept 4-5Pennsbury 2009: This year's edition does not want history to repeat itself | Big Valley Invite race flow by Jayson Jackson | Video interview Altoona coach Lee Baranik | Video interview with State College coach Rebecca Donaghue




PA's 67 Watch List for NXN and Foot Locker contenders (update 11/18)



Altoona-Last Race: 4th AAA PIAA Championships. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28.
Baldwin-Last Race: 5th (AAA) PIAA Championships. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Germantown Friends-Last Race: 1st PA Independent Schools Championship. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28.
La Salle-Last Race: 3rd PIAA (AAA) Championships. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
North Allegheny-Last Race: 2nd PIAA (AAA) Championships. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28.
West Chester Henderson-Last Race: Won PIAA (AAA) Championships. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28.


Academy of Notre Dame-Last Race: 1st PA Independent Schools Championship. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Central Cambria-Last Race: 1st  PIAA (AA) Championships. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Emmaus-Last Race: 1st PIAA (AAA) Championships. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28.
North Allegheny-Last Race: 4th PIAA (AAA) Championships. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
North Penn-Last Race: 2nd PIAA (AAA) Championships. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Pennsbury-Last Race: 3rd PIAA (AAA) Championships. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?

Foot Locker & MXN


Sam Bernitt, North Penn-Last Race: 21st PIAA (AAA) Championship in 16:35. Next: Foot Locker or Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Wade Endress, Altoona-Last Race: 20th PIAA (AAA) Championship in 16:34. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28.
Ryan Gil, North Allegheny-Last Race: 3rd PIAA (AAA) Championships in 16:03. Next: Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28.
Rad Gunzenhauser, Mount Lebanon-Last Race: 2nd PIAA (AAA) Championship in 15:49. Next: Foot Locker or Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Joe Kush, North Hills-Last Race: 5th PIAA (AAA) Championships in 16:10. Next: Foot Locker or Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Charles Lockwood, Dallastown-Last Race: 4th PIAA (AAA) Championships in 16:04. Next: Foot Locker or Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Brad Miles, North Penn-Last Race: 1st PIAA (AAA) Championship in 15:47. Next: Foot Locker or Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?


Leigha Anderson, Cumberland Valley-Last Race: 3rd PIAA (AAA) Championships in 18:56. Next: Foot Locker or Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Janie Augustyn, West Chester Henderson-Last Race: 4th PIAA (AAA) Championships in 18:58. Next: Foot Locker or Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Jess Cygan, Liberty-Last Race: 9th at PIAA (AAA) Championships in 19:20. Next: Foot Locker or Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Lindsay Kerr, Northwestern Lehigh-Last Race:1st PIAA (AA) Championship in 18:56.Next: Foot Locker or Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Katie Kinkead, Central Bucks East-Last Race:2nd PIAA (AAA) Championship in 18:44. Next: Foot Locker or Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Meghan McGovern, North Penn-Last Race: 8th at  PIAA (AAA) Championships in 19:10. Next: Foot Locker or Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?
Sara Sargent, Pennsbury-Last Race: 1st PIAA (AAA) Championship in 18:35. Next: Foot Locker or Nike Cross Nationals, 11/28?



Emmaus: Finding a new way to win.


Special to

Emmaus head girls' cross country coach Dan Wessner backs away from talk of dynasty, most of all because it might be some sort of taboo.

But make no mistake, the Green Hornets have been one of the most dominant large-school girls' programs in the state of Pennsylvania in the past four years.

Just look at the squad's resume: three straight Class AAA team championships, with a runner-up finish attached to the back end of 2006 -- the team lost to Radnor that year.

Saturday's pageantry marked the first time a Class AAA girls team had accomplished a three-peat since State College did it from 1979-1981.

"Personally, I'd say wait for another couple of years," Wessner said. "Because it was partially the same set of girls for two plus years. Having done it again with a lot of different girls this year, that's very sweet. It's nice to be able to do it again with a cast that wasn't the same as the past few years."

Emmaus' 2009 championship does set this program apart from its previous titles, because the contingency is markedly different from the front-runner dynamic that made the Green Hornets so dangerous in 2007 and 2008.

For the first time in two years this season, a runner named Lindsey Graybill was not at the top of the pack for Emmaus.

Instead, the mantle was passed down to the Faust triplets of Christina, Amanda and Brianna.

Christina was the first member from Emmaus to cross the finish on Saturday in 19:40, which earned her a medal at 23rd place. It was the first time all season she had beaten her sisters, Amanda and Brianna, and she took a little time afterward to bask in the accomplishment.

"This is the first time ever in my entire career that I beat both of them," Christina said. "And it happened at my last high school race. It's kind of awesome. They didn't have their best days, but I medaled. I've never medaled before, so it's a great way to wrap up my senior year."

That's not to say Amanda, who also medaled at 25th place in 19:41, and Brianna (20:04), weren't important as well. The trio represented the 11th, 12th and 14th positions in team placing, which gave a huge boost to the overall points scale.

The Green Hornets edged North Penn, 128 points to 158.

Perhaps the most pivotal performances from states came from two sophomores -- Kelli Steinert and Lydia Brough -- who entered the season as question marks in the lineup.

Wessner was unsure how his sophomores -- he had four in total -- would figure into the mix early in the season. Steinert and Brough both averaged around 22 minutes in their freshman campaigns, he said, and weren't accustomed to the big race tactics that the Carlisle and Paul Short Invitationals would bring.

"It was a lot different this year," Wessner said Saturday, "because half of the varsity squad this year, since they were stuck behind such a great group of seniors last year, never competed in a varsity race. So it was teaching half the team how to compete and not just compete varsity wise, but at the level we've been at."

"And then to bring the other half of the varsity along and make them better if we were to have a chance here again to have a podium finish."

In essence, Carlisle and Paul Short were critical in the progress of the sophomores. The Green Hornets went on to take second in the Carlisle Invitational to displacement in the girls' challenge division and won the high school brown division at the Paul Short Invitational, which set the stage for their District 11 win.

Afterward, those two meets allowed the Green Hornets to think about the bigger picture.

"We really didn't think we'd have anyone come up," Brianna said of early in the season. "And then in the first race we had these two sophomores. They were behind us. Each race they progressively got faster, each workout they got faster and all of a sudden, by districts we said 'Wow, we could actually do this.' "

It's amazing to think how far this team has come in the time since the season began to when it finished this past Saturday. You need to consider the youth movement rounding out the backend.

On Saturday, Steinert finished in 20:39 and Brough finished out the group with 20:49. Emmaus recorded a 1:09 spread, which isn't jaw-dropping, but was no slouch either.

"In some ways I'm a little surprised that the two of them dropped like they did," Wessner said. "But I knew out of the five or six that someone would make a drop at the end there. A large part of the success comes from the gains they've made this year."

This season gave reason that progress can come when you least expect it, gains could be found from the unlikeliest of sources.

But the four year run of success like Emmaus has had?

That's not luck. That's production.



Central Cambria: A rare find in the hills around Ebensburg 

Special to

Twenty-six miles from the city of Altoona, there lies the small borough of Ebensburg, home of the Central Cambria Red Devils.

In this rich coal region, there are runners that take up shop on roads and dirt pathways, one step after another, the gentle pounding of their feet hitting the pavement almost poetically.

But this is a rare find, at least according to Central Cambria head girls' cross country coach Randy Wilson.

"If you're in Ebensburg, there's not a lot of runners," Wilson said. "So the only people (our athletes) hear talking about running are the coaches for the most part. And they think we're crazy sometimes."

So how in the world did a small school like Central Cambria, with a female enrollment of 200 -- only 56 girls shy of being considered a Class A school -- secure their third straight PIAA Class AA girls' state championship Saturday in Hershey?

The answer begins with the attitude that surrounds the program, the belief that on any given year the Red Devils could make a push toward the top of District 6 and even the state.

"A lot of people look at cross country as an individual sport," Wilson said Saturday after the Red Devils were awarded their medals and trophy. "But not at our school. It's a team sport. It's about winning the state championship."

The five point-scoring Red Devils -- Alyssa Brandis, Kelsey Seymour, Kendall Seymour, Ashley Stump and Olivia Lipnic -- fielded a 1:39 compression Saturday, scoring 72 points to Union City's 153.

"We go into our gym and we talk about banners and we say, "Why not? Why should we not try to win the state meet?"When we first came in here it was a big deal to get here. But why shouldn?t Central Cambria be in the hunt every year?"

It helped that, in 2007, the Red Devils had perhaps one of the best overall distance runners in the country in Carly Seymour, who currently runs for Duke University. She won the individual title with an extraordinary time of 17:49, which was the fastest clocking since 1995, when Liberty's Janelle Thomas finished in 17:43.

"We've had good teams," Wilson said. "But when it really went to the next level was when Carly Seymour (Kelsey's and Kendall's sister) rose to prominence. She talked to these girls about setting the bar high."

"She led that team to a state championship that year and it taught these kids about working hard."

But that squad scored a minimal 53 points, the lowest recording of a girls' Class AA team since Dallas put up 49 in 2003, and was arguably expected to win with ease.

In 2008, nothing was certain, especially considering the graduation of Seymour. Sisters Kelsey, a junior, and Kendall, a sophomore, returned, but who knew what to think of a team that lost its star runner.

Still, the Red Devils surprised, and even though Kendall Seymour tripped up in the state meet early, she was the final piece to Central Cambria's second straight team title.

"I just knew I needed to get back in it," Kendall said after the 2008 race in which Central Cambria uprooted West Middlesex 135 points to 139. "It goes to show that every runner counts."

What Wilson understands, and he admitted this Saturday, is that in a way, the Red Devils have been fortunate with their athletes. The school is very small, but it somehow finds the right mix of girls to make the season rotate.

For instance, this season three freshman emerged into the top seven, including Brandis, who finished fourth on Saturday in 19:37, Lipnic and Kelsey Hagans.

They're bookended by the veterans,x including senior Kelsey Seymour, a seventh-place finisher Saturday, and juniors Kendall Seymour and Stump.

"We just work together," Brandis said of this season. "We're really close. It's like we're a big family. We don't have problems."

What also helps is the tremendous coaching, Wilson said. Tammy Nagle has been a real presence and so has Bill Cox.

"We like taking someone who doesn't really run much and really work with them and get them passionate about running. Because they can't be just passionate about winning, because you don't always do that."

It's quite certain, even in the small borough of Ebensburg, that running is quickly, but quietly becoming something of real importance.








Katie Sick: She runs, she wins. - She runs, she shoots, she scores. She wins again.

Millville senior Katie Sick runs quickly and carries a stick. Fortunately for her competitors in cross country, she leaves the stick at the field hockey games.

You see, Sick is a two-sport star in the fall. And just hours after she won the 2009 District AA cross country individual title at Bloomsburg University on her last try, she scored an unassisted goal in overtime to lead her team to a 2-1 win in the District 4 field hockey playoffs (no piling on please - I have a state cross country meet coming up).

The field hockey semi-finals were today at Bucknell University against the top seeded team from Bloomsburg. Millville is the #5 seed. They lost.

But either way, there was no game scheduled for Saturday, November 7th according to Sick.

That's a good thing, because she will be going after her 4th consecutive medal in AA at the PIAA State Cross Country Championships at Hershey's Parkview course.

Sick won a medal twice on the original version of the Parkview layout, and now has a chance to match the double on the new layout. "I'd really like to get top ten," Sick says. She has gone 10th, 18th and 9th in her first three years.


Mansfield junior Susan Learn led Sick (blue) and Danville sophomore Alison Billas through the first 2-plus miles, with Sick doing the drafting for a change.

But the 'look' on Sick's face when she says that... gives away a desire to do even better than her 9th place as a freshman.

And it was that 'look' that was quite evident during the race on Thursday that gave away her intent for the day. She was aiming for her first and only District 4 title after three incredibly successful, but frustrating Lewisburg-induced  finishes.

At 2.25 miles, Sick makes her move after the second loop of the hill...

In 2006 she was 2nd as a freshman to then-sophomore Kiah Hardcastle. The next year she took 4th in Districts behind the win by then-Lewisburg senior Casey Miller. And last year, it was the completion of the Lewisburg trifecta as eventual state champ Sophia Ziemian took district honors to Sick's runner-up.

Oh well. Live and learn.

And it was exactly the 'Learn' part that concerned Sick as she headed into Thursday's race. She knew of the running clan from Mansfield. She had an up-close-and-personal look at the latest top harrier, Susan, the past two years.

Sick had a new plan for this year.

"Usually Learn likes to draft off of me, but that kinda flip-flopped today," she explained. "I wanted to push the pace." Fortunately for Sick, Learn did the same.

"I drafted off of her for 1-1/2 - 2 miles and then I kind of improvised my plan and tried to take off at the top of the hill and build my lead around the outer field."

Hitting a short downhill as they entered the outer fields for the final loop - Sick opens a gap on Learn.

She didn't know if the plan would work, but it ultimately did.

And the look on her face as she approached the finish line - realizing that her goal of four years was about to be achieved - told you all you needed to know.

Talent, persistence and desire can pay off.

Without a high school cross country team with whom to train, Sick has the unique experience of having her parents, Scott and Ann, as her training partners. Her father has been her coach for all four years. His running career continued after high school at Lock Haven from 1976-1980.

"He's a smart coach," she shares. "But in running, he's just hanging on. When he's working hard, I'm doing 75%. When I was a freshman, he was still there with me."

Team or no team, the 'Team Sick' plan of running 7 hours a week to build base during the summer is working.

But since 7th grade, Sick has also been a devoted field hockey player. "I fell in love with it," she admits.

Fourth time is the charm...


So when September and October have rolled around each year, Sick has reduced the running mileage to about 15 miles per week, and depended upon the "running around" in field hockey to fill in for mileage and for some speed.

"I'm probably the lowest mileage top finisher in the state," she offers.

And she's probably right.

If Monday is the last field hockey game of her high school career - and she survives it without a pulled muscle or stick-induced injury - Sick will have shown it's possible to do both at a high level.

After what she hopes is her best cross country state meet ever, she'll gear up for a revisit to the Wappinger Falls course in New York on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to compete for the 2nd year in the NXN Northeast Regional. She finished 42nd in 2008.

With her sites set on being a Health and Physicial Education major, Sick has a few schools in mind. But her future collegiately is running. Without a stick, we assume.

She runs. She wins.


Nike Cross Nationals & Foot Locker 67 Watch List - Week 3 Districts Update (Alpha Order)



Altoona-Last Weekend: Won District 6 (AAA) Championship. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Baldwin-Last Weekend: Runner-up at District 7 (AAA) Championship. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Germantown Friends-Last Weekend: Won PA Independent Schools Championships. Next: NXN?
La Salle-Last Weekend: Won District 12 (AAA) Championship. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
North Allegheny-Last Weekend: Won District 7 (AAA) Championship. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
West Chester Henderson-Last Weekend: Won District 1 (AAA) Championship. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.


Academy of Notre Dame-Last Weekend: Won PA Independent Schools Championships. Next: NXN?
Central Cambria-Last Weekend: Won District 6 (AA) Championship. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Emmaus-Last Weekend: Won District 11 (AAA) Championship. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
North Penn-Last Weekend: Won District 1 (AAA) Championship. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Pennsbury-Last Weekend: Runnerup at  District 1 (AAA) Championship. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Norwin-Last Weekend: Won District 7 (AAA) Championship. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.

Foot Locker


Alex Beardsley, North East-Last Weekend: Runner-up at District 10 (AA) Championship in 17:43. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Sam Bernitt, North Penn-Last Weekend: Second at District 1 (AAA) Championship in 15:46. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Wade Endress, Altoona-Last Weekend: Won District 6 (AAA) Championship in 16:06. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Ryan Gil, North Allegheny-Last Weekend: Won District 7 (AAA) Championship in 15:30. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Rad Gunzenhauser, Mount Lebanon-Last Weekend: Runner-up at District 7 (AAA) Championship in 15:43. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Charles Lockwood, Dallastown-Last Weekend: Won District 3 (AAA) Championship in 16:36. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Brad Miles, North Penn-Last Weekend: Won District 1 (AAA) Championship in 15:35. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.


Leigha Anderson, Cumberland Valley-Last Weekend: Won District 3 Championship in 19:35. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Jenna Gigliotti, Norwin-Last Weekend: Won District 7 (AAA) Championship in 18:26. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Jess Cygan, Liberty
-Last Weekend: Second at District 11 (AAA) Championship in 18:54. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Amy Darlington, Liberty-Last Weekend: Won District 11 (AAA) Championship in 18:46. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Meghan McGovern, North Penn-Last Weekend: Second at District 1 (AAA) Championship in 17:51. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Sara Sargent, Pennsbury-Last Weekend: Won District 1 (AAA) Championship in 17:39. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.
Leah Anne Wirfel, Forest Hills-Last Weekend: Won District 6 (AA) Championship in 18:42. Next: PIAA Championships, 11/7.




Nike Cross Nationals & Foot Locker Watch List - Week 2.5 Conferences Update (Alpha Order)






Altoona-Last Weekend: Off. State College Invitational was postponed due to inclement weather. Won State College Invitational by scoring 16 points

Baldwin-Last Weekend: Scored 22 Points to win Mingo Classic. Runner-up at Tri-States Coaches Association to North Allegheny

Germantown Friends-Last Weekend: Off. Won the Friends Schools League Championships finishing 1-6 for a perfect score

La Salle-Last Weekend: Dominated PCL North Division scoring 20 points. Won PCL Championship (7th in arrow), scored 31 points with 17-second compression

North Allegheny-Last Weekend: Off. Won Tri-States Coaches Association in a tight race over Baldwin 66-78

West Chester Henderson-Last Weekend: Off. Won Ches-Mont Championships (National Division) with 1-2-5-8-15 finishing places and a 52-second spread, 10/22





Academy of Notre Dame-Last Weekend: Off. Won Inter-AC League Championships by taking five of the top six for 18 points

Central Cambria-Last Weekend: Off. Won Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference scoring 30 points and placing four in the top seven

Cumberland Valley-Last Weekend: Won Mid-Penns 58-62 over Chambersburg. Next: District 3 Championship, 10/28

Emmaus-Last Weekend: Off. Won Lehigh Valley Conference placing five in the top 11 to beat PA# 1 Liberty 32-67

Liberty-Last Weekend: Off. Runner-up at Lehigh Valley Conference to Emmaus

Norwin-Last Weekend: Off. Next: District 7 Championship, 10/29




Foot Locker




Sam Bernitt, North Penn-Last Weekend: Off. Second at SOL Continental Conference Championship in 15:34

Ryan Gil, North Allegheny-Last Weekend: Off. Won Tri-States Coaches Association with a 15:38 

Rad Gunzenhauser, Mount Lebanon-Last Weekend: Off. Runner-up at Tri-States Coaches Association with a 15:50

Charles Lockwood, Dallastown-Last Weekend: Off. Won YAIAA Championships with a 15:48, 47-second improvement over last year

Brad Miles, North Penn-Last Weekend: Off. Won SOL Continental Conference Championship with a 15:24

Alex Beardsley, North East-Won D10 Region 4 Championship by 54 seconds with a 15:44 clocking

Vince Perozze, Perkiomen Valley-Last Weekend: Off. Won Pioneer Athletic Conference Championships with a 15:31, 21 seconds ahead of second




Leigha Anderson, Cumberland Valley-Last Weekend: Victorious at Mid-Penn Conference Championships. Next: District 3 Championship, 10/28

Elaina Balouris, Hampton-Last Weekend: Off. Won Tri-States Coaches Association by running 18:47

Jess Cygan, Liberty-Last Weekend: Off. Seventh at Lehigh Valley Conference, 20:06

Amy Darlington, Liberty-Last Weekend: Off. Won Lehigh Valley Conference in 18:50.6

Meghan McGovern, North Penn-Won SOL Continental Conference Championship with a 17:39

Sara Sargent, Pennsbury-Last Weekend: Off. Won SOL National Conference Championship in 17:57

Leah Anne Wirfel, Forest Hills-Last Weekend: Off. Won Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference by 67 seconds running 18:13



Weeks #7-8 (Conferences/Leagues)


Unionville's Matt Fischer is pretty fast on two legs...
and last spring, even one.

The fastest 1600 that Unionville's Matt Fischer had ever run before the PIAA District 1 race on May 15, 2009 had been a 4:24.11 two weeks earlier at his league championships. During that junior year, he had watched as his times had dropped from a 4:36 indoor... which had been a ten second drop from his outdoor best as a sophomore.

Getting under 4:25 had been a goal for the season. But in the prelims of that District 1 race on Friday May 15th, he cranked out a 4:22.82 PR to advance to the Saturday finals.

But something wasn't right for Matt. During the week leading up to his District 1 race, his right leg had been bothering him. "I wasn't especially worried," he says now. But the "nagging" pain didn't really bother him at all during his two district races. And he doesn't really remember it at his league meet over a week prior.

Fischer did get it checked out by the school trainer. "He thought it was a pulled quad. We didn't know what it really was."

What he does remember from the second day of districts is running another PR - this one a 4:21.22 - to get the 8th and final spot to qualify for the PIAA T&F State Championships a week later.

From that point on, his memories shift to ones that include pain.

During workouts that next week leading up to states, Fischer says the pain became more of a, well... pain. And on Friday, leading up to the preliminaries of the 1600, it bothered him during his warmup. Even a little bit while simply walking.

But when the gun went off, he says it didn't hurt at all.

And his 4:21.34 was 6th in his heat and the 9th best qualifier, advancing him to Saturday's finals.

"I was thinking I could go 4:16-18 in the finals," Fischer says.

But his right leg would have the final say.

Overnight, the pain increased. "It was really bad." He couldn't even warm up, but, having come this far, thought that he had to give it a shot.

"The race started, and I immediately fell off the pace. By 350 meters, I just walked off the track."

Fischer admits he "was not smart" in relaying the level of pain. But in his defense, he did not have the level of experience to know. "Now I'm a bit paranoid with every little thing. But that's good."

The news from the MRI was not pleasant. He had a stress fracture in the femur.

The really bad news was there would be no running for months.

Coming at the end of what Fischer considers his second really serious year of running, the news hit especially hard.

Fischer had run track in middle school after being recruited by then varsity boys' coach Bill Moss, among others. "I was running on the team, but the motivation just wasn't there."

Both parents are runners. His dad ran XC in high school and has done several marathons. Him mom runs, as well.

But despite being in a program that has produced some great talent – the girls had won individual and team state XC titles in 2004, and Paul Springer had left his mark in the record books in all three seasons in 2006-07 – Fischer didn't really acquire the racing bug until he was nearing the end of his sophomore season. He broke five minutes in a dual meet, and since that time, he hasn't looked back. "I started to really enjoy the racing, and started to put the work in at practice."

Fischer had sufficient motivation to do whatever it took to get back into shape for this, his final season of cross country. He had finished a strong 21st at the 2008 District 1 meet, but had not done well in the heat of the state meet.

To do his best to keep his aerobic conditioning during the summer while others were putting in their base mileage for cross, Fischer moved into the pool. Five days a week for 90 minutes. "At first, it was boring, but I kept thinking of getting back."

Eventually he added some bike and elliptical for 90 minutes. "I was excited to get any kind of progress."

By late August, he was cleared to begin running again. Two weeks before the start of school, Fischer started with a running program of three days a week, 30 minutes a day. He gradually built up over one month, and then added some workouts. He only started working out with the team the third week of September, pushing his running up to four days a week.

As part of a conservative return to competitive running, Fisher will keep it at four days a week through the end of cross country.

He made his racing debut on Friday, October 16th at the Joe O'Neill Invitational in Delaware. He crossed the line with teammate Glen Burtkhardt, both timed in 16:04, for 2nd and 3rd. The team defeated always-strong Salesianum, DE by 27 points by adding their 3 through 5 runners in 9th, 12th and 21st. They were missing one top five runner that day due to illness.

This year's Unionville team was on the radar as being good even before Fischer's return. Ranked PA#7 in the Top Ten, Unionville had their first almost-full strength test this past Thursday at the Ches-Mont League Championships, run at Westtown School.

Going against PA#2 West Chester Henderson, the Unionville squad put five ahead of Henderson's five, but lost 31-46.

Following his Delaware race, Fischer offered this assessment of his progress to date. "I still have lots of room improve. I am still getting my race speed back."

For now, he and long-time girls' coach, 2nd-year boys' coach Mark Lacianca consider this year's squad the best boys' team in Unionville history. Their focus is simple. Get to States. And that means taking care of business this Friday in the hyper-competitive District 1 race.

"We want to put our school on the map," Fischer says. "Coach Lac (Mark Lacianca) has confidence in us. He helps us stay on an even keel during races, and with our expectations."

Both coach and athlete believe they can compete with anyone on the state level.

And now, with both legs firmly under him as he races with a strong team, Fischer may be ready to show the rest of PA just how fast he really can be.



Dallastown's Chuck Lockwood learns to be
a front-runner from behind.

We're not talking about the novice runner who goes out way too fast and then gets swallowed by the front of the pack - the middle of the pack - and more. We're talking about the emerging elite runner who knows they're getting good, but has yet to learn that to be in position to finish at or toward the front, that most elite runners simply can't lead from wire-to-wire in large races.

Photo by Don Rich (during 1st mile at 2009 YAIAA)

In this case, the athlete was then-Dallastown junior Chuck Lockwood. The race where the lightbulb went off was the 2008 PIAA Cross Country State Championships.

Lockwood was running with the big dogs. Or at least he thought he was.

First, a little history on this runner who is looking a lot like one of the top AAA athletes in Pennsylvania this season.

Two summers ago, Lockwood was serious about his running, but not serious enough to put in a full summer of training. He started in July. He was also battling a minor hip injury.

But the then-sophomore still did well, running a 16:58 for a 4th place finish on the YAIAA course at John Rudy Park.  He would take 16th at District 3 on the original Parkview course, going 17:47, qualifying for states, and would improve to 17:15 a week later. As a freshman, he had been 27th at District 3, and went 16:54 at States. His YAIAA run in 2006 was 17:06, good enough for 5th.

In outdoor as a sophomore, Lockwood didn't qualify for the state meet, so as he approached his junior year, he was looking for improvements.

If there is one thing you realize about Lockwood even after just a few moments in conversation, it's that he is coachable. And it's that trait that helped him get to where he is today.

"My coach told me I had to work the entire summer if I wanted to improve. I've always been driven, but just knowing I had to do that is all I needed to know."

The beginning of some good things - along with the requisite minor bump in the road - were about to commence.

Photo by Timothy O'Dowd (during 2nd mile at 2009 YAIAA)

At the 2008 YAIAA meet, Lockwood ran 16:35, an improvement of 33 seconds on the course to get his first win in the meet. But eight days later, he made his biggest jump, going 16:41 on the much more difficult, revised Hershey Parkview course to finish 7th in District 3.  

He was excited about the possibilities for the state meet ten days later. "All I wanted was top 25."

But that's not was he got. He took 79th in 17:26.

"I had a bad race."

But it's the reason for the "bad race" that brings us back to the lesson he learned just before the mile in that exact race.

"I knew I shouldn't go out in the top 25, but I had always gone out hard in races. I was in the top group, but that was too fast. I think we went through the mile in 4:50. 

As Lockwood approached the 1000 meter mark, and was looking around him, he started to be passed. First by Lower Merion's Ben Furcht. Then by North Penn's Brad Miles. "I saw the big dogs pass me and that totally changed how I now run," he admits. "In the big meets last year, I'd go out too hard and would get into oxygen debt. "And seeing them finish in the top ten made me a lot more patient."

Lockwood had had a hint of the best approach to race strategy earlier in the season. It was the Carlisle Invitational, and he finished a respectable 28th in 16:46. But after his mind-changing 'big dog' experience at states, he recalled that after going out hard in the Carlisle race,  he was passed by eventual winner Kyle Hurston of the host school. At 1200 meters. "It just didn't register then," he says.

Lesson learned, Lockwood used his new strategy with some great success at the Northeast Foot Locker Championships at Van Cortlandt Park in New York in late November. On the difficult layout, he finished in 50th place in 16:35 - a great time. "I didn't go out hard and in the last mile and a half, no one passed me. I just kept moving up." And that finish makes him the 21st returner from that seeded race.

Lockwood then applied his new-found confidence during track. "If I knew I would probably win the race, I didn't jump out to the front right away, and let it play out a bit." The big jump came in going from a 9:59 his sophomore year, to an 8th place - medal winning - 19:23.04 in 2009. "I wanted to medal, and my goal was the low 9:20's, so I got both."

Photo by Don Rich (during 2nd mile at 2009 YAIAA)

Coming into this season, Lockwood again started training in June, and stayed consistent. Generally in the 40-45 mile range, he hit two-to-three upper mileage weeks in the 50's, and had some easier "just to stay healthy weeks" of 30-35 miles.

That's a mileage program many college coaches will like to see, because it means that Lockwood has stayed well within himself, and has plenty of training room to grow. Right now there are two colleges on his list; LaSalle and Columbia; but he'll probably look at a few more once the cross country season is over.

Short term, he is focused on winning the District 3 title in AAA, and hopefully, a top five at states. "But if I run my best race and get 8th or so, that's alright."

As for Foot Locker, he'd like to earn a medal by finishing in the top 25.

That kind of states-Foot Locker finish would definitely qualify him as one of this year's 'big dogs" - the kind who are catching, and passing those runners who simply went out too hard. The student becomes the teacher.


Nike Cross Nationals & Foot Locker Watch List - Week 2 (Alpha Order)



Altoona-Last Weekend: Off. State College Invitational was postponed due to inclement weather. Next: State College Invitational, 10/24
Baldwin-Last Weekend: Scored 22 Points to win Mingo Classic. Runner-up at Tri-States Coaches Association to North Allegheny
Germantown Friends-Last Weekend: Off. Won the Friends Schools League Championships finishing 1-6 for a perfect score
La Salle-Last Weekend: Dominated PCL North Division scoring 20 points. Next: PCL Championships, 10/24
North Allegheny-Last Weekend: Off. Won Tri-States Coaches Association in a tight race over Baldwin 66-78
West Chester Henderson-Last Weekend: Off. Won Ches-Mont Championships (National Division) with 1-2-5-8-15 finishing places and a 52-second spread, 10/22


Academy of Notre Dame-Last Weekend: Off. Next: Inter-AC League Championships, 10/26
Central Cambria-Last Weekend: Off. Won Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference scoring 30 points and placing four in the top seven
Cumberland Valley-Last Weekend: Won Mid-Penns 58-62 over Chambersburg. Next: District 3 Championship, 10/28
Emmaus-Last Weekend: Off. Won Lehigh Valley Conference placing five in the top 11 to beat PA# 1 Liberty 32-67
Liberty-Last Weekend: Off. Runner-up at Lehigh Valley Conference to Emmaus
Norwin-Last Weekend: Off. Next: District 7 Championship, 10/29

Foot Locker


Sam Bernitt, North Penn-Last Weekend: Off. Next: SOL Continental Conference Championship, 10/23
Ryan Gil, North Allegheny-Last Weekend: Off. Won Tri-States Coaches Association with a 15:38
Rad Gunzenhauser, Mount Lebanon-Last Weekend: Off. Runner-up at Tri-States Coaches Association with a 15:50
Charles Lockwood, Dallastown-Last Weekend: Off. Won YAIAA Championships with a 15:48, 47-second improvement over last year
Brad Miles, North Penn-Last Weekend: Off. Next: SOL Continental Conference Championship, 10/23
Chris O'Sullivan, Saint Joseph's Prep-Last Weekend: Pulled his team along at PCL South Division and still notched the win. Next: PCL Championships, 10/24
Vince Perozze, Perkiomen Valley-Last Weekend: Off. Won Pioneer Athletic Conference Championships with a 15:31, 21 seconds ahead of second


Leigha Anderson, Cumberland Valley-Last Weekend: Victorious at Mid-Penn Conference Championships. Next: District 3 Championship, 10/28
Elaina Balouris, Hampton-Last Weekend: Off. Won Tri-States Coaches Association by running 18:47
Jess Cygan, Liberty-Last Weekend: Off. Seventh at Lehigh Valley Conference, 20:06
Amy Darlington, Liberty-Last Weekend: Off. Won Lehigh Valley Conference in 18:50.6
Jenna Gigliotti, Norwin-Last Weekend: Off. Next: District 7 Championship, 10/29
Sara Sargent, Pennsbury-Last Weekend: Off. Next: SOL American Conference Championship, 10/23
Leah Anne Wirfel, Forest Hills-Last Weekend: Off. Won Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference by 67 seconds running 18:13



Week #6

Introduction of the 67 watch list for PA NXN and Foot Locker contenders

By Jayson Jackson

We now have enough results to see who the top teams and individuals are across the state. I know many teams are battling injuries and various forms of the flu, but to be great you need to weather the storm that arises during the season. Does this mean you have to win all your meets when you're missing runners? No. It means you have to hold it together as a team and keep believing in the end goal. It means you have to be positive and have faith that things will work out for the best. Many times the adversity you face helps to get you from good to great. This brings us to the Long Haul's Nike Cross National and Foot Locker Watch List, aka the 67 List. Six teams and and seven individuals make up the watch list. The lists are in alphabetical order and are mainly there to provide talking points, not to apply extra pressure.




Altoona—They have lost only once this year (Carlisle). Their small compression with Wade Endress' front running makes them tough to beat in championship races.
Baldwin—Great 1-2-3 punch upfront, need their 4 & 5 turn it up and keep the compression small. If so, they will shock people late October and November.
Germantown Friends—They are battle tested with several big races vs. nationally ranked competition. Only PA team ranked in the MileSplit Fab-15.
LaSalle—Very solid in championship races and have been ranked in the top 3 all season. But they will need to move their tight pack up in the field. Should rebound after Manhattan.
North Allegheny—Starting to hit their peak and they know what it takes to make NXN.
West Chester Henderson—Opened up their season at the Manhattan Invite with a 5th-place finish. They will be race sharp come November.


Academy of Notre Dame—Have toppled several AAA teams this season. They have a month after PA Independent Schools Championships to prep.
Central Cambria—2-time defending state champs and this looks to be their strongest team yet.
Cumberland Valley—Big race at Paul Short and surging Leigha Anderson starts them off with a low score.
Emmaus—After their 2nd straight AAA state championship, missed it last year by a few points, top 7 is starting to come together.
Liberty—Currently ranked #1 in PA, but a conflict could arise since top runners are Foot Locker-caliber.
Norwin—They have dominated in the west all season with their only loss being at Boardman.

Foot Locker


Sam Bernitt, North Penn—#2 at NP but is not far behind #1 Brad Miles.
Ryan Gil, North Allegheny—Closing the gap to Gunzenhauser each week. Should be a battle at WPIALs.
Rad Gunzenhauser, Mount Lebanon—Currently top individual runner from WPIAL One of only two people to crack 15:30 on the season (Miles is the other one).
Charles Lockwood, Dallastown—Improved by 76 seconds from 2008 to 2009 at Carlisle where he was 3rd.
Brad Miles, North Penn—2nd at Eastern states. Has been dominant all year, only losses are to individuals in MileSplit US Sweet 16 rankings (#12 Jonathan Vitez and Rosa brothers (#2 Jim and #9 Joe)).
Chris O'Sullivan, Saint Joseph's Prep—Great race at Paul Short, where he was 2nd to Vince Perozze.
Vince Perozze, Perkiomen Valley—Undefeated in 2009 and continues to build off his strong track season.


Leigha Anderson, Cumberland Valley—Won Carlisle, 3rd at Paul Short. Looks to be ready to hit the next level.
Elaina Balouris, Hampton—Won Red, White, and Blue and second at Boardman. 3rd at States in 2008.
Jess Cygan, Liberty—Has been unstoppable since freshman year. #1 girl on the #1 team. Defending State Champ.
Amy Darlington, Liberty—Teaming with Cygan to form one of the best 1-2 combos around.
Jenna Gigliotti, Norwin—#1 girl for #2 team. Always forcing the pace from the start.
Sara Sargent, Pennsbury—Remarkable freshman campaign with sub-18 performances and a win at Manhattan in 6th best time of day over seven varsity races.
Leah Anne Wirfel, Forest Hills—Has run clear in every race so far this season. She is on a mission.


Week #5

Cumberland Valley junior Leigha Anderson is coming to the front. Fast.

By Don Rich

Shhhhh. Don't tell Cumberland Valley junior Leigha Anderson she is quickly becoming recognized as one of the top runners in the country. 

She has been one of the top runners in PA since she burst on to the cross country scene with an 11th place finish at States as a freshman in 2007.

Anderson at her breakthrough 3000 at the 2009 Penn Relays 3000.

And she had her first taste of a high octane national caliber race as a sophomore in track, finishing 13th in the 2009 Penn Relays Championship of America 3000 meter run.

But this season, Anderson is surpassing even her own expectations. And she is discovering what every elite runner eventually recognizes – and accepts – that they are exactly where they deserve to be – at the front of the pack in most every race.

It's something Anderson is discovering, on her own terms, one race at a time. More on those races in a few.

The road from gifted athlete with lots of potential... to gifted athlete who wants to challenge their limits with competition at every opportunity... begins with role models.

Anderson has been running since elementary school, where she did the mile. "I wasn't too serious about it."

She tried a lot of sports, having played soccer since she was in kindergarten. "I quit in 8th grade. It just was not as much fun as running."

She has always loved to play basketball. But genetics got in the way there. "I was too short."

She even tried ice skating for a time. "I lasted a week."

But no matter what she tried, her athletic life somehow always circled back to running.

Neither of her parents, Stephen and Deborah, ran in high school when they were growing up in Rhode Island.  Her dad was a baseball player.

Anderson is out 'too fast' with Sara Sargent (left) and Aisling Cuffe (right) at the 2009 Paul Short Run
- but PRed by a lot.

But both parents became runners. Her dad has done three marathons, and her mom ran local races when they lived in the Allentown area. (Note to Emmaus: Leigha moved out of your district when she was in 4th grade. And at one time the family lived in the North Allegheny district. Cumberland Valley's gain...)

"They still run," says Leigha. "They do the Harrisburg Mile. It's kinda cool."

But it's probably Leigha's older sister Paige, who most influenced her high school decision to not only try running, but to try her best. Paige is now a junior on the Penn State University team, and was a two-time medalist in cross country for the Eagles when Leigha was in middle school.

CV head coach Skip Springman agrees that Paige was important in her younger sister's development. "Paige is a feisty competitor who loves the sport. They both bring a great work ethic as well as a great sense of humor to the team."

"I just followed what Paige did," Leigha readily admits. "As a freshman, I was naive and didn't know what to think. But I really liked it, and liked the team. It's a group of people who know how to stay out of trouble."

Echoing what most recognize about cross country runners, Anderson puts it directly. "So many are so intelligent. They study and work hard, and get good grades - because grades come before cross country."

Anderson is hanging on with Sarget approaching two miles.

Those teammates are also quite good this year. Although the team lost one top runner to an injury in a summer soccer camp, they have rallied and a week after finishing 4th behind PA#3 Academy of Notre Dame, PA#5 Emmaus and PA#6 North Allegheny at Carlisle, the Eagles moved ahead of Notre Dame and PA#4 Pennsbury in their head-to-head at Paul Short. And were 2nd to a rapidly developing two-time defending champ Emmaus.

And this team should be contenders in 2010. Leigha is one of three juniors in the top five, and there are two freshmen in the scoring, as well. Springman says he saw the team coming... "I saw many of our freshmen run in middle school and I knew then that they were talented, enjoyed the sport, and would be willing to put the necessary work into becoming the best they could be." CV has also benefited - on both the boys' and girls' squads - from refugees from other sports.

Leigha would like to repeat as the District 3 champion in cross country. But what she is most looking to accomplish is to improve on her two 11th place finishes at States the past two seasons and to lead her team to a top five finish. Paige was 14th and 18th her junior and senior years. "Getting into the single digits would be nice," says Leigha. "And it would really help the team."

Getting two medals in XC your first two years of high school can be a confidence booster. The biggest difference between her frosh 11th and her soph 11th was that she says she learned not to run where she was comfortable. "Sophomore year, I figured I can push even further, and run faster." But after winning districts, her state finish was a tad disappointing.

The race that Springman thinks gave Leigha the biggest boost in confidence was the Penn Relays COA last spring. "That was the scariest race. I didn't know anyone," Leigha says.

So her dad did some research for her on the competition. "I saw how good those girls really were, and then I just prayed I wouldn't get lapped." She didn't.

So she started near the back. "That was cool. But then I pulled to the middle, saw (Lewisburg's) Sophia Ziemian, and ran with her."

Not only didn't Anderson get lapped, she crushed her goal of 10:50 for the race, taking 13th in a PR of 10:09.98.

That race launched her toward another big goal for her sophomore year - to earn a medal at the PIAA State Championships in the 3200. Again, she busted her PR, dropping 30 seconds from her freshman PR, and getting a solid 3rd place with a 10:47.88.

And 4th in a PR of 18:08.

Leigha entered her summer of training with a new level of enthusiasm and expectations.

She opened with a win at the Abington Invitational, running 19:19.

Two weeks later, she faced the always competitive Reebok Challenge field at the Carlisle Invitational. A year earlier, she had been 7th in 19:02.77. What she found this year was totally unexpected. "I did not think I'd be alone (after the mile)" she said. "And I certainly didn't know I would win."

Not only did she cruise to the win, she PRed with her 18:23.65, a time that was within 19 seconds of the winning mark from 2008 by this year's Paul Short champ, and 2008 Foot Locker all-American Aisling Cuffe. The time was also three seconds better than the 2003 winning time at the meet by 2003 Foot Locker all-American Francis Koons of Allentown Central Catholic. That year's state champ by the way. Anderson's goal that day - 18:39. Another barrier busted.

A week later, she knew exactly who was in the race at Paul Short. It would be hard to miss Cuffe. And she certainly had heard about the hard-charging freshman from Pennsbury, Sara Sargent.

But she had a goal and a plan. The time goal was the 18:23 PR she had run a week earlier at Carlisle. That went by the wayside with her huge PR of 18:08 and 4th place finish.

The plan was to run her race. Which she didn't. "I wanted to get closer to 18, but I went out too hard."

But a PR is a PR, and she learned something else about her development as an elite runner.

Late in the race, she was getting passed, and it suddenly occurred to her that she was letting the race go. "I knew I had to get into the right mindset."

Then, giving a hint that she is starting to fully appreciate her 2009 start, she follows up her assessment that she went out too fast, with "I just have to go after people."

That sounds a lot like somebody belongs there.

Welcome to the front Leigha. You have earned it.


By Don Rich

Pennsbury freshman Sara Sargent is not your average (talented) freshman.

There were rumors in the PA running community over the past few years about a talented athlete who was racing well on the national club scene.

And from the very first high school invitational that Pennsbury freshman Sara Sargent competed in this past September 4th, you knew that the rumors were indeed, dead-on fact.

That day, she won in a course record time of 17:48 at the John Sharp Viking Invitational.

Then she won a week later at the inaugural PTXC 1-Presented by Puma, on a brand new course in 18:10.3. The course had been soaked the day before, but at an absolute 5000 meters, it was validation of her talent at the distance.

Then, two weeks later, she hit a bump in the road. Actually, it was the hills of Hershey. As everyone there knew she would, Sargent led a very talented field at the PIAA Foundation (Pre-States) meet, right from the gun. She ran away for the first mile from defending state champ Jess Cygan of Liberty. But after the mile, it was survival mode for Sargent. She would fade a bit, but hold on for a gutsy 6th place.

Redemption doesn't take long in this sport, because there's always another race.

It only took a week to find her wheels again, as Sargent finished 2nd in the prestigious Paul Short Run at Lehigh University. Her blazing 17:47 would have won the always-loaded District 1 race each of the past six years.

Sargent did finish 2nd at Paul Short, but to a returning Foot Locker all-American - Cornwall NY junior Aisling Cuffe - who ran an amazing 17:06, #2 all-time, and a mere three seconds off the course record of another New York star, Aislinn Ryan. Ryan was a 2-time all-American at Foot Locker, including one year as champion.

What is somewhat unexpected from this talented Pennsbury freshman is her level of racing maturity. Freshmen generally aren't totally non-plussed about big races, course records, or bad races.

Sargent has had five weeks to get her feet wet, and in that time, she has set two course records; brushed off a bad race; and challenged and not wilted against an all-American superstar.

All before her 15th birthday (this coming Saturday while in the final varsity girls race of the day at the Manhattan Invitational).

The first course record came on a layout raced by state champs, and a Foot Locker all-American at Viking. The second course record came on a new course, but she had a few hundred friends chasing her for the honor that day.

The bad race came against the defending AAA state champ, Jess Cygan of Liberty.

But Sargent's perspective showed maturity beyond her running years - "Everyone has their bad races, and that one was mine. That's all I can say about it."




Next race.

That next race is against Cuffe.

Both went out quickly. "I think we both have a similar race style. We both go out hard." (If you look at the  photos, you can see Cuffe glancing to her right, toward Cumberland Valley's Leigha Anderson and Sargent, the three girls out the quickest at about 300 meters.)

At a mile, Cuffe began to pull away. But Sargent did not relinquish her spot in the chase group of three.

Another runner passed her, but Sargent toughed it out over the last mile. "I worked extremely hard, and I passed her right before turning to go on the straightaway to come home."

No self-administered pats on the back. No gloating. Just matter of fact.

Kinda like a senior who knows they're good, but never settles for good.

And a budding team leader who is simply happy to be on what her coach told her is one of the best teams Pennsbury has ever had.

So what has Sargent learned in her short five week high school career?

"Mostly to just  have fun and enjoy what you're doing. I am just so excited for the next three-and-a-half years of high school."

As we said. Perspective.

Next race please.




Week #4

Germantown Friends is opening eyes in PA, and the US - one race at a time.

By: Don Rich

Germantown Friends head boys' cross country coach Rob Hewitt has opinions. As any member of the team who was on the bus returning from the 2007 Nike Team Nationals Northeast Regional... or the 2009 Nike Outdoor Nationals will tell you, Coach Hewitt is not shy. The teams did not race well, and Hewitt had ideas on why and how to change it moving forward.

"They got three hours of my opinion" following the 2007 meet. "And last year at Nike was a similar moment."

(Gus McKenzie, left in orange. Tom Waterman to his left - Photo by Jim McKenzie)

The result of the 2007 speech would eventually lead to a win in the Championship of America Distance Medley Relay. Pretty special for any school.

What the 2009 speech eventually leads to has yet to be determined. But if the early part of the 2009 cross country season is any indication, it too may be a very special year.

Twice in three weeks, Germantown Friends has narrowly lost to US#4 Haddonfield NJ. First at the Cherokee Challenge on September 12th, they "lost" 27-29 when combining scoring from four class races over two miles. And this past Saturday, they lost by three points with a top all-time team performance at the Bowdoin Classic in NY, site of the NXN Regional in late November.

In Hewitt's view, what those pointed, fact-filled, opinion-laced discussions have helped lead to is the development of "the best" Germantown Friends team during his six-year tenure.

That, along with hours of training, and a commitment to, and trust in each other, is building what may also be PA's best team this year. And it's a loaded year in that category.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Hewitt is pointed when he talks about the focus of this year's team. "We have changed our philosophy a tad. It's one meet at a time."

(Gus McKenzie, left front in orange. Tom Waterman to his left. Evan Caldwell '11 (blond) and David Waterman '11 (brother of Tom Waterman), Ross Wistar '10,  and Sam Butler '10 - Photo by Jim McKenzie)

That means last week was about Bowdoin. Now the focus is on the Manhattan Invitational. And anything beyond that is not even on their radar.

Oh, they have goals. Eleven days after Manhattan, they would like to extend their streak of seven straight Friends' League Championships. And ten days after that, they'd like to make it four in a row in the Pennsylvania Independent League Championships. And they'll do the Oakbourne Park race put on every November by Kevin Kelly, the coach of West Chester Henderson, to help athletes stay sharp for whatever post-season, Thanksgiving weekend race beckons - whether it's Foot Locker Regionals, or   Nike Cross Regionals.

But those meets are in the distance. Van Cortlandt Park's 2.5 mile tour awaits on October 10th. There they will not only face top regional teams in the seeded, ultra hot Eastern States race - they will meet top PA teams, including West Chester Henderson and LaSalle..

And that is what makes this school different from many. It's that willingness to test themselves against the best that is a hallmark of this coach, and this team.

Looking for easy competition would seem natural for such a small school. Of the 150 boys in the top four grades, 39 are on the cross country team. That is an astonishing percentage.

And it's not just kids out for a stroll. Of the 39 on the team, more than half have gone under 20 minutes at some time in their prep careers for 5000 meters.

And this past weekend at the Council Rock Invitational on the flat Tyler State Park course, the team finished sixth with their 10th through 16th runners.

But it's the four seniors on this year's varsity who have travelled the furthest to get to the cusp of some unparalleled success.

(Evan Caldwell '11 (blond), and the 4, 5, 6 group from left to right is David Waterman '11 (brother of Tom Waterman), Ross Wistar '10 in the middle and Sam Butler '10 on the right - photo by Jim McKenzie)

The four seniors in this year's top six were on the bus ride in 2007.

#1 man Gus McKenzie "has always been a horse" says Hewitt. "He was a 4:30 and 16:30 guy as a freshman. And he was close to 12:50 at Manhattan as a junior. #2 man Tom Waterman was the 400 guy on their winning Penn Relays DMR, and the anchor on their 7:47 4x800 in 2008. #4 man Sam Butler "makes us really good" says Hewitt. His 9:47 won the 2nd heat of the 2-mile last June at Henderson. "That race let him know he was on that level." He also anchored a B squad DMR in Danbury with a 4:30. And fellow senior Ross Wistar "is a driving force" for the team.

Hewitt says that last year's cross country season was spent just figuring out how to make the team their own. "The personality of the team (Max Kaulbach, Jake McKenzie and Isaac Ortiz) had graduated, so they had to take a leadership role... learn to do things for themselves."

But without two juniors who are coming into their own in 2009, this team would not be throwing down 39-second spreads in a competitive race. Evan Caldwell, who has been running 3rd so far this season, was the 8th man on that 2007 team. With a 4:38 1600, he showed promise. But it was his race early last summer in the USATF Junior Nationals 3000 meter steeplechase that got him to where he is now. He didn't have a great race, but he had qualified as a sophomore. "He felt he arrived a little bit, knew he needed more work, and his attitude toward training changed," shared Hewitt. "He went to the front, and he has stayed there."

And fellow junior David Waterman has simply shown that work pays off. His 19:59 PR as a freshman is a 3-minute-plus distant memory.

But Hewitt knows it's not just experience and success that makes a potentially great team. It's training.

And he credits two changes in training with setting this squad up for what they are now accomplishing, and for building the trust necessary to put it all on the line in every race.

The first change occurred after that bus trip home from the NXN Regional in 2007. "We did more volume in the winter, and then less speed in the spring with more strength," says Hewitt. "We built this team for success in large meets."

The trust-building part came through a training idea that Hewitt had while watching a favorite event of his, Le Tour de France.

You see, Hewitt lives on Ridge Avenue in Philadelphia. Ridge means along the top of a hill. The hill in this case happens to be Manayunk, a combo blue-color and blue-blood section of Philly nestled along the Schuylkill River. And 'Manayunk' as in the "Manayunk Wall", a nasty climb conquered ten times during Philly's annual professional bike race in early June.

So the hills of France inspired Hewitt to design "The Tour of Manayunk" for his team.

Once a week this summer, they would gather at Hewitt's home and begin the 49-minute workout. "I had to get back in shape for this." the 29-year-old Hewitt concedes.

The route takes them up the backside of Green Lane on the Roxborough side, then down some steps, and up Green Lane. Down to Main Street, then up the "Wall." Down some steps, then up Shurs Lane. Then up and down the "U" of Pechin Street. And finallyi up Green Lane again.

Suffice it to say, it was tough. And Hewitt admits he was dropped on all but one of the 49 minute
'Tours.' "They would take pity on me and do loops and come back and pick me up again," says Hewitt. "That tour is not easy to run with those young 'hamstrings.'"

Hewitt considers the weekly 'tour' a success. "They suffered together. It really built a team atmosphere. And more importantly, trust."

As for the teams they're running well against now, Hewitt says they know them well. "We were in Hawk Harrier camp with Windsor West Plainsboro (Rosa twins) (2008 NXN 5th place), and Haddonfield. So we know the guys. We were all in the 'A' and 'B' groups together."

And even though Hewitt was sure they were winning the Bowdoin Classic last Saturday after seeing his six ahead of Haddonfield's five man, he is still thrilled with the result. "It was at the end of a 70-mile week for the top of our varsity, and 65 miles for the second half. And we did a tempo fartlek Tuesday and a dual meet. So we didn't back off."

Asked about the biggest difference between this year's team and his super squad of 2007, and Hewitt is quick to answer. "They don't have to worry about what is going to happen behind them. The trust is there, and they know what they are capable of accomplishing."

One race at a time, of course. One race at a time.


Week #3

La Salle: From PCL Elite to PIAA Elite in one year.

By: Michael George

La Salle College HS has been one of Pennsylvania’s best teams for quite some time. Outside of the PCL, though, they haven’t had a chance to shine until last year, when La Salle -- and the rest of the PCL -- joined the PIAA. This was an adjustment for the Explorers, but one that seemed to come quickly. A District 12 championship and a second-place finish at the coveted PIAA AAA State Championships sent a message to the state that La Salle is not only the class of the PCL, but one of the best teams in Pennsylvania, too.

At the one-mile mark of the Briarwood Invitational, September 19

Returning three of their top five finishers at last year’s state championships has coach Greg Bielecki feeling good about their chances. “We want to be ready to run well at PCL’s and Districts,” said Bielecki. “States are big, too. We would love to win the state championship.”

To do so, La Salle will look for leadership from Seniors Tom O’Kane and Nick Malloy. The two finished 25th and 53rd, respectfully, at the state meet in 2008. Aside from O’Kane and Malloy, Thomas Trainer, a Junior, is one to keep an eye on for this 2009 season. In the first PCL meet of the 2009 season, Trainer led the Explorers, winning the race in 16:45 at Belmont Plateau. Trainer followed up that performance with a 16:27 at Briarwood -- good enough for seventh place overall and the top runner for the team that day. “Tom is one of the most competitive kids I’ve had in seven years,” said Bielecki. “I would rank him up there with the likes of Joe Fedorowicz (‘04) and Dan Lowry (‘08).” Good company for any runner.

Adding Trainer to the mix of O’Kane and Malloy can make for a solid top three heading into the meat of the season. Bielecki said he’s not too sure who his #1 runner will be, but he “likes it like that.” Regardless of who is at the front, the Explorers feature a deep squad, with many of the guys coming off a good spring. La Salle has five guys who ran 9:54 or better for 3200m, and another five guys who ran 10:12 or better. “If we worry about what we can control, we’ll have a good year,” Bielecki added.

The first test for La Salle was the Briarwood Invitational. Over the years, Briarwood has proved to be a good early season test for most teams. The Explorers finished in second place, just a mere six points behind West Windsor-Plainsboro North, a New Jersey team that was 5th at Nike Cross Nationals in 2008.

Aside from Trainer, La Salle had five other runners in the top 25: O’Kane 9th, Quinn 10th, Stone 19th, Stevenson 24th, and Malloy 25th. A very solid beginning. “Our top three did really well,” said Tom O’Kane. “We just need our other four to be with us longer. If we keep working off of each other, we’ll be fine.” O’Kane added that his fitness is well ahead of where it was last year, and after shaking off a pair of “sub-par” races, he feels confident after Briarwood and looks forward to Carlisle.

Carlisle was a learning experience for La Salle in 2008, finishing in a disappointing 9th place. Bielecki summed up last year’s meet by saying, “It was a great learning experience -- a reality check. The guys picked themselves up and moved on. We were a totally different team by the end of the year.

This year’s edition of Carlisle is sure not to disappoint. With North Penn and North Alleghany joining La Salle, O’Kane expects a tight race for the title. “This weekend will be real competitive. A true test for States -- but not States, yet. There are a lot of good teams out there.”

It is obviously too early to call a front-runner for the State Championship, but La Salle expects to be in the running. While optimistic, Greg Bielecki noted that there are many good teams in Pennsylvania this year, saying that North Penn, North Alleghany, and Henderson are all tough teams. “Coach Kelly of Henderson is one of the best coaches in the state. They will be a very tough team to beat.”

For teams across the state -- including La Salle -- the season is just beginning. The hard work in July, August, and September leads to great results in October in November. La Salle has won six consecutive PCL XC Championships -- dating back to 2003. Only time will tell if the Explorers will win their seventh, or, of course, if they will surpass their magical season last Fall and claim the PIAA Championship.

La Salle won their first PCL meet of the year, scoring a perfect 15 points. For many teams, that would be a great indicator for things to come this season. For the boys of Wyndmoor, PA, though, competing hard and getting better each meet will be their recipe for success -- past that, let the chips fall where they may.

Week #2

Meet Katie Kinkead - A quick study off the course - and on.

By Lex Mercado

Katie Kinkead makes presence known with big performance

Sometimes it is difficult to get noticed. There are runners out there who already have proven themselves and therefore get a lot of the attention from fans, coaches, and other runners. So how do you come out of the shadows and get noticed? You beat those runners.

Central Bucks East junior Katie Kinkead was in the category beneath the proven runners despite getting 7th in the 3200 at the outdoor state meet. After her performance at the Central Bucks East Invitational on September 12th, she may have moved herself into that proven category.

All she did was come out and take control of the race against a quality field and win by a huge margin with an impressive time. By 1200 meters, she took over the lead and never looked back. Her victory in 19:21 was a lifetime best and her margin of victory was 36 seconds over 2nd place, and 65 seconds over 3rd place. 3rd place happened to be North Penn’s all state runner Christy Cohick. “I was feeling good on the first mile and I decided to just go for it,” says Kinkead. “I usually don't run from the front and I haven't had the chance to. So it was a cool experience.”

As surprising as that performance may have been to some; especially on a sloppy course; Kinkead would tell you that it was all part of the plan. “The goal Saturday was to run a good time (low 19's) and I wanted to win. Christy Cohick won last year, so I knew I would have to watch out for her.” That goal was certainly met, and in the process, has put her in a good position to gain an all state spot in Hershey.

Katie has worked hard to get to this spot in her career. Originally, she only ran cross country to get in shape for the spring soccer season. But she loved the sport so much that she decided to run track that spring instead. That first year got her excited about the next season and she set high goals.

After being slowed by injuries early last season, instead of getting frustrated about it, she decided to take on a different approach to her running when she returned. “In the winter I began to understand the way Coach [Matt] Catinella has us train.”

Her coach Matt Cantinella says that her desire to do well as well as educate herself in the sport has contributed to her success. “She certainly has natural ability, but I think she's seen some success mainly because of her drive and her willingness to do what success requires,” says Cantinella. “She's invested in her training, asking me questions about why we do certain things and how is this going to make us better.”

What Kinkead has learned in the past year has been instrumental to her success as well as success for the team, who finished in 2nd at their home invitational, seven points behind top ranked North Penn. “North Penn has a great team and a lot of depth, and for our team to come so close to them was awesome for us,” said Kinkead. “We've been running together since July and all the miles we've put in have just started to pay off.”

Kinkead and her teammates will look to take that momentum and attempt to make it to the state meet on November 7, which would be a first for the C.B. East girls cross country program. She may be the lead runner on her team, but to Coach Cantinella, she is more than that. “I call her coach Kinkead. I bet she talks about lactate threshold at the dinner table and sleeps with her heart rate monitor on.”

In due time, she may be educating her competition on who Katie Kinkead is.


Vince Perozze gets off to a quick, winning start

By Christopher DePaul

So how exactly does one deal with the rigors of being a favorite to win the state title?
Think about it. Time’s up.

I have a formidable answer: watch it all unfold; observe the evenness of demeanor and the quiet confidence every champion must possess.

Vince Perozze, senior at Perkiomen Valley, did just that. Last year, teammate and friend, Jimmy Tarsnane, won the whole darn thing at Hershey’s rough and tumble course in early November. Jimmy clocked in at 16:10, averaged 5:13 per mile. Perkiomen Valley, as a team, finished fourth in Class AAA. Vince ran second man for his team that day, fourth overall, 16:35.

“He just stayed focused, never looked stressed, kept a level head, and stopped checking the times of other runners on,” Perozze, of Collegeville, said last week about Jimmy’s resolve. “I was impressed how he managed everything all season.”

That season, 2008, has been put to bed long ago.

Vince’s training this summer was “perfect.” He topped out at sixty-five miles a week. His outdoor track results from last spring would raise my eyebrows high and wide if I were, say, a Division I college coach opening up an e-mail from an inbox filled with prospectives flaunting their achievements: 4:14.3 in the 1600 meters and 1:58.9 for half that. That 4:14.3, it should be known, placed him second in the state outdoor meet last May at Shippensburg University.

Speaking of colleges, he’ll get to that, no worries.

He certainly has some suitors. In turn, he has his eyes on some schools. It is all too early to throw a list out there, and before this, Vince will have his hands full captaining Perkiomen Valley this fall.

“We have six to ten younger guys coming on the scene, and I feel I can help them with racing because I have gone through a lot of races in a lot of places,” Vince responded, when asked about the leadership tactics he will aim to instill.

He will have help.

Toeing the line and donning orange and black with Vince will be: fellow senior Scott Armstrong (17:16 and 36th overall at Hershey that first day of last November) and junior Matt Dalago (17:46, 71st). Those three, on paper, stand as the squad’s top three runners. It is, however, September and that magic number is five, not three.

Which of those six to ten newbies will see Vince’s competitive fire, Vince’s work ethic, and Vince’s times as a result of all this, and decide to take the leap and not look back?

The rankings are out. That fall aroma is milling in our air. (This is my ninth cross country season, coaching and running, and I’ve smelt it every year, and to me it takes on a sugary smell from who knows what that combines with particles of freshly cut grass. My father calls it pollen. You get the point.). Runners want to test themselves, gauge their improvement, both internally and against talent ranging from league meets to big time out-of-state invites. Vince Perozze could very well repeat Jimmy’s performance at Hershey, and nobody would collapse in shock. In fact, having 4:14.3 speed in your back pocket to unleash upon your foes when you need it is nothing short of kryptonite. Standing on that podium with your teammates, cold and sweaty, with medals around your neck, however, is what this sport is all about.

“I want to set a good example for those younger guys and do all we can to make this our year,” Perozze said, serious, stoic, and confident.

Perkiomen Valley: who’s following Vince?

State College girls defend home mud at Spiked Shoe

By Jayson Jackson

To borrow a slightly change a line from U2's Angel of Harlem, "It was a cold and wet September day..." The rains were heavy in State College and it made for an interesting day of running. On the girl's side, the hometown team protected their house, while a team from New York stole the show in the boy's race. It was the athletes first taste of racing in rough weather and they passed the test. Check out a short clip below so you can see how much water was on the course after the runners passed two miles. To give you an idea, there was a family of ducks wading and playing in the water until the runners came rushing through.

The girls race got underway at 4 pm and the rains were just as steady as they were all day. The girls from State College set the tone early by controlling the race upfront. Not only was the 1-2 punch of Chloe Schmidt and Lucia Sofo setting the pace, but they had their entire top 7 in the top 15 as they went through the mile.

Photo from video by Jayson Jackson  

The hard upfront running of Schmidt and Sofo quickly stretched out the field as the runners battled the elements. Also, in the lead pack was Katie Sick (Millville), Jessica Kocan (Fairview), Alexandra Petsuck (Hazleton Area), and Jayme Daly (Shikellamy). All-State runner Nora Adams (State College) was a few meters off the pace of the runners up front, but it was great to see her back in action. In the main chase pack, State College had three more girls, Anne Balogh, Tatum Del Bosco, and Kathryn McNaughton, leading the charge as they toted their group of runners through the mile. About 15 metes off of that group, State College's 7-8-9 runners, Alyssa Cousins, Kellie Forziat, and Kelson Goldfine, were setting the pace of the second chase pack. Do you see the theme that is developing? To help you keep score at home, State College had 6 in the top 15 and 9 in the top 20. But we all know, XC races are scored after 3.1 miles not just 1. It was obvious if they maintained their places they were going to dominate the field. Earlier this week Coach Rebecca Donaghue said she wanted to move up from last year's 3rd place finish and get the win this year. And things were looking well in her favor after the first mile. Sofo and Schmidt continued to apply the pressure up front to break the field as the runners passed the club house to head back down the hill to mile 2.

As they crossed the bridge to hit the 2-mile marker, Schmidt was in control of the race as she had opened up a 15 meter lead on Sofo who was followed closely by Sick. There was about 100m back to 4th place Milea Schall (Punxsutawney), Kocan in 5th, Petsuck in 6th, Daly in 7th, Rachel Kreiger (East Pennsboro) in 8th, Adams in 9th, Del Bosco in 10th, and Balogh in 11th. There was another 100m separation to the next group of runners which consisted of Lauren Simcox (Philipsburg Osceola) in 12th, Carolyn Eckendorf  and Andrea Miller (Fairview) in 13th and 14th, McNaughton in 15th, Cousins in 16th, Gwen Porter (Clearfield) in 17th, and Amelia Ayers (Tunkhannock Area) 18th.

There were would be few changes over the last mile as the hills and rain would play their part in deciding the finishing places. Schmidt would increase her lead as she got the win in 19:10. Sick (19:26) pulled away from Sofo (19:42) and opened up a gap as she grabbed second place and Sofo finished 3rd. The gap remained back to 4th place as the chase pack battled for spots. Schall (20:17) held off Kocan (20:20) to grab 4th place as Kocan rounded out the top 5. Kreiger was the top freshman on the day as she finished 6th in 20:28. Petsuck (20:33) out leaned Daly (20:34) for 7th. The next four spots were part of the State College train as Adams (20:36), Del Bosco (20:36), Balough (20:38), and McNaughton (21:07) helped State College put 6 in the top 12. Ayers (21:08) hung close with McNaughton and grabbed 13th pace. Simcox (21:10) beat Eckendorf (21:11) for 14th while Porter (21:19) was 16th. Cousins (21:24) was 17th just ahead of Miller (21:30). Punxsutawney's Shannon Byerly (21:38) and Forziat (21:41) were 19th and 20th on the rain-soaked day.

State College was impressive and it was good to see Adams back in action. They looked very tough as they battled a difficult field on the Blue and White Golf Courses at Penn State and scored 30 points for the win. Punxsutawney was able to hold off Fairview (AA) 104-107 for runner-up honors. It's always great to see AA and AAA teams do battle as it is great reminder PA has a lot of talent on all levels. It will be an added bonus to Fairivew as they continue the season and look to make their mark in Hershey. But the story of the day on the girl's side was State College's dominant performance of 30 points with 6 in the top 12 and and #7 in 17th. Schmidt and Sofo took care of things up front going 1st and 3rd respectively and 3-7 took care of business behind them to seal up the victory.

The boys race was not decided as quickly as the girls, as a strong pack of 5 went through the mile and two runners were attempting to close the gap to get separation from the long line that followed them. Leading the charge up front was Ryan Hirst and John Hurd (Fairview), Chris Tombasco (Hazleton), Vince Fadale (Selingsgrove), Reece Ayers (Tunkahannock), and Vic Costello (North Pocono). It was obvious that the team race was going to be a tight battle, Bayport-Blue Point and Fairview appeared to be pretty evenly matched with a few guys up front followed by a tight pack. The race was going to go down to the wire.

The rain was showing no signs of letting up as the runners approached 2 miles. Look at the video below to see the boys just beyond the bridge on the lower part of the golf course. It gives an indication of what they were running through. Danny Denis (Bayport-Blue Point), Ayers, Costello, made a break for it as they trudged through the water and opened up a gap to Fairview's top two runners, Ryan Hirst and John Hurd.  They didn't let the pack get away easily keeping Fairview in the hunt for team title. Tombasco was breaking away from the second pack that included Mario Buscemi (Bayport-Blue Point), Adam Walker (Fairview), Paul Crowe (State College), and David Novak (Tunkahannock). At this point it looked as if the phantoms were going to run away with the race, but there was still one mile to go. Fairview was still in the hunt and State College was trying to make their mark as they had a pack of five guys moving through the field very well along with other runners such as Evan Haun and Joe Ray of Bayport-Blue Point, Ben Robinson (Tunkahannock) and Miles Wolfe (Shikellamy). It was obvious the last 1.1 miles was going to be interesting as three teams were vying for the crown.

With a mile to go, the question was, "Would front runners or a tight team pack be the way to claim the title?" The Phantoms were implementing a hybrid front running/pack approach, Fairview was relying on their front runners being backed up by their 3-4-5, while State College was using the pack approach of having their top 5 within 30 seconds of each other. State College looked as if they had the most to gain as their pack was charging hard and they had 7 seven runners pass 2 miles before any team had 5. But as it turns out it was not enough. Bayport-Blue Point was able to ride the break they created before 2 miles to victory. Bayport-Blue Point wasn't the only one who used the break to their advantage, Fadale (16:21) and Ayers (16:23) went first and second resepctively as they were the two runners who not only survived, but thrived from the break created by Dennis. Dennis (16:27)  hung on for third as Costello (16:36) grabbed fourth place and Hirst (16:50) rounded out the top 5 and were the only people to crack 17 minutes. Hurd (17:01) was sixth as the team race continued to be tight between Bayport-Blue Point, Fairview, and State College. Novak (17:08) lead Tombasco (17:10) and Buscemi (17:14) across the line as he finished 7th and they followed in 8th and 9 respectively. Crowe (17:21) finished 10th as he got State College's scoring  started. So through 10 places, 2 Bayport (3,9), 2 Fairview (5,6) and 1 State College runner had finished. Adam Walker (17:24), Fairview #3 finished in 11th beating two Bayport-Blue Point runners Haun (17:35) and Ray (17:40) who finished 12th and 13th. So 4 Bayport Runners had crossed the line and it looked like the title was theirs, but where was Bayport #5? He was not in the sea of State College runners that were approaching the line. 4 State College Runners, Peter Lin (17:42), Andrew Lanagan (17:46), Nick Dudukovich (17:48), and Doug Jordan (17:49) finished 14th, 15th, 17th, and 18th, respectively as Wolfe (17:47) was able to split them coming up the finishing straight. State College now has 5 runners through. And the question remains, "Where is Bayport #5?" State College's #6 and #7 runners, Shawn Ziff  (17:56) and John Crowe (17:58), were approaching the line and Faireview's #4, Connor Gregory (17:57) was able to split them, while their Fairview's 5th, Greg Facchine (18:00) finished right after State College's #7. And a few seconds later Bayport's #5, Connor Crowley (18:08) crossed. It was too close to call and we would to wait for the results to see that Bayport (64) scored a narrow vicotry of over Fairview (70) and State college (74).

It was a tight team battle the whole race. Early on it looked as if the race would be between Bayport and Fairview. And at 2 miles it looked as if Bayport was pulling away, but their 5th guy was the behind packs of Fairview and State College runners. State College used a strong 2nd half of the race to make things interesting in the end, but came up a little short. Bayport-Blue Point's strong front running held off the Fairview and State College pack-style running to get the W. Fairview's 2nd place was impressive as they knocked off State College (AAA) and proved they are definitely worth their PTXC ranking as they prepare for Hershey.

Video to show the amount of water on the course in State College


Week #1

The 2009 Pennsbury Girls: Behind Sargent & Herman, this year's edition does not want history to repeat itself.

By Don Rich

"The real deal" yells Pennsbury boys' head coach Tim Cass as he races to a spot at about the halfway point of last Friday's Viking Invitational in Southampton's Tamanend Park. And Cass knew exactly what he would find – frosh Sara Sargent  (left #413) with the lead. The only questions were, by how much, and who would be in second.

By how much was a lot. About 30 seconds at that point. And in second, he would find last year's star addition to Pennsbury - sophomore Ann Herman  (below #397) - also a product of the St. Ignatious CYO program, which not so coincidently, is coached by Sara's father, Greg.

"She (Sara) came to us well prepared and trained," understates Pennsbury girls coach Don Little, who was basking in the glow of his girls' capturing their first team invitational title in six years over a strong Central Bucks West squad.

This team was motivated before Sargent arrived to give the squad a very formidable 1-2 punch. Losing a state berth will do that to you.

Last fall, the PIAA went down to five AAA teams from District 1 who auto-qualify for the state championships. Pennsbury was 6th. By a measly three points. To William Tennent. (The two teams will face each other at this Saturday's PTXC 1 in Lancaster.)

With much of the Pennsbury team returning this year, it was all the motivation they needed to put in the work. Says Little, "they didn't want it to happen again. They started running. They put together practices this summer, and it showed today."

Herman qualified individually for states in 2008, finishing 17th. Running 2nd to Sargent by 49 seconds at Viking, Herman beat last year's 10th place AAA finisher, junior Lindsay Rheimer of Council Rock North.

Herman too, is pumped for this season as a team. "we knew we were close, and winning an invite is really big for us."

Herman, Sargent and coach Little were especially impressed with the team pack. As the race unfolded, Central Bucks West had five in a rather tight group. With Sargent and Herman taking care of business at the front, it was junior Morgan Perry (left #407), senior Anastasia Diamond (right #392), and freshman Stephani Radzinski (lower left #408) who hung on to keep the points as low as possible.

"We have been working on pack running" Herman says. "We know, no matter how tired we are, we have to do it (the effort) for the whole race." Herman didn't get out as well as she wanted. "I am not the kind to go out fast." But by the halfway point, she was comfortably in second.

Saying it is one thing. Racing it is another. As the race unfolded and the CB West pack rolled by at about halfway in the woods, Diamond  and Radzinski were not letting the gap grow. And Perry was doing her job, breaking up the West group and remaining ahead of their #3. "You gotta pack run if you want to win" says Little. "I'm pleased today. But I'm happier for the girls."

At the start, it was easy to spot Sargent. Not just because of the orange singlet, but because she had a 10 meter lead as the course quickly narrowed at 150 meters. "We told the girls to go out hard because of that bottleneck, that they had to get out in order to win, especially with good teams like (CB) West, Council Rock North and Pennridge in the mix," offered Little.

But Little probably didn't have to give that advice about getting out to Sargent. "She is dynamite," says Little. "She takes off and she does not look back."

Asked if her 'Prefontaine-going out and seeing what everyone else has style' describes her, Sargent shyly, but firmly answers "basically, yeah. But it was my first invite, so I was hyped. It was definitely one of my best races of all time."

There are sure to be many more of those, beginning with this Saturday's PTXC 1.

Big Valley Invite Coverage

By Jayson Jackson

It was a warm, sunny day in Reedsville, PA the Home of the Big Valley Invitational. All of the runners and coaches were looking to get the first race of the season under their belts on this beautiful September day. It was a great day to run, as many fans had turned out to support the runners. The schedule for the races was Boys JV, Girls Varsity, Boys Varsity, and Girls JV. The course at Big Valley was very spectator-friendly as its two-loop course across wide open fields. The runners did not disappoint on opening day by delivering many top individual and team performances.

Leah Anne Wirfel (Forest Hills) set a blistering pace as she opened up a 20m lead by the first mile. Hannah Bowen, Lewisburg's number one girl, was in second, followed closely by State College's Lucia Sofo and Chloe Schmidt, and Kady Weisner from Elk County Catholic.   Lewisburg and State college split the next few spots as the race for the team title was heating up, and it was obvious it was going to be very close.

By mile two, Wirfel's lead had grown to 100m - she wasn't taking her foot off the gas, and she powered through the course. Wirfel looked as if she was on a mission not just for the race, but for the season. Schmidt led the State College charge in second place, followed by Sofo in third. Anne Balogh was running strong as State College's third girl, breaking up the tight Lewisburg pack.

Shannon Wright, Lewisburg number two, was running with Altoona's number one & number two, Sasha Peterman and Alexis Ebersole, as she was trying to pick up every point she could. The team race was too close to call with a half-mile to go as Lewisburg's third, fourth, and fifth girls - Marina Ziemian, Dana Stockdale and Emily Knight, respectively - were trying to hold State College's fourth girl, Kathryn McNaughton. State College's fifth girl, Alyssa Cousins, was running strong as she was trying to close out the scoring for her team.  Over the last half-mile the two teams battled for the title and provided a show for the fans.  By the finish Wirfel had extended her lead to 48 seconds as she was the only girl to crack 19 minutes with a very impressive 18:40 solo effort. Schmidt (19:28), Weisner (19:49), Sofo (19:54), and Adair Gennocro from St. Mary's Area (20:12) rounded out the top five.

The team battle was just as tight as it was with a half-mile to go as there were not many changes in the places. The team championship would come down to State College's front runners vs. Lewisburg's Pack. After the dust had settled and the scores were tallied, the results showed State College notched a narrow victory over Lewisburg, 72-69. Schmidt (2), Sofo (4), Balogh (9), McNaughton (20), and Cousins (34) tallied 69 points on the day. Lewisburg put their top-5 in the top 20, but it wasn't enough to repeat as champions.

State college rested All-State runner Nora Adams for the meet, but was still able to come away with a victory illustrating their depth early in the season. Wirfel was impressive and looks ready to challenge for the number one spot in the state. Both State College (AAA) and Lewisburg (AA) will be strong contenders for the team race in November as they as both take aim at two-time defending champions Emmaus (AAA) and Central Cambria (AA).


Varsity girls race video by Jayson Jackson


The boys' race didn't spread out as quickly as the girls' race as ten boys formed a tight pack thru the mile with both Altoona and Coatesville making a strong case for the team title. Coatesville had three runners in the top seven, while Altoona had their top five in the top fifteen with Wade Endress setting the pace for the field.

But from mile 1 to 2, the team and individual winners would be clear. As the sun was still beating on all the competitors, the boys from Altoona did their best Superman impression as they seemed to get stronger with every step they took.   As they reached two miles, the lead pack was whittled down to six, with Endress still leading and two of his teammates, Chris Fischer and Jordan Libermann, followed closely. Alex Monroe (Indian Valley), Billy Hackmeister and Zach Mains (Coatesville) completed the top pack.

Over the the next half-mile Endress turned it up another notch as his lead began to grow and the pack blew up behind. Fischer and Liberman began to assert themselves, as well, preparing for the charge for home. And they were backed up by the rest of the squad. Mike Harf, Altoona's number four, was closing on the top six as the move his top three teammates made was being felt amongst the lead pack. Tyler Lidwell was battling for a spot in the top ten and looking to close out the scoring for Altoona as their fifth runner. Patrick Reade and Tyler Hileman, number six and number seven for Altoona, were looking to put an exclamation point on the day and finish in the top 20.

With a half-mile to go it was clear Endress would lead Altoona to victory, the only question that remained was how dominant of a team victory would it be. Endress' strong push over the second half of the race helped him earn the victory in 16:09. Fischer(16:25) and Liberman (16:29) would finish in second and third, respectively, as they were able to put 10 seconds on their pack through the last half-mile. Hackmeister (16:34) and Monroe (16:40) would close out the top five in fourth and fifth, respectively. Harf (16:52) and Lidwell (17:09) finished seventh and twelvfth to end Altoona's scoring on the day with 25 points, which is one of the lowest scores ever recorded at the meet. In 2006, Coatesville scored 16 points to start off their undefeated season where they earned state and national titles.

Altoona would put their top seven in the top twenty, as Reade (17:23) and Hileman (17:23) finished in 16th and 17th, respectively. Altoona used the second half of the race to send a message they were ready for the big time and that they want a spot on the podium in Hershey. Coatesville ran strong for a distant second. Altoona was very impressive on the day with strong individual performances leading to a dominating team title.

Wirfel and Endress are off to a great start as they look to build on last year's xc and track seasons, where they earned all-state honors. The Altoona boys team looks poise to battle for a spot in the top five this season by using a tight team pack with strong front runners. State College and Lewisburg will make their mark in AAA and AA, respectively, as their strong teams will be hard to beat late in the year. It was a great first meet and the athletes delivered several noteworthy performances as they kicked off their seasons.


Finish video of the boys' varsity race

Video interview with Altoona coach Lee Baranik


Video interview with State College coach Rebecca Donaghue