8/20-Hatboro-Horsham NE #3 favored in AAA Girls XC, Umbel, Thaeder lead returning harriers

Girls AAA Cross Country Preview 2004
By Aaron Rich
Don Rich, editor

Cross Country is upon us again. There is nothing quite like this sport, fiercely competitive, challenging, and yet fun for everyone involved, from the athletes to the coaches to the parents and fans. These previews are fun to do because they give me the opportunity to look over what was accomplished last season, and what could be accomplished this season by runners from all over the state. This year will be particularly exciting for me as I will be coaching a high school team for the first time. Cross Country is my favorite time of year, and I look forward to being part of it as a coach. I hope that these summaries that follow spark what they were intended to: motivatation, discussion, and add to the excitement of a new season full of unknown promise. Happy running to everyone. Let me know if you think we've overlooked anything. Stay healthy, and leave nothing on the course.

Girls AAA

For the team title the picture might very well look quite similar to last year. The top 2 teams return solid squads for 2004. Hatboro-Horsham, ranked #3 in the Northeast in the Harrier/NTN pre-season poll, returns 5 of their top 6 runners, including sophomores Kerry Swayne (12th) and Brittany Sullivan (23rd ), juniors Theresa Gould (34th), and Jen O'Neill, plus senior Caitlin Klaas. The spread on 1-6 last year was 1:21, which includes all five returners. Chambersburg is a program that keeps on with its traditon of excellence. They return 6 of their runners from last years team. The loss of Kylee Shuler was a key one, but sophomore Sarah Morrison was 7th last year, and she leads a team that can feed off of their success. Their spread on returners is over two minutes, so they'll have to close that up quite a lot to catch Hatboro.

Also in the hunt is Parkland, who returns 5 runners from last year, and has the experience of racing well at state. A sleeper no more is Unionville, who return 6 runners from last year, including senior Katie Thaeder, who was 5th last year. And word out of the west is that Mount Lebanon is ready to show something statewide.

For the individual title, the race appears to be open to a host of talented runners. Senior Marrisa Umbel from Indiana was 2nd last year. She closed on champ Frances Koons over the final straight. Unionville senior Katie Thaeder looked great in the spring, posting a 2nd place 10:38.51 3200. Senior Erin Zellers from Red Lion was 6th last year and is out of the shadow of Kate Papenberg, who is now at the Air Force Academy. Chambersburg leader and sophomore Sarah Morrison was 7th last year in her first trip to the big dance. ,Senior Julie Karaszkiewicz from Garnet Valley was 8th last year, senior Kate Vaughan from Bethel Park was 9th last year, and Freedom senior Lavretta Dezubay was 10th. Dezubay posted a 5:01.12 5th place 1600 and 10:34.13 1st place 3200 this past spring. Also watch for Upper Perkiomen junior Kristin Reed, who was a disappointing 46th last fall, but finished the year with a 4:57.15 2nd place 1600 outdoors. And Big Spring sophomroe Lara Crofford, who ran an 11:01.05 3200 at States, reportedly had a great XC camp and could be ready to move up.

Many things can happen during a cross country season, and these summaries are just one of many outcomes that are left to be determined by the rigors of a 2 month trek over hills and through mud under a myriad of conditions. Best of luck to everyone who steps foot on a cross country course this fall. And remember that we make our own destiny through the quality of our training and the tenacity of our racing.

Click here to see a list of the top returning PA girls and teams according to the PennTrackXC database. If someone is missing, it means we need a graduation year