Danville Triumphant in 2A, Espinosa's Aggression pays off

Coach Jeff Brandt on the Danville 2A Victory

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Sometimes you just need to execute. En route to their second state title in six years, the Danville girls found themselves behind.

At the one-mile mark, Danville trailed Cathedral Prep 86-96. Cathedral Prep had two girls in the top six points-paying positions, while their three, four, and five runners were right with the Danville contingent.

In this situation, some teams panic. They feel an extrinsic pressure to make up the ground and force an irrational move that could cost them. But the Danville girls remained even-keeled. By the halfway mark, they closed the gap. They still had no runners in the top 10, but they knew they could rely on what got them to the state championship: their pack.

They remained aligned with that mentality and pushed on with a 25-second compression. Over the next 2500m, they continued to run as a pack and continued to make up ground. They had four girls in the top 20 points-paying positions at the finish and finished with 82 points to score the win.

Victoria Bartholomew, Alivia Shen, Odin Ryer, Hannah Bartholomew, and Janie Cotner helped lead Danville to victory, while Lauren Benfer and Emma Parker provided much-needed depth for their squad.

Top 6 Scoring Teams (Full Results)

1Danville Area829+13+14+18+28 (32+55)1:03 1-5 Split | 20:03 Avg
2Cathedral Prep1185+8+24+35+46 (47+62)1:53 1-5 Split | 20:21 Avg
3Saint Marys Area1264+20+27+33+42 (68+98)1:52 1-5 Split | 20:30 Avg
4North Catholic1632+7+17+66+71 (91+100)3:06 1-5 Split | 20:41 Avg
5Montour17210+16+23+59+64 (102+136)2:22 1-5 Split | 20:48 Avg
6Crestwood18615+25+45+49+52 (76)1:34 1-5 Split | 20:56 Avg

Cathedral Prep had a great day despite finishing as the runner-up. Brown and Lauren Raimy finished inside the top 8 points-paying positions, while Fina Bannister, Allison Bender, Caitlin Dugan, and Grace Barrett all scored in the top 50.

Saint Marys Area finished in third as Gabby Pistner scored came across the line in fifth. North Catholic put two girls in the top ten, Gracie Plastino and Madeline Meeuf. That squad finished in fourth. Montour and Crestwood battled for the top five spots and finished in fifth and sixth.

Aggression Pays off for Espinosa

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Individually, Baylee Espinosa (Lewisburg) chose an aggressive strategy to pursue her first state title.

Her first mile was a blazing 5:37, which matched the pace seen in the 3A race. She already held a 5-second lead over Cathedral Prep's Anne-Catherine Brown at that juncture. Emily Fisher (Somerset), Gracie Plastino (North Catholic), Madison Hedglin (Dallas), Amelia Ogawa (Lower Moreland), and Grace Fritzman (West Allegheny) all positioned themselves in the front pack which was about 10-deep at this point.

By the halfway point, Espinosa's lead had grown to 18-seconds. It was clear skies from there, and she cruised to the individual win in 18:48, besting the field by 24 seconds.

It was an outright dominant effort for Espinosa. She hasn't lost since September 9th, and she continues to assert herself as one of the best XC runners in the state, regardless of classification. Despite running by herself, she finished with the tenth fastest time of the day.

Behind her, two freshmen rose to the occasion. Anne-Catherine Brown led an ambitious pack at the halfway mark as Plasino and Emily Fisher sat on her heels.

By the two-mile mark, Plastino made her move and started to create some separation. Fisher followed her while Brown settled in fourth. By the finish, Plastino and Fisher were still neck and neck. Plastino crossed the line in second with her 19:12, while Fisher was just two seconds back in third.

Veteran Amelia Ogawa followed up her 13th-place finish at last year's state meet with a fourth-place finale this year. She crossed at 19:21, outkicking Gabby Pistner, who finished in fifth.

Brown, Grace Trimmer (Uniontown), Brenna Dahlgren (Honesdale), Grace Fritzman (West Allegheny), and Madeline Meeuf (North Catholic) rounded out the top 10.

Individual Top 10 (Full List)