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video interviews, video highlights, photos, race summaries, feature stories and statewide newspaper coverage
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Photo Galleries: Photo Gallery by Timothy O'Dowd (finish) | Photo Gallery by Don Rich (4800m) | Photo Gallery by Doug Michaels (800m|2400m|Aloha Hills|4200m) | Photo Gallery by Meghan Clugh (1200m|2000m) | Photo Gallery by Lex Mercado (600m|4600m |
Video Interviews: Angel Piccirillo, Homer Center | AA Champ Elk Lake Girls | Lindsay Rheiner, Council Rock North | Hannah Grossman, Strath Haven | AAA Champ Pennsbury Girls | Tommy Gruschow, Trinity (3) | AA Champ Elk Lake Boys | Ryan Gil, North Allegheny | AAA Champ North Allegheny Boys | Wade Endress, Altoona |
Race Flow Photo Galleries with Narrative: Race Flow narrative by Jayson Jackson with photos by Lex Mercado, Doug Michaels and Megan Clugh
Newspaper coverage from around PA: Click here for links to local stories from around PA
Individual champs photos below by Timothy O'Dowd, IrishRunner.com
Summaries by Cory Mull
Photos below by Don Rich, Doug Michaels, Megan Clugh, Timothy O'Dowd
Class 2A Girls:
From the start, it was her race to win. And Homer Center junior Angel Piccirillo said she understood the pressure that went with being the favorite heading into the PIAA race at Hershey’s Parkview course.
But she didn’t let it get to her.
Recording the classification’s fastest time since the course changed in 2008, Piccirillo won the Class AA race with a AA Course Record time of 18:44, running 26 seconds faster than second-place Kennedy Weisner of Elk County Catholic.
Photo by Tim O'Dowd
A fifth-place finisher last year, Piccirillo established control early, heading out to an early pace that only a few could keep up with. She maintained composure in the ensuing miles and said she accurately hit her split times, which were as fast as 5:35 in the first mile.
“Coming in my coach wanted me to run the first mile patient but kind of aggressive, so I ran a 5:35-5:40 first mile and I was really happy with that,” Piccirillo said. “My splits are coming together really well recently.”
She said experience played a factor, having run the race as a sophomore. But what helped most, she said, was the confidence boost of the District 6 race, which she won only seven days prior. In that race she recorded her best effort to date, snagging 24 seconds off her PR en route to a 17:56.
“Having last year, being happy getting here, I went for my best last year but I got fifth place,” said Piccirillo, who finished in 19:38 last year. “I got to see the course last year and I think that did help. Just having a little bit of background of the course and knowing how it feels and where the hard parts are…that helped.”
Weisner, a freshman, was second and said afterward that she wasn’t overwhelmed in the spotlight. She registered a 6:11 mile pace and felt as if she ran strong through difficult stages of Parkview.
Saint Mary’s sophomore Adair Gennocro, a medalist in Class AAA last year, was third in 19:17. Villa Joseph Marie’s Emma Mahony was fourth (19:18) and South Fayette’s Nicole Hilton was fifth (19:20).
Rounding out the top 10 were Elk Lake junior Maria Trowbridge (19:48), Forest Hills Leah Anne Wirfel (19:37), Northgate’s Bridgit Walters (19:38), Holy Redeemer’s Rachel Sowinski (19:39) and Boiling Springs’ Lillie Brown (19:40), who won the District 3 race on a slightly revamped Parkview course 10 days prior.
In all, 15 runners dipped below 20 minutes.
Team wise, for the first time in school history, Elk Lake gobbled up the team title, dominating in impressive fashion over second-place Holy Redeemer and third-place (and three-time defending champion) Central Cambria.
Photo by Doug Michaels
Their highest placing as a team previously was in 2007, when the team was runner-up to Central Cambria.
Elk Lake scored 77 points, beating out Holy Redeemer by nearly 30 points (106). Elk Lake received top 15 finishes from junior Maria Trowbridge and her freshman sister Elizabeth, who finished 11th overall. The team’s third finisher was Kirsten Hollister and she was followed by Abby Zdancewicz and Emily Williams.
“This is all brand new territory,” Elk Lake coach William Squier said. “What it means to us is extremely fulfilling. I’m extremely thankful. I don’t think winning is something that anyone can control. You can control the influence, but winning is a blessing.”
“To our school, up in Northeast PA, we’re a small school. And for us to be able to take this home to the school and give it back to the community and back to the people who see us running and the administration and the parents, that’s a very satisfying feeling.”
Class 3A Girls:
Four District 1 runners placed within the top six overall, but the returning champion, Pennsbury sophomore Sara Sargent, didn’t repeat.
First-time gold medalist Lindsay Rheiner of Council Rock North (1) paced all runners in the large school girls’ division, finishing in 18:42.
Photo by Tim O'Dowd
She was six seconds in front of second-place Paige Stoner of Pottsville (11), a freshman, who recorded an 18:48, and seven seconds in front of Strath Haven’s Hannah Grossman (1) and North Hill’s Margo Malone (7).
Sargent was sixth overall, finishing in 18:59. And to note: District 1 champion, Pennridge sophomore Tori Gerlach, was 11th overall in 19:09.
For sure, District 1 was a jumbled pot of medalists. Eleven District 1 runners placed within the top 20, including last year’s runner-up, Central Bucks East’s Katie Kinkead, who finished in 18th in 19:18, and North Penn junior Meghan McGovern, who was fourth overall in 18:57.
That’s hardly to take away from Rheiner’s effort. The senior, who will self-admit she’s a better lacrosse player -- she’s attending the Naval Academy on scholarship next year -- had a career day on Saturday.
Tenth as a sophomore and absent as a junior due to sickness, she ended her career on top. With a gold medal.
The race‘s result wasn‘t clear until the final 600 meters, as runners made their way down past the sewage plant. Rheiner said that’s when she overtook Stoner and bulled up the final hill en route to the title.
“The last part up the hill, with [Stoner], I told myself ‘This is it, let’s end the career on a good note,’” Rheiner said.
In general, it was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of race. And that definitely played to Rheiner’s advantage.
Under the radar, having scored a third-place finish in districts and a second-place effort behind Sargent at the SOL National Conference Championship, she came in with meager expectations -- or one that at least didn’t include winning a state title.
But the Newtown native reached into her bag of tricks when the time called, proving that her competitive zeal has undeniable benefits.
“With the mile to go, I had this thing in my head where I told myself I could definitely win it,” she said. “So I’m very excited.”
Photo by Doug Michaels
Sargent wasn’t denied overall, though, as her team secured their best finish in school history, winning the team title. It followed up their third-place finish from last season and another fourth-place finish in 1988.
Sargent was at the head of the pack, finishing in 18:59, but close behind were Ann Herman (21st), Erica Gray (30th), Morgan Perry (49th) and Anastasia Diamond (57th).
The team’s first four finished below 20-minutes and Diamond came soon after in 20:07. All seven were in by 20:23.
Herman, who was 17th as a freshman, rebounded nicely after an injury-plagued sophomore campaign.
Pennsbury scored 81 points, beating second-place West Chester Henderson by 38 points (119). North Allegheny, last year’s fourth-place finisher, was third with 154 points.
State College made a surprise visit into the top five after finishing 11th last season, earning a fourth-place honor with 215 points. Downingtown East was fifth with 216 points.
Note: Central Bucks East sophomore Kara Shen was taken out by a rogue deer midway through the race, head coach Matt Catinella confirmed afterward.
Shen was knocked down and then kicked, Catinella said, and then was taken by a cart back to the medical tent, where she was examined. Catinella said Shen was diagnosed with a fracture above her eye and had a slight concussion.
He said she was coherent and walking fine hours later. At the time, he said, Shen was Central Bucks East fifth runner.
This is not THE deer, but our photog Megan Clugh caught this shot during the meet.
Class 2A Boys:
If you ask Dr. Robert Lombardi, Associate Executive Director of the PIAA, there was no controversy.
The tape replay, which was viewed tediously by the head judge and assistant judge, said the same thing over and over again.
Photo by Doug Michaels
Northeast Bradford’s Jake Balchikonis impeded Quaker Valley’s Roy Hadfield at the finish line. As a result, Lombardi confirmed, Balchikonis was disqualified.
Worse yet, the call essentially ended up being a title-decider. Had Balchikonis finished without disqualification in 34rd place, Northeast would have won the state title by one point over Elk Lake.
“It wasn’t like we called it immediately,” Lombardi said. “We took our time and went back to look at the video very carefully. The head judge and assistant judge came to the conclusion that he impeded the runner.”
Elk Lake eventually won the state title, scoring 102 points as they secured their second title since 2008. Holy Redeemer was second with 116, Quaker Valley was third with 154 and Northeast Bradford was fourth with 176.
“I feel really bad for Mike Murphy, the coach at Northeast Bradford, because we know him pretty well and to have that be the end of his year, have that pulled out from under him, I really do fell bad,” Elk Lake coach William Squiers said.
“But he did say it was the right -- Mike came over to us and congratulated us and said that the right call was made,” Squiers said. “I feel bad for that kid, because that kid is going to look back and really, really regret that.”
Elk Lake was led by Mike Bedell and Luke Jones, with both turning in performances in the top 20. Bedell finished in eighth place and Jones was 17th overall, respectively.
Sean Carney was 11th, Jeff Horvath was 37th and Bryan Grosvenor was 148th.
Pacing the boys’ race was Trinity’s Tommy Gruschow, who finished in 16:30. Ten days earlier, Gruschow won the District 3 race on a slightly revamped course, easier course, running 15 seconds slower.
Photo by Tim O'Dowd
His win marked the fourth straight year a District 3 runner has claimed the Class AA title. Bishop McDevitt’s Joe Beveridge won it in back-to-back years from 2007-08 and Kutztown’s Stephen Welsh claimed the title a year ago.
Factoring in the blueprint, Gruschow opted for a reserved race that gradually intensified as the minutes chewed away. He said he ran very quick in the first mile, about as fast as other took it out. But by the time others started dropping off at the bridge, Gruschow kept the pace that was set early and pushed forward.
“I really didn’t have a certain time to hit,” Gruschow said. “I just wanted to stay in the front. They went out quick, 4:45-4:47, something like that, so I knew I had to run my first mile faster than I usually run it.”
More importantly, Gruschow claimed the first individual state cross country title in the school’s history.
“My coach told me, since he’s had someone at states he’s never had anyone medal, so that was the goal,” Gruschow said.
A.J. Limongelli of Holy Redeemer was second (16:31), Harley Thompson of Elk County Catholic was third (16:40), Joel Christian of Towanda was fourth (16:43) and Ryan Smathers of Northeast Bradford was fifth (16:43).
Rounding out the top ten: 6. Elk Lake’s John Trueman (16:48); 7. Bedell (16:49); 8. Quaker Valley’s L.J. Westwood (16:51); 9. Central Columbia’s Donnny Scatena (16:53); and 10. Northeast Bradford’s Sam Williams (16:53).
Class 3A Boys:
Ryan Gil could laugh about it now, with a gold medal in his possession.
But in October, he wasn’t so sure.
He didn’t know quite how to proceed after breaking his right toe in a freak accident climbing up the stairs.
Photo by Tim O'Dowd
“I’m really excited about it, because I wasn’t even sure I would be able to race here in October,” said Gil, who was first in the boys’ Class 3A race in 15:52.
“I was going up the stairs one night and it was dark,” he detailed. “And I just jammed my foot into the stair. And it didn’t seem too bad at the time, but looking at the X-Ray the next day, it turned out that it was broken pretty badly.”
That’s one reason why Gil was a no-show for almost the entire month of October, only until the District 7 Championships rolled around.
Even then, he wasn’t entirely 100-percent. He logged an impressive 15:39 in the race, only six seconds behind his personal record, but he finished behind three North Hills runners.
During that quiet October period, he was on the stationary bike and ran laps in the pool. He did all the workout simulations that he could, sometimes three hours a night.
It all worked.
By Saturday, Gil was prepared, even though he got swept away early. He said he was in 25th by the first mile.
“I was glad to see that it was pretty fast,” Gil said of the start. “Because I knew guys would probably be dropping out. I kept my pace up and kept on hopping on other guys. I eventually got up to top four or five with maybe about 1,000 meters to go.”
By that time, it was Gil’s time to shine. He said he felt relaxed and relatively confident because he didn’t go out as fast. Eventually, it allowed him to slip by Altoona’s Wade Endress, who finished in second in 15:54.
North Hill’s Zach Hebda was third in 15:55, Council Rock North’s Chris Campbell was fourth in 15:55 and Grove City’s Jacob Kildoo was fifth in 15:57.
Gil’s individual title helped to give North Allegheny yet another championship in the school’s strong athletic history. With 130 total championships prior to Saturday’s action, the school had the most in the history of the PIAA.
Gil’s achievement added No. 131.
Photo by Doug Michales
“We have tons of people behind us, all the parents, all the alumni,” Gil said. “We have amazing coaches.”
Not to be outdone, the Tigers solidified their 11th team championship by scoring 124 points, 22 better than second-place West Chester Henderson.
Logan Steiner, a transfer from Meadville this season who was a medalist in 2009, finished 13th overall. Timthony Appman was 54th, Tyler Nicotra was 78th and Mike Meehan was 102nd.
“We couldn’t be in a better situation for a cross country program,” Gil said.
Cardinal O’Hara placed third as a team, scoring 160 points, Baldwin was fourth (201) and Altoona was fifth (207). Cardinal O'Hara is the second Philadelphia Catholic team to finish top three in the three years the league has been a member of the PIAA. The first two years, it was LaSalle.
Some might say a lacrosse star won a state title. Lindsay Rheiner's coach begs to differ.
By Cory Mull
Ask anyone who knows anything about District 1 cross country and they’ll balk at the idea of Lindsay Rheiner being a surprise at anything.
Lacrosse, cross country, ping pong, whatever.
“Lindsay is a runner, but she’s also an athlete,” Council Rock North head girls’ cross country coach Cliff Robbins said. “I wouldn’t want to go up against her in anything. She’s your worst nightmare.”
“If you played her in ping pong, even if she never played. …I don’t know. She’s just a pure athlete.”
The senior, who already has a scholarship lined up to play lacrosse at the Naval Academy next year, made an argument on Saturday toward possibly doubling up on another sport: cross country.
Rheiner won the PIAA Class AAA girls’ field in 18:42, completing the last step in a season that’s been all about making the next leap. In a District 1 heavy field, one that included 11 medalists in the top 20, Rheiner finished as the best.
Photo by Doug Michaels
She hardly started like that.
Primarily focused on lacrosse over the summer, Rheiner didn’t put in the amount of sport-specific work that most cross country runners on Council Rock North, let alone most others in the state, did.
It wasn’t quite her fault. She had lacrosse games, camps, traveling dates. She was busy.
“She ran this summer,“ Robbins said. “But she did not train as if she was saying to herself she’d be a state champ. She trained, oh yes. She was doing tournaments and all of that stuff.”
So to think the September version of Rheiner is the same November version we have now would be a vast overstatement.
But in an odd way, it might have been the best thing that could have happened to her. She avoided peaking early. Instead, she became increasingly dangerous as the year moved forward.
“At the beginning of the year she was running well, but there was a distance,” Robbins said. “I saw the eventual progression, but if you’re talking about peaking, you do think about it. Where do you want to be?”
There was more to it. Rheiner was motivated by a junior year in which she missed the state meet due to a bout with sickness. She was 10th at states as a sophomore, so to say that her junior campaign was a disappointment would be fair game.
“I think not coming here to states last year, being sick, I just told myself I have to make up for it,“ Rheiner said. “Pretty much put myself in a position like sophomore year, when I finished 10th. I just wanted anything better than 10th.”
Leading into states, she had done enough to consider her season a success. She was third at Foundation in Hershey, finishing in 19:13.
She was second in the SOL National Conference Championships with a 18:16, only behind Pennsbury sophomore Sara Sargent.
And she was third in the District 1 race, behind winner Tori Gerlach of Pennridge and Katie Kinkead of Central Bucks East. Rheiner recorded a PR of 17:56.
But Rheiner has the mentality of an ox. Legs keep moving. Arms keep pumping. Mind keeps racing.
Photo by Don Rich
She rarely is content with what she’s done. She’s always searching for the next best accomplishment.
On Saturday, for example, she didn’t have first place locked up until the final 600 meters, arguably at the most difficult portion of Hershey’s 3.1 mile Parkview course.
Ask her, she probably wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I told myself, you can’t let this girl go,” Rheiner said of second-place Paige Stoner, who took the lead at the two mile mark and led until the downhill leading into the sewage plant.
“You have to stay with her,” she continued. “I know our guys coach told me ‘Stay on her shoulder, stay on her shoulder.’ And I really tried to the whole time.”
Eventually, as we all know now, Rheiner won. Finished out on top. Like in most things.
But when it comes to cross country, it could end like that.
“I have no plans for Foot Locker [Regionals] to be honest,” she said of post-PIAA type races. “I’m not running in college, I kind of wanted to end my career today. But we’ll see. I’m not certain on anything.”
If you ask Robbins, he’s torn. He believes Rheiner is among one of the three best runners he’s ever coached at Council Rock North. The school’s last state champion was Kylene Kownurko, who recorded a state championship under Robbins in 1995.
Yet Robbins knows Rheiner’s heart is somewhere else. He doesn’t want to place undo stress on his runner.
“I haven’t talked to her yet,“ Robbins said of Foot Locker Regionals, which is held in New York. “I want to share with her just a good experience [Foot Locker] is. It’s a commitment and you come off of it as a state champ.
“But you do put it on the line, go up there, have two or three girls there who you beat, maybe they beat you there and then how do you deal with that?
At what point does a champion retire?
Is it on top, like the story books like to tell?
Or is it after all challenges are met?
Can’t blame Rheiner if she’s content. But do you expect it?
Five freshmen girls earned medals. One almost stole the show.
By Cory Mull
Nothing beats being a freshman.
Especially in Paige Stoner’s case.
The Pottsville rookie earned her first bid to the PIAA Class AAA championships by virtue of a second-place performance at the District 11 Championships, where she was promptly beaten by senior Jess Cygan of Liberty - who won the state AAA title when she was just a sophomore.
But oh, how much things can change in a week.
Photo by Don Rich
This week, Stoner was exactly seven seconds away from blowing up the entire Class AAA field.
Stoner was second overall, missing out on becoming Pottsville’s first state champion since Clyde Lowthert, who claimed the school‘s first cross country title in 1950 -- Cygan, by the way, finished in 65th place.
But guess who she was behind with just a mile to go? Council Rock North senior Lindsay Rheiner.
Again, nothing beats being a freshman.
“I couldn’t believe it,“ Stoner said of capturing the lead for the first time on Saturday, at the two-mile mark of the race. “I was kind of nervous. I was like ‘I don’t know, I don’t know if I should do it.’ But I love the downhill and took off on the downhill.”
Maybe she made the right move. Maybe she didn’t. Isn’t that what being a freshman is all about? Not knowing what’s next?
The life of a freshman was particularly interesting to watch in Stoner’s case, even though she wasn’t a rare case.
Saucon Valley’s Elizabeth Chikotas placed seventh in Class AAA (19:00) and Dallas’ Regan Rome was 20th overall (19:20). In Class AA, Elk County Catholic’s Kennedy Weisner was second (19:10) and Elk Lake’s Liz Trowbridge was 11th (19:48).
Most veterans can remember their first state meet. It often got the best of them.
Whether it was the opening, elbow-ridden gauntlet, or the pulsing, cramping up sensation they were feeling in their legs, inevitably at some point freshmen always hit their wall.
Young runners rarely have the sage awareness their older kind display by the time they are juniors and seniors.
Not the case with Stoner.
“She’s done just phenomenally,“ Pottsville girls’ coach Barb McGinley said. “She’s been running off the charts as a freshman. She’s very determined, but she’s put in a lot of hard work. She’s trained very well, hard. She’s put in the miles.”
Photo by Doug Michaels
In Stoner’s case, what’s helped is training with the boys’ team through the regular season. She’s felt the arm of competition almost on a daily basis, against runners who are faster than she is.
And while that’s hard to quantify in terms of progress, you can see it clearly with Stoner. At the Schuylkill League Championships, she popped off a PA#7, which was 17:57.
It was exactly two minutes and 11 seconds faster than her next closest competitor.
Guess who she beat? A junior. And after that, a senior.
“I knew I was running well,“ Stoner said of that race. “But somewhere in the last mile there was someone and he said if you keep this pace you can break 18 minutes. That just got me really excited.”
So that brings us back to Saturday. Hard to believe Stoner felt like a freshman. She said she didn’t even have nerves.
“No, not today,” Stoner said of being overwhelmed. “Today I was just excited to be here and all the people.”
When the gun went off, Stoner dashed ahead to insert herself in the main pack, just like a veteran. And that’s where she stayed, until about halfway through.
“Probably around the mile and a half, I think there was a group of five or six of us together,“ Stoner said. “And a little over the two mile mark, I took the lead for a little.”
While it was Stoner’s first visit to the state meet, she felt comfortable. She was sitting in a good position. Her body was relaxed. And she was eyeing up Pottsville’s first freshman state medal since 1994.
But therein lies the tricky part. The veteran took over.
“With a mile to go, I had this thing in my head that I could definitely win it,” Rheiner said.
“That feeling of [being] in the last 100, just turning on and really moving, I told myself if I’m in front, I’ll have that adrenaline,” Rheiner added. “And I know I can rely on my kick in the end, so I wanted to stay up there and keep the adrenaline pumping.”
Rheiner eventually did pass Stoner, silencing the freshman’s grandiose hopes of capturing just the 11th state gold medal as a freshmen in the 71-year history of the PIAA.
But guess that’s what being a rookie is all about.
And learning how not to lose next time.
Race Flow stories by Jayson Jackson
Photos by Doug Michaels, Megan Clugh and Lex Mercado
At the half mile point in the race, Home Center’s Angel Piccirillo had about a 15 yard lead on the chase pack of Elk County Cathloc’s Kennedy Weisner, Leah Anne Wirfel of Forest Hills, and South Fayette’s Nicole Hilton. Piccirillo was running with ease and seemed completely focused on her race and strategy. The other three girls who were racing for runner-up honors were locked in a tight battle. They just were never able to make up any ground on Piccirillo even though they were exerting more effort.
As the runners crossed the bridge to head for the Aloha Hills, Piccirillo’s lead was about 25 yards with the same three in tow, but Adair Gennocro of St. Marys and Elk Lake’s Maria Trowbridge had started to distance themselves from the main pack and make their run for top-five honors. Piccirillo glided over the course so easily, that it almost didn’t seem fair to the rest of the competition. She was the only person on the day to maintain and grow the lead she had going into the Aloha Hills all the way to the finish. At two miles Piccirillo now led by 100 yards, the race between her and the clock was on for all to see.
Wiesner, Wirfel and Hilton were still together, but it was getting obvious the early chase on Angel might take its toll on a few them, especially with their chase pack growing in numbers. As they crossed the bridge for the last time, Piccirillo increased her lead and headed for home. When she hit the flat stretch, she picked it up to make the final charge for home as the battle for second was as tight as ever.
Hilton and Weisner were joined by Gennocro and Villa Joseph Marie’s Emma Mahony as Wirfel fell off the pace a bit and tried to stay with Trowbridge over the final half mile. Piccirillo (18:44) cruised to the finish for her first XC state title and the second fastest time on the day. It would have been interesting had she been in the AAA race, because she would have been only 10 seconds up on the field at 2 miles as opposed to 21. Who knows what she could have done over the final mile if she thought she was being pressed. She was followed by Weisner (19:10), Gennocro (19:17), Mahony (19:18), and Hilton (19:20) some 25+ seconds later. Trowbridge (19:35) and Wirfel (19:37) were able to hold off a hard charge from Bridgit Walters (19:38), Rachel Sowinski (19:39), and Lillie Brown (19:40) in the final 800.
As I was standing around the 800m mark a few coaches were talking about Victoria Gerlach and how she mentioned in an interview that she would surrender no ground to Sara Sargent and would go with her from the gun. Ironically, I was talking with a former teammate and current Head Coach at Rider, Bob Hamer, before the meet started about those that generally lead up the first of the Aloha Hills are rarely the ones to break the tape. And so as the runners made the pass at the half-mile mark, there was Gerlach and Sargent leading the field that included, Margo Malone (North Hills), Katie Kinkead (Central Bucks East), Paige Stoner (Pottsville), Lindsay Rheiner (Council Rock North), Meghan McGovern (North Penn), Leigha Anderson (Cumberland Valley), and Angelica Peck (Blackhawk).
As they crossed the bridge for the first time, the pack was still about 8 girls deep, with Gerlach holding a small lead as she was pressing for the hill. As the runners had started to emerge around the hill on the way to two miles, which was very muddy because of the early morning frost, Stoner, Gerlach and Rheiner had built up a seven yard lead. At this point, I think Stoner was going to pull off the upset, not just because of her aggressive move, but because she was smiling as she pressed the pass as they headed up the last of the Aloha Hills. Malone, McGovern, Sargent, Hannah Grossman (Strath Haven), Anderson, and Kinkead were all giving chase, but it looked as if it would be Stoner’s race to lose. When they crossed the bridge for the last time,
Stoner and Rheiner were locked into a battle as Gerlach had been broken, as she was now in the pack with Grossman, McGovern, and Malone, with a trailing Sargent. Rheiner (18:42) was able to pull away from Stoner (18:48) and win the race and Stoner's final sprint held off the charges from Grossman(18:49, 3rd) and Malone (18:49, 4th) to earn runner-up honors. McGovern (18:57) and Sargent (18:59) would be the only other girls to break 19 on the day.
Unfortunately for the early leader of the AA Boys race, they didn’t heed the warnings of the Aloha Hills. As the runners crossed through the crowd of people around the half-mile mark all of the expected contenders were there, including Alex Woodrow (Marion Center), Ryan Smathers (Northeast), Harold Lamour (Carver Engineering & Sciences), Nate Tallada (Saegertown) and John Trueman (Springfield Township). But just before the mile, Smathers would start to assert himself and open up a one-second lead on the field. He continued to press as they crossed the Aloha Hills bridge and had a 15 yard lead on Woodrow who was the first one to give chase.
As they surged up the hill, Smathers was still leading, but Woodrow was being consumed by the pack of Trueman, Joel Christian (Towanda), Tallada, Donny Scatena (Central Columbia), and Tommy Gruschow (Trinity-3). Smathers was still in the lead as they sped through two miles, but the chase pack was starting to bear down. As they ran up the last of the Aloha Hills, Smather's lead was diminishing with every step. Everyone was waiting to see who would be leading as they came out on the other side of the hill, and it was Gruschow. Smathers had fallen to 4th.
As they crossed the bridge and headed up the tiny incline, Gruschow made a surge to open up about five yard lead. It was a great move on his part, because it gave him all the separation he needed as he held off all challengers over the last 800 to win the state title in 16:30. I mentioned in the preview article that it would be interesting to see how Gruschow used what he learned from his District 3 championship winning performance at states since he would race the course on back-to-back weekends. Obviously he used it very well since he won the race with a great move over the final 800. He was followed to the line very closely by Holy Redeemer’s A.J. Limongelli (16:31). Elk County Catholic’s Harley Thomson (16:40), Christian (16:43, 4th), and Smathers (16:43, 5th) would round out the top five.
Similar to Piccirillo’s effort, this was the most controlled race of the day. The runners were in a tight pack as they passed 800 on their way out of view to the mile marker. The leaders, Wade Endress (Altoona), Zach Hebda (North Hills) and Juris Silenieks (North Hills), Alex Izewski (Central Bucks East) and Chris Campbell (Council Rock North), led a pack of about 20 through the mile in 4:50. As they prepared to cross the Aloha Hills bridge for the first time, the pack was still tight with some shuffling who was out front. Hebda and Silinieks were still controlling the pace, along with Campbell, Endress, Reece Ayers (Tunkhannock), Izewski, and Alex Moran (Mount Lebanon). But as they approached two miles Ayers was trying to break the field. He held a one-second lead over Jacob Kildoo (Grove City) as the lead pack was being strung by Ayers' push for home. Endress, Hebda, Silenieks, Campbell, Izewski,, and Ryan Gil (North Allegheny) were all trying to answer Ayers move as they headed up the final Aloha Hill.
As they headed towards the final bridge crossing, Gil, Ayers, Endress, and Kildoo were starting to pack up for the final charge as Hebda gave chase. Ayers was still leading, and Gil looked the best in the pack. After crossing the bridge and heading up the incline, Gil made a perfectly timed move on the flat stretch to open up a small gap. Endress was the first to respond as he moved past Ayers, with Campbell, Kildoo, and Hebda following suit.
As it turned out, Gil was able to maintain the gap all the way to the line as he won his first PIAA title in 15:52. Endress (15:54) was able to reverse the results from Tri-States And Steel City, as he finished second, one second up on Hebda (3rd) and Campbell (4th). Kildoo would lock up 5th as the last person to break 16 minutes, as Ayers finished in 6th with 16:08.
Photos by Doug Michaels, Megan Clugh and Lex Mercado
Championship newspaper coverage from around Pennsylvania
If you would like your coverage to be posted here please email the link to Lex Mercado at email@example.com Thank you.
Allentown Morning Call: Whitehall's Kacyon Takes 8th
Allentown Morning Call: Pottsville's Stoner Finishes Second
Bucks County Courier Times: Hard work pays off for Falcons
Bucks County Intelligencer Journal: Coss country notebook: Wood girls set bar high
Gametime PA: Runners Fall Short of Goals
Gametime PA: Chambersburg Boys Finish in 16th Place at States
Lancaster Online News: E-Town's Kreider Finishes 31st
Milton Standard-Journal: Wright Gets Her Wish for a Medal
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: PIAA Cross Country: North Allegheny wins AAA title
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: PG North: Gil, NA lead way at state title meet
Pittsburgh Tribune: Cross-country runners have to hold on for deer life
Pittsburgh Tribune: Ryan Gill, North Allegheny take cross-country titles
Pottsville Republican-Herald: Silver for Stoner
Pottsville Republican Herald: Silver for Stoner
Scranton Times: Elk Lake girls, boys sweep PIAA Class AA cross country titles
West Chester Daily Local: Second Place Finishes for W.C. Henderson
Wilkes-Barre Times Leader: Dallas freshman Rome captures medal in 3A race
Wilkes-Barre Times Leader: Redeemer boys, girls second best in state 2A
Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice: Banner day for Redeemer cross country program
Williamsport Sun Gazette: Wright Overcomes Injury to Claim Elusive Medal
Flash Results by Aaron Rich
Angel Piccorillo Homer Center 18:44
Elk Lake 77
Holy Redeemer 106
Central Cambria 180
Lindsay Rheiner council rock north 18:42
North Allegheny 154
Elk Lake 102
Holy Redeemer 116
Quaker valley 154
Tommy Gruschow Trinity (3) 16:30
North Allegheny 124
Cardinal O'Hara 160
Ryan Gil 15:52