CENTER VALLEY – Lindsay Kerr has had a bulls eye on her back ever since winning league and district cross country titles last year. Her competition, however, has barely been close enough to tell what's on her back this season.
The Northwestern senior defended her Colonial League title Thursday at DeSales University, finishing in 19 minutes and 23 seconds, comfortably ahead of Saucon Valley's Lainie Smith (19:50).
"Coming back as a returning champion, there's definitely a lot of pressure," Kerr said. "There's a lot of pressure the entire season, but having to come back and repeat what I did last year is even more pressure. I'm just really happy I got to do it again."
Kerr led her team to the league title, its first since 2005. And she became the first back-to-back winner since Northwestern graduate Dana Stellar did it in 2004-05.
The Colonial League boys title was won by Notre Dame's Bryan Megee, who also led his team to a title. Northern Lehigh, led by Austin Danish, Ryan Fronheiser and Zach Fleming took second place as a team.
Kerr and the Tigers were edged at leagues last season by Saucon Valley and have been working hard to stay ahead of the Panthers this season. Northwestern placed its top five runners within the top 13 places Thursday, beating Saucon Valley 38-54 in team points.
"I'm really proud of these girls," Kerr said of her teammates. "They worked their butts off all summer. We're definitely doing what we wanted to do. Everyone did amazing today."
Katie Hallingstad placed fourth for Northwestern, followed by Ramzy Burns (seventh), Megan Handwerk (12th) and Anna Fricchione (14th).
"Our team has worked extremely hard for the past few months and it's very exciting," Hallingstad said. "Everyone loves to run and we're very close."
"They wanted it so bad today and they went after it," said Northwestern head coach Chris Stitzel.
The Tigers head to districts next week as the team favorite in Class AA, with defending champ Kerr the individual favorite. Northwestern had its best state meet in school history last year, taking seventh as a team with Kerr fourth overall individually. With three runners graduating in spring, including Kerr, this team hopes to leave its mark this season.
"We had a little meeting the other day," Stitzel said. "I said 'this is the best team we've had. This is our best chance. Let's bring home some trophies and medals this year.' We've never won a district title, yet."
In the boys race, Northern Lehigh had its top three runners finish within four places of one another. Danish was ninth, followed by Fronheiser in 10th and Fleming in 11th.
"We usually go out together and we're usually 1-2-3 like that in a race," Danish said. "We all share the lead role on the team. We've got three solid guys up in the front."
The team had two until a few weeks ago, when Fleming came over from football and gave the Bulldogs a boost. Since then they beat the league's second-best team Wilson in a dual meet and validated it with a second-place team finish at the league meet Thursday.
Northern Lehigh is hoping for a top-two team finish at districts next week, which would garner a berth into the state meet as a team.
Danish is also hoping to qualify for states individually. A junior, he finished 41st at districts two years ago after taking eighth at leagues. Last year he was 12th at leagues and 23rd at districts. The top 10 individual finishers at districts who are not on state-qualifying teams earned trips to states last year.
"That's a very big goal," Danish said. "That's what I'm looking forward to. I've been training for that all year."
Colonial League Cross Country Championships
Held at DeSales University
1. Notre Dame Green Pond 26, 2. Northern Lehigh 75, 3. Wilson 96, 4. Saucon Valley 141, 5. Notre Dame East Stroudsburg 168, 6. Palisades 176, 7. Northwestern 179, 8. Southern Lehigh 202, 9. Bangor 244, 10. Catasauqua 277, 11. Moravian Academy 278, 12. Pen Argyl 283, 13. Salisbury 297.
1. Bryan Megee (NDGP) 17:15.5, 2. Justin Berger (W), 3. Jaryth Bollinger (C), 4. Eric Busher (NDGP), 5. Dennis Peterson (Sal), 6. Julian Caiazzo (NDGP), 7. Mike Marinksy (NDGP), 8. Dylan Decker (NDGP), 9. Austin Danish (NL), 10. Ryan Fronheiser (NL), 11. Brett Gubitos (NDES), 12. Zach Fleming (NL), 13. Andrew Stauffer (SV), 14. Rory McAtee (W), 15. Dan Vaughn (Palis), 16. Aaron Papay (Palm), 17. Jake Cermak (SL), 18. Zach Bartleson (PA), 19. Alex Crain (MA), 20. Jon Lascelle (SV).
21. Scott Showak (NL), 22. Patrick Strobel (NW), 25. Aaron Rarick (NL), 33. Cody Reinert (NW), 35. Daniel Masetti (NW), 43. Alexander Morris (NW), 47. Cody Eckhart (Palm), 52. Brandon Wehr (NW), 53. Zane Heller (NL), 69. Jonathan Deihl (NW), 74. Joey Duffy (NW), 81. Vaughn Reese (NL), 85. David Fitzpatrick (Palm).
1. Northwestern 38, 2. Saucon Valley 54, 3. Notre Dame Green Pond 91, 4. Northern Lehigh 122, 5. Southern Lehigh 131, 6. Bangor 134, 7. Palisades 139, 8. Moravian Academy 139, 9 Wilson 264, 10. Notre Dame East Stroudsburg 293.
1. Lindsay Kerr (NW) 19:23.6, 2. Lainie Smith (SV), 3. Chelsea Ricenbark (SL), 4. Katie Hallingstad (NW), 5. Megan Stack (SV), 6. Katherin Downing (NDGP), 7. Ramzy Burns (NW), 8. Erika Edwards (NDGP), 9. Alezandra Neffue (B), 10. Laura Keller (Palis), 11. Sarah Kish (SV), 12. Megan Handwerk (NW), 13. Samanth Corcoran (NL), 14. Anna Fricchione (NW), 15. Taylor Gondoude (Sal), 16. Alex Evangalista (SV), 17. Stephanie Pryor (NL), 18. Brittany White (B), 19. Heather Brown (Palis), 20. Camille Camion (MA).
26. Megan Rex (NL), 31. Andrea Stevko (Palm), 34. Julie Wagaman (NL), 39. Natalie Boehm (NW), 40. Courtney Desiderio (NW), 41. Aimee Oertner (NL), 47. Briana Riddick (NL), 55. Rachel Barnett (NL), 57. Kayla Strohl (Palm), 64. Cathy Gamez (Palm), 72. Meghan Dailey (Palm).