BETHLEHEM - Lindsay Kerr and the Northwestern girls cross country team got their just desserts for a summer and season of hard work.
Now the Lady Tigers will hope a trip to Hershey next week will be as sweet.
Kerr, a senior, repeated as Class AA champion and the Northwestern girls claimed the team title during Thursday's District 11 Championships held at Bethlehem Municipal Golf Course.
The top two teams and top 10 non-team individual runners all earned berths in this year's PIAA Cross Country Championships, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 7 outside Hershey's Giant Center.
Kerr and the Lady Tigers will be joined by other representatives of THE TIMES NEWS area at States, including Tamaqua's Amber Carroll, Northern Lehigh's Stephanie Pryor and Pleasant Valley's Samantha Klingel on the girls side.
Qualifying among the TN area boys are the Northern Lehigh Bulldogs, second to Notre Dame Green Pond in the Class AA race, as well as Tamaqua's Ricky Clemson in AA and Pleasant Valley's Evan Makuvek in AAA.
Kerr, who finished fourth at States last year as a junior, has won every race in sight this season, save a second place at a Pre-State meet at Hershey. Her dominance in District 11 continued unabated at Bethlehem Muni, where she crossed the finish line in 19 minutes, two seconds, a good 28 seconds ahead of runner-up Lainie Smith of Saucon Valley.
Kerr's "reward" for winning her second straight district crown? A celebratory whipped cream pie in the face from Northwestern assistant coach Tim Churetta. Most of her teammates ended up spattered with the white stuff as well, once the can made its rounds. It was all in good-natured fun.
It was obvious Kerr and the Tigers enjoyed the fruits of their labors.
"There was a lot of pressure coming into the season, but we also had a lot more confidence," said Kerr. "Lainie was staying with me the entire race, and it wasn't until the 2-2 1/2 mile mark that I got some running room. I used a lot of energy to stay in front."
This year's District course was moved from Lehigh University, but Northwestern took advantage of working out on the new lay-out when it had the chance.
"We came down here on the days it was open, and we tried to go at more of a race pace to get a feel for it," said Kerr. "I also talked to the Emmaus (Faust) triplets, because they ran the Lehigh Valley Conference meet on this course.
"Today we had good weather. The course was a little muddy, but you have to run with what you have. We were prepared for it."
Kerr was followed across the finish line by Tiger junior Katie Hallingstad, third in 19:39; senior Ramsy Burns, eighth in 20:44; freshman Anna Fricchione, 16th in 21:12; senior Megan Handwerk, 23rd in 21:28; sophomore Natalie Boehm, 33rd in 21:59; and sophomore Sarah Ribecky, 56th in 23:10.
With Kerr, Hallingstad and Burns in the top 10, the Tigers took the team title with 50 points, oudueling Colonial League rival Saucon Valley, which had 72, a year after finishing second to the Panthers.
"I'm so proud of them," said Northwestern coach Chris Stitzel after his squad took its first District crown. "The goal all season was to win this, and they worked so hard since June until now. They stayed healthy, sickness-wise and injury-wise, and they earned it. They deserved it."
The Tigers have some high expectations for States. "Lindsay's goal is to win the title next week, and that's why we ran that Invitational out there in Hershey," said Stitzel. "Our team goals is to be in the top two, and the way we are running, we can bring some medals back from States."
Tamaqua's Carroll, who was second to Kerr last year as a freshman and placed 18th at States, bounced back nicely after collapsing before the end of last week's Schuylkill League championships. Running at a solid but comfortable pace, Carroll earned another trip to Hershey with a sixth place finish in 20:29.
"That's perfect for her right now," said Tamaqua coach Tom Kanger. "We just needed her to get a race that she felt good about now, and she looked comfortable out there, so I can't ask her to do anything more. When something like that happens to you, you don't know how you're going to respond, and this is on a bigger platform. She had a solid race."
Nolehi's Pryor, a senior who placed fifth last year, made the cut for States again with a 13th place finish in 21:02.
In girls AAA, Pleasant Valley's Klingel, who placed 17th and ran at States last year, was 18th this time and qualified for Hershey once again.
Northern Lehigh coach Dave Oertner knew Colonial League champion Notre Dame of Green Pond would be tough to beat at Districts, so his Bulldogs set their aim on an attainable goal: second place and a trip to States.
They got it with 102 points, finishing as runner-up to the Crusaders' 34 points. Notre Dame's Bryan Megee was the individual winner in AA at 16:40.
"Our guys have been running in a pretty good pack all year," said Oertner. "We hoped to run as a pack in the top 20, and then we could take second with a normal day if we didn't do anything stupid. For us to beat Notre Dame, they (ND) had to falter and they never did, but our kids ran a solid race."
Senior Zach Fleming led the 'Dawgs with a 13th place finish at 17:54, followed by Austin Danish (16th), Ryan Fronheiser (20th), Scott Showak (24th), Aaron Rarick (31st), Zane Heller (37th) and Vaugh Reese (125th).
"This is my first year running cross country after playing football," said Fleming. "I felt pretty good today. I thought the first mile was pretty easy, but it got harder as the race went on."
Tamaqua's Ricky Clemson, a senior, nosed out Allentown Central Catholic's Shawn Regan at the finish line for 17th place, which turned out to be the State cut-off.
In AAA, Pleasant Valley senior Makuvek also made it right at the State cut-off, which turned out to be 12th place overall. He was clocked at 17:20, more than a minute faster than the 18:29.2 he ran on the same course in placing ninth at the Mountain Valley Championships.
"I felt awesome," said Makuvek. "In past races I had plans, but since this could have been my last race, I wanted to make it fun, so I got out and ran a lot more comfortable."