HERSHEY - Northwestern's Haley Yost and Carly Pierce have come together to give the Lady Tigers a dynamic duo this season. The two propelled the team to another 26-0 regular season to go along with Colonial League and District 11 Class AA titles, with both claiming top-five finishes in each race.
That teamwork was on display once again during Saturday's PIAA Championships, as Yost finished in fourth place with a time of 19:25 while Pierce took 20th in 19:54, good enough to earn the two talented runners medals in the Class AA race.
After earning a medal with a 25th place finish in 19:59 a year ago, Yost was pleased to not only improve her position and time, but to also enjoy the honor with a teammate during her senior year.
"We were kind of a 'team of two'," Yost said of running with Pierce. "We have been running together (at a number of meets) this year and for us to both medal is a big accomplishment."
For Pierce, the triumph capped a season that saw the junior step up as one of the team's top contenders, something that will be needed with Yost gone next year.
"It means a lot," Pierce said of her performance. "20th was my goal and that's what I got. I'm really happy that I was able to achieve my goal on a really difficult course."
As a team, the Northwestern girls finished fourth out of the 21 squads entered in the AA race, something coach Christ Stitzel takes great pride in.
"I'm very happy with how the season has gone," the coach said. "We're very proud of every one of them. They laid it on the line for us (today) and that's all we asked of them.
"They were running against the best in the state and it's an accomplishment just to get here. And fourth in the state is nothing to sneeze at. I can't complain too much."
After Yost and Pierce were Rachele Cerrone (64th, 20:48), Paige Stitzel (65th, 20:48), Rachel Mikols (175th, 22:10), Angela Alden (192nd, 22:43) and Abigail Smith (205th, 23:00).
Also competing in the AA race was Jim Thorpe's Courtney Capper, who finshed 115th with a time of 21:23, a significant improvement over last year's 178th place finish.
Northwestern and Jim Thorpe also had strong representation in the Class AA boys race after the Tigers and Olympians went 1-2 in last week's District 11 meet.
Jim Thorpe's Jonathan Condly placed 26th in the boys Class AA race, missing a medal by one spot, while teammate Christian Fields, a state qualifier a year ago, took 75th.
Those strong performances allowed the Olympians to take 12th place as a team, an honor for coach Drew Benyo.
"To represent the school at this competition is just awesome," Benyo said. "Today, they wanted to do their best and they did their best; there's no question in my mind that they did their best. That's all you could possibly ask of them.
"I think there was a lot more pressure on them last week (at districts) to get here than there was today."
Behind Condly and Fields were Jake McGeehan (138th, 18:29), Jacob Saxon (154th, 18:38), Zachary Nace (206th, 19:35), Ben Saxon (211th, 19:49) and Jian Gentile (214th, 19:59).
The Tigers placed 14th as a team and were paced by Ryan Cerrone, who finished 98th in 17:58. Following Cerrone was Alec Consuelos (108th, 18:05), Brayden Heller (156th, 18:39), Collin Furchner (162nd, 18:41), Jarett White (168th, 18:45), Joshua Kromer (191st, 19:09) and Matthew Grim (203rd, 19:31).
While the overall result may not have been what he was hoping for, Stitzel was still pleased with the effort that he got from his squad, in this meet and throughout the season.
"We were hoping for a finish between fifth and 10th based on how they performed at districts," the coach said of his expectations. "But we're proud no matter what. They're still (Colonial League and District 11) champions and no one can take that away from them.
"They ran well and they deserved to be out here. Knowing they're among the top-20 teams in the state and just getting the chance to be out here means a lot."
Pleasant Valley senior and Mountain Valley Conference champion Samantha Young finished 95th with a time of 20:31 in the Class AAA girls race while teammate Lizz Eberhardt took 102nd in 20:36.
In the Class AAA boys race, freshman and MVC race winner Seth Slavin finished 149th with a time of 17:51.
The performances highlighted yet another strong year for the Bears' cross country teams.
"For Sam (Young) to go out as a senior with her first trip here is really special," said Pleasant Valley coach George Fair. "And to bring two freshmen in Seth and Lizz is also really neat.
"You never know if or when you'll be able to get back here and I hope the kids were able to savor the experience."
This year's state championship runners and teams were: Class A boys - Griffin Molino (South Williamsport) 16:54 and Saegertown (District 10); Class AA boys - Dominic Deluca (Dallas) 16:21 and Tunkhannock (District 2); Class AAA boys - Tony Russel (West Chester Henderson) 15:49 and West Chester Henderson (District 1); Class A girls - Marianne Abdalah (Vincentian Academy) and Holy Cross (District 2); Class AA girls - Elizabeth Chikotas (Saucon Valley) 18:43 and Dallas (District 2); Class AAA girls - Tessa Barrett (Abington Heights) 17:30 and Unionville (District 1).