BETHLEHEM - "Nothing worth having comes easy."
A quote that is not only the mantra of the Pleasant Valley cross country team, but also a perfect summation of the 2013 Mountain Valley Conference Championships that were held at Bethlehem Municipal Golf Course on Tuesday afternoon.
The Bears' Seth Salvin entered the boys' race as one of the favorites, alongside Stroudsburg's Ben Solak and Jarrett Palmer, who led the Mounties to a 12-0 record, including a 1-2 finish in last week's 27-28 win over Pleasant Valley that clinched the MVC regular season title. Slavin took third in the race, just over 10 seconds behind Palmer.
But Pleasant Valley's talented freshman wouldn't be denied again.
Slavin found a little more since that heartbreaking defeat a week ago, pulling away from Palmer and the rest of the field to claim the win in the boys' race in a time of 17:35.
"It feels really good to come out on top," an excited Slavin said afterwards. "All of my hard work has paid off; it's paid off all season, but today was really when it showed."
Slavin and Palmer were running almost stride-for-stride around midrace, setting up what appeared to be yet another close finish between the two runners.
But as the race moved past the halfway point, Slavin maintained his pace as Palmer faded, allowing the freshman to pull away and win by almost 30 seconds. Knowing Palmer's ability to kick at the end of the race was something that was on Slavin's mind as the race moved closer to the finish.
"It was my coaches; and my friends; and my family that were out on the course telling me that I was opening the gap and that was really motivating," Slavin said. "I knew that if he was anywhere near me during the finish he would have passed me."
Pleasant Valley's Mike Sucic (18:14) and Tom Ciaccio (18:16) took third and fourth overall, displacing Stroudsburg's top two runners, but failing to take enough points as the Mounties won the MVC team title for a second consecutive year by a 32-33 margin over the Bears.
Lehighton's Michael Blacketter, also a freshman, was fifth overall in a time of 18:17 on he course he's looking forward to seeing again next week at districts.
"I felt great, considering it was my first time running on this course," Blacketter said. "We'll be here again next week so I'll know where to push and where to conserve my energy."
Conserving energy was far from Sam Young's mind, as the Pleasant Valley senior blitzed the course in 19:59 to take the win in the girls' race over defending champion Rachel Davalos of Pocono Mountain East.
Young's victory also helped Pleasant Valley secure the team title in the girls' meet by a 32-42 margin over second place and defending champion Stroudsburg, capping a perfect 12-0 regular season for the Lady Bears and their senior-laden team.
"Honestly, this is probably one of the best feelings I've ever had because of all the work that I've put into it. It's great to see results," Young said. "And it's great to take the team title back for all of our seniors."
Pleasant Valley freshman Liz Eberhardt was third with a time of 20:48 while seniors Kristen Eberhardt (21:22) and Abby Kaspszyk (21:58) were sixth and eighth overall.
Lehighton had strong showings from Jenny Beers and Cassandra Rehnert, who finished seventh and ninth, respectively.
Those performances allowed the Lady Indians to claim third overall, something coach Erica Pagotto was very pleased with.
"I'm very satisfied with their performances today," Pagotto said. "Cassie (Rehnert) just missed getting a medal and she's determined to get one next week at districts.
"It's going to be tough, but I think she can do it and I think we have a chance to get them both to states. It won't be handed to us, but I think they can do it."
For Pleasant Valley coach George Fair, seeing Young and Slavin excel has as much to do with their talent as it does their dedication, something the coach has instilled in them.
"Both Seth and Sam have just worked really, really hard all year," Fair said. "They've been competitive in each race against some very talented runners that we have in the league.
"To be able to come out on one particular day and beat some real good competition is a very difficult thing to do."
MVC BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
1. Stroudsburg 32, 2. Pleasant Valley 33, 3. East Stroudsburg South 86, 4. Pocono Mountain West 113, 5. Lehighton 115, 6. Pocono Mountain East 166, 7. East Stroudsburg North 207.
1. Seth Slavin (PV) 17:35, 2. Jarret Palmr (S) 18:04, 3. Mike Sucic (PV) 18:14, 4. Tom Ciaccio (PV) 18:16, 5. Michael Blacketter (L) 18:17, 6. Bobby Chalfant (S) 18:30, 7. Jake Jones (S) 18:32, 8. Benjamin Solak (S) 18:33, 9. Shane Ramdeo (S) 18:39, 10. Sean O'Connor (ESS) 18:48.
12. Billy Milburn (PV) 18:53, 13. Patrick Rimple (PV) 18:54, 25. Trent Frey (L) 19:27, 31. Luke Fisher (L) 19:50, 38. Jacob Bailey (L) 20:12, 46. Ben Ronemus (L) 20:29.
MVC GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
1. Pleasant Valley 32, 2. Stroudsburg 42, 3. Lehighton 101, 4. East Stroudsburg South 112, 5. PM East 116, 6. East Stroudsburg North 128.
1. Sam Young (PV) 19:59, 2. Rachel Davalos (PME) 20:26, 3. Liz Eberhardt (PV) 20:48, 4. Allana Powlette (S) 21:13, 5. Michelle Joyce (S) 21:20, 6. Kristen Eberhardt (PV) 21:22, 7. Jenny Beers (L) 21:46, 8. Abby Kaspszyk (PV) 21:58, 9. Cassandra Rehnert (L) 22:01, 10. Alexa Vaghenas (S) 22:14.
14. Kate Slack (PV) 22:42, 19. Cera Gaston (L) 23:14, 45. Jonique Pace (L) 30:58, 46. Lacie McCabe (L) 30:59.