ORWIGSBURG - Tamaqua sophomore Amber Carroll entered Wednesday's Schuylkill League Cross Country Championships as the defending champion and overwhelming favorite to retain her title after sweeping unbeaten through the league.
For the first two and a half miles on Blue Mountain's 3.1 mile layout, things were going as expected for Carroll, who had opened up a huge lead with the finish line almost in sight.
Carroll, however, never made it to the finish.
In a stunning turn of events, Carroll collapsed with about 800 meters left, on the incline near the school, and was unable complete the race.
Schuylkill Haven senior Alyssa Miller eventually grabbed the lead at the Eagles' Nest to capture the girls league-meet crown with a winning time of 21 minutes, 57 seconds.
On the boys side, Blue Mountain senior Tyler Rauenzahn outdueled North Schuylkill freshman Brendan Shearn to claim the championship on his home course, winning in 17:09, 20 seconds ahead of Shearn.
This year's league meet was moved from its usual site at Tuscarora State Park to Blue Mountain due to a disagreement between league and park officials, reportedly over traffic control for the race.
With temperatures reaching the 60's on a sunny afternoon that was a bit on the unseasonably warm side, the possibility existed that it might affect runners who have been getting used to running in cooler conditions.
Apparently, that might have played a role in Carroll's collapse.
''It was a dehydration thing,'' said Tamaqua coach Tom Kanger. ''She just got kind of weak at the end, in the last mile coming in. She didn't lose consciousness or anything like that, she just kind of dropped coming up there.
''The heat, I'm sure, took its toll on a lot of people. When you run, your temperature is about 20 degrees warmer; it's a lot hotter. It seems nice as a spectator, but not necessarily as a runner.''
Kanger said he had been trying to have his runners drink plenty of fluids, Carroll included.
''She was running well, and she was out there, but she ran a race last week where almost the same thing happened. She was way out ahead with a half-mile to go when things started shutting down on her.''
Kanger said Carroll's father was at the spot on the hill where Amber went down. ''When she came up there, she was almost doubled over, and that's not Amber,'' Kanger mentioned. ''We knew something was wrong.''
Carroll seemed responsive about an hour after the girls race and was taken for medical observation.
''She got some more fluids in her and was fully alert; she was talking a lot more, so she was coming around,'' related Kanger.
Kanger said he had motioned for Carroll to take it easy with the big lead heading into the stretch, because he had seen she wasn't running at 100 percent.
''Every runner is so competitive, and you can tell her to shut it down, but no way. She'll still keep pushing it, pushing faster than she can handle sometimes. She ran 110 percent and was done with 800 meters to go.''
With the District 11 meet next week, Kanger said he will likely rest Carroll in the coming week to get her recharged for that race, pending medical clearance.
Miller's win broke a string of six straight victories in the Schuylkill girls meet for Tamaqua, as Alexa Griffiths was a four-time winner from 2003-06, followed by Schuyler Schmidt in 2007 and Carroll last year.
The only TIMES NEWS area Top 10 medalist among the girls was Tamaqua sophomore Dana Ansbach, who placed ninth in 22:21. The Lady Raiders' Colleen Rorke and Cecily Kohlmeir placed 13th and 15th, respectively, while Marian sophomore Madison Monaco placed 18th.
Panther Valley's top female finisher was Sindle Griffiths in 22nd place, while Jim Thorpe was led by Erin Bucci's 24th place.
In the boys race, Tamaqua senior Ricky Clemson placed fourth overall in 18:41, while Raider junior Tyler Kline was fifth at 18:48.
''Ricky's a smart runner who knows how to run courses. He's good on all kinds of terrain,'' said Kanger. ''Tyler has been really coming on strong for us at the end of the season.''
''I went out and knew what time I wanted to hit, and at the two mile mark I felt great,'' said Clemson. ''I knocked about a minute off my time here.''
Panther Valley senior Kyle Picht also managed a top 10 medal with an eighth place finish.
''This is my first year running cross country,'' said Picht. ''I was pretty much aiming for the top 10, but I wanted to come out and do the best that I could, just go out and hammer it.''
Jim Thorpe was hit by the flu bug and was missing number two runner David Barrientos. The Olympians were led by Matt Curran in 12th place and Joshua Williams in 13th.
Marian senior Mike Legath led the Colts with a 14th place, and Weatherly's Andrew Vack was 23rd.
Team scores were not kept, but unofficially, Blue Mountain would have topped the boys race with five runners in the top nine, and North Schuylkill would have headed the field for the girls, with five runners in the top eight.
Schuylkill Cross Country Results
at Blue Mountain High School
Top 20 Finishers
1. Tyler Rauenzahn (Blue Mountain) 17:09, 2. Brendan Shearn (North Schuylkill) 17:29, 3. Kyle O'Brien (Blue Mountain) 18:36, 4. Ricky Clemson (Tamaqua) 18:41, 5. Tyler Kline (Tamaqua) 18:48, 6. Kyle Heffner (Blue Mountain) 18:50, 7. Bryan Schaeffer (Blue Mountain) 18:54, 8. Kyle Picht (Panther Valley) 18:57, 9. Shaun Schaeffer (Blue Mountain) 18:59, 10. Codi Wood (Pottsville) 19:02, 11. Eric Scanlon (Pottsville) 19:16, 12. Matt Curran (Jim Thorpe) 19:18, 13. Joshua Williams (Jim Thorpe) 19:19, 14. Mike Legath (Marian) 19:27, 15. Patrick Lally (Pine Grove) 19:30, 16. Philip Christman (Tamaqua) 19:31, 17. Doug Wells (Mahanoy Area) 19:32, 18. Kristian Zanis (Pottsville) 19:35, 19. Kevin Piaskowski (North Schuylkill) 19:35, 20. Dominic Direnzo (Pottsville) 19:36.
TIMES NEWS area finishers
22. Philip Marzen (Marian) 19:43, 23. Andrew Vack (Weatherly) 19:45, 25. Sam Lux (Jim Thorpe) 19:49, 27. David Paul (Marian) 19:53, 30. Justin Christman (Panther Valley) 19:57, 33. Jay Marsden (Jim Thorpe) 20:17, 34. Morgan Jones (Panther Valley) 20:35, 35. Omar Cabrera (Panther Valley) 20:39, 38. Joe Rudy (Tamaqua) 20:55, 40. Adam Dachowicz (Jim Thorpe) 20:56, 41. John Scheitrum (Tamaqua) 21:17, 42. Conor Schliecher (Marian) 21:18, 47. Kyle Smith (Panther Valley) 22:00, 53. Chris Boyd (Jim Thorpe) 21:22, 54. Keith Cheadle (Panther Valley) 22:39. 57. Jonathon Susko (Panther Valley) 22:59, 62. Alex Sirkot (Weatherly 23:12, 63. Matt Caccese (Weatherly) 23:13, 65. Cody Hoffman (Weatherly) 23:24, 66. Christopher Lafey (Weatherly) 23:25, 72. Michael Embick (Weatherly) 24:57, 73. Kyle Garber (Marian) 25:32, 75. Lucas Rinker (Weatherly) 26:13.
Top 20 Finishers
1. Alyssa Miller (Schuylkill Haven) 21:27, 2. Alexa Yoder (Blue Mountain) 21:38, 3. Meg O'Keefe (North Schuylkill) 21:49, 4. Caitlyn Deeter (North Schuylkill) 21:49, 5. Kayla Bolinsky (North Schuylkill) 22:00, 6. Jackie Boran (Blue Mountain) 22:08, 7. Diane Lindenmuth (North Schuylkill) 22:17. 8. Jordan Zecheloski (North Schuylkill) 22:20, 9. Dana Ansbach (Tamaqua) 22:21, 10. Erin Techentine (Mahanoy Area) 22:36, 11. Jocelyn Liptock (Pottsville) 22:38, 12. Kelsey Mitchell (Minersville) 22:45, 13. Colleen Rorke (Tamaqua) 22:46, 14. Shelby Weikel (North Schuylkill) 22:49, 15. Cecily Kohlmeir (Tamaqua) 22:49, 16. Catherine Juritsch (Blue Mountain) 22:50, 17. Dominique Reinoehl (North Schuylkill) 22:55, 18. Madison Monaco (Marian) 23:01, 19. Jessie Setlock (Blue Mountain) 23:41, 20. Emily Oakill (Minersville) 23:47.
TIMES NEWS area finishers
21. Jessica Leiby (Tamaqua) 23:49, 22. Sindle Griffiths (Panther Valley) 24:11, 24. Erin Buccie (Jim Thorpe) 24:22, 29. Liz Schneeberger-Klotz (Jim Thorpe) 25:12, 32. Emily Bumbulsky (Tamaqua) 25:41, 33. Emily Boyle (Marian) 25:49, 42. Paige Kosica (Tamaqua) 26:56, 48. Michelle Fetco (Marian) 28:05, 49. Tyra Brown (Jim Thorpe) 28:10, 53. Kaylynn Covine (Panther Valley) 28:58, 54. Olivia Markovich (Panther Valley) 29:41, 57. Shannon Phillips (Panther Valley) 30:19, 58. Katie Owens (Marian) 30:22, 59. Abigail Markovich (Panther Valley) 30:52, 61, Cassie Klocek (Marian) 32:13, 66. Kristin Halenar (Marian) 33:55, 67. Emily Schilling (Marian) 33:55.