Tigers, Olympians flex muscles
BETHLEHEM - Winning has separated the Northwestern and Jim Thorpe cross country teams from the pack throughout much of this season.
The Tigers flexed their muscle in the Colonial League, going 24-2 for a second consecutive year, losing only to Bangor during the regular season and at the league meet.
The Olympians were dominant in the Schuylkill League, going a perfect 10-0, 6-0 in Division I meets and capturing the regular season and league meet titles.
That success brought the two teams together in the District 11 Class AA cross country championships, as Northwestern and Jim Thorpe went 1-2 to secure trips to the PIAA Championships in Hershey.
The title was the second straight for the Tigers, who defeated the Olympians by a 74-107 margin.
"We just told the guys to go out and lay it on the line today," said Northwestern coach Chris Sitzel. "We were right next to them (Jim Thorpe) on the starting line and we knew we would see them the whole race.
"We just told them not to hold back now because there's no reason to hold back at this point. Just go out and lay it on the line. They all ran really well today. They had a great year and we're very happy wit them."
Brayden Heller, who finished seventh with a time of 17:25, paced the Tigers. Northwestern's Alec Consuelos (14th), Collin Furchner (16th), Ryan Cerrone (17th) and Jarett White (20th) gave the Tigers five runners in the top 20 to secure the title.
For Jim Thorpe, the trip to Hershey will be the Olympians first as a team during coach Drew Benyo's 26-year tenure.
"There's no words to describe it," Benyo said after finding out that his team qualified. "They've done everything we've asked them to do for the last three years.
"You could tell there was something special about them; the way they worked together; the way they hung together. Every invitational they go to they win. Every place they go they win."
Jonathan Condly, who finished third in 17:08, paced the Olympians. Teammate Christian Fields was 10th with a time of 17:31.
For Condly, the satisfaction of going to Hershey is that much sweeter knowing he won't be going alone.
"It will be really cool to be with the team and everything," Condly said. "I was glad I made it (individually), but I'm definitely happy that I'll have my team with me. It makes it that much better."
The winner of the boys' AA race was also a familiar face, as Salisbury's Kyle Gonoude (16:52) picked up his second victory in as many weeks after claiming the Colonial League title last week.
Palmerton's Shaun Seiler (15th), Tamaqua's Dustin Sabol (18th) and Lehighton's Michael Blacketter (21st) all ran well in a highly competitive field.
In the Class AAA race, Easton's Colin Abert dominated, finishing in 15:43 and breaking his own course record set last week at the Lehigh Valley Conference championships to claim his second straight title.
Abert finished 49 seconds in front of Freedom junior Ben Ziegler, who led a 2, 5, 8, 9, 13 finish for the Patriots, and ran to their second straight District 11 team title, totaling just 37 points and finishing well ahead of Parkland (68), which claimed the other PIAA team qualifying spot.
With Freedom and Parkland packing ten runners in the top-17, that allowed Pleasant Valley freshman Seth Slavin to earn the last qualifying spot with a 20th place finish in 17:31, four seconds faster than he ran at last week's Mountain Valley Conference meet on the same course.
"It's a very difficult thing; only 10 individuals from the entire district go to states after displacing the top teams," said Pleasant Valley coach George Fair, who also sent Sam Young and Lizz Eberhardt to states in the Class AAA girls race. "To have one qualifier is really amazing. The most we've ever had before this year was two. To have three this year is just a great way to wrap up the regular season."
For Slaivin, the opportunity will allow the freshman one more meet to cap what's already been a breakout campaign.
"I was so surprised. I didn't think it would displace that far back," an excited Slavin said afterwards. "I'm just happy to get there and I'll give it my best."
Pleasant Valley's Tom Ciaccio (36th), Mike Sucic (41st), Joe Phillips (46th) and Patrick Rimple (50th) helped the Bears earn an eighth place team finish.
In the Class A race, a win by Minersville's Wesley Yutko helped secure the team title, 34-35 over Schuylkill Haven. The Miners edged the Hurricanes 42-43 for last year's crown.
Weatherly's Brett Kelly finished 11thin 19:33 to pace the Wreckers while Marian Nick Hopeck placed 23rd with a time of 20:43 to lead the Colts.