HERSHEY - The PIAA cross-country meet is a mass of humanity with runners, coaches, officials, parents and fans. It's a very colorful and exciting event.
Unfortunately for Mifflin County, it was no run in the park. The Huskies finished last in a field of 19 teams in the boys AAA meet with 429 points.
Ruth Yoder, the Mifflin County coach, didn't have much of an explanation as to what went wrong.
Sentinel photo by LARRY?YOHN
Mifflin County’s Darien Knudsen sprints up a hill during the PIAA cross country championships Saturday in Hershey.
"We had a good position at the start, but for some reason we didn't get off to a good start," Yoder said. "I'm still proud of them, especially for what we accomplished. But, from the start, we didn't have a very good day."
Mifflin County won the District 6 Class AAA crown beating Altoona and State College and became the first male cross country team from Mifflin County to advance to the state run since 1980s.
The start of the race is on an open field, but then it funnels into a small path as it winds up an down hills for the 3.1 miles. On this course, a fast start is essential.
A total of 219 runners started the race and the top 25 finishers earn medals and are considered All-State.
Mifflin County's top finisher was senior Jon Colwell, who was 54th with a time of 16:54.
Addison Monroe, another senior, was the second man through the finish line and he was 154th with a time of 17:46.
Another upper classman, Patrick Parker, was 176th at 18:00. Then came two runners, who will return next season for Mifflin County, Darien Knudsen (18:05) in 182nd and Chris Falkner (18:28) 197th.
Rounding out the Husky runners were Cullen Russler, a senior, in 208th (19:06) and Trent Yoder, a freshman in 209th (19:09).
"Looking to the future, it was encouraging to see two of our underclassmen, Darien (Knudsen, sophomore) and Chris (Falkner, junior) in the top five today," Yoder pointed out.
"It's always tough to say good-bye to seniors and we are going to miss the four from this year's team," Yoder said. "Jon (Colwell) and Addison (Monroe) gave us so much on the course and even more as leaders. Patrick (Parker) had a great race to finish off his career today and for a first-year runner. I couldn't ask anything more of Cullen (Russler)."
The AAA boys meet became a battle of Philadelphia teams. West Chester Henderson won with 68 points, edging Cardinal O'Hara by just two points. Finishing third was Council Rock North with 137.
Winning the race was Henderson's Tony Russell, a junior, who traveled the course in 15:45 and won by seven seconds.
Another Philadelphia based team, Pottsgrove, won the AA meet with 96 points. Winning the race was member of the Mid-Penn conference, Vinny Todaro of Big Spring, in 16 minutes flat.
The class A boys champion was Northern Bedford (District 4) with 96 points. Rico Galassi of Holy Cross from District 2, which is from the Scranton-Wilkes Barre area, won with a 15:59. In fact, District 2 and 4 dominated the meet as they had the top two teams and the top four runners.
In the girls AAA race, Pennsbury, another Philadelphia based school, ran away with the team title with 43 points. The winner of the race was Courtney Smith of Unionville with a time of 18:16. The top three teams were all from District 1 (suburban Philadelphia), Pennsbury, Unionville and Central Bucks West.
Palmyra won the AA girls race with 91 points and the winning female was Adair Gennocro from St. Mary's as she crossed the finish line in 19:00.
Winning the A girls team title was Elk Lake and the top girl was Kennedy Weisner of Elk County Catholic at 18:29.
Central Cambria was the top District 6 girls team as it finished third in the Class A race and it also had the highest finisher for a District 6 girl as Alyssa Brandis was second.
The top boys team from District 6 was also in the Class A race as Westmont Hilltop was 12th. The top male finisher from District 6 was Mitchell Smith of Bellefonte, who was sixth in the Class AA meet.
The Mid-Penn Conference had nine runners who made the All-State top 25. Those runners were: Boys AAA: Alec Kunzweiler, Cumberland Valley, 21st; Todaro, Big Spring, 1st; Calvin Conrad-Kline, Palmyra, 7th; Liam Corcoran, Palmyra, 2lst; Boys AA: James Buchanan. Girls AAA: Mady Clahane, Cumberland Valley, 4th; Sara Sargent, Cumberland Valley, 8th; Maria Tukis, Palmyra, 9th; Miranda Salvo, Palmyra, 10th; Lillie Brown, Boiling Springs, 16th.