REEDSVILLE - There were many questions for the Mifflin County cross country teams heading into the Big Valley Invitational on Saturday.
How would the boys team react to the target it has gained as the defending District 6 Class AAA champions? How would the girls team do after coming off a difficult year?
How would the team respond to its new coach, Greg Loht? And who would be the Huskies' top runners for 2013?
Sentinel photo by TIM?SHUMAKER
Mifflin County’s Darien Knudsen, right, competes in the Big Valley Invitational Saturday at Indian Valley Elementary School as State College runners trail behind. Knudsen placed fifth with a time of 16:52.
Some of those answers started to fall into place on Saturday during the annual Big Valley Invitational held at the Indian Valley Elementary school.
On the boys side of the meet, Mifflin County finished fourth overall and fourth in the Class AAA race as Darien Knudsen took highest individual honors with his fifth-place finish.
State College won in team standings with 30 points, while Altoona was second with 77 and Coatesville was third with 88. Mifflin County had 124.
Meanwhile, the Mifflin County girls finished third overall and second in the Class AAA meet. State College, the Huskies' main rival in District 6, also won the girls title. The Little Lions finished with 59 points, while Lewisburg was second with 104 and Mifflin County finished third with 175. Alexis Kibe was the top female runner for Mifflin County, whose 20:53 put her in 14th place.
In the 3.1 mile race, Mifflin County junior Knudsen, who finished with a time of 16:52, averaged 5:26 a mile.
Winning the race was Bedford's William Kachman, a sophomore, who covered the course in 16:16. He edged out State College's William Cather by a second with a sprint at the wire.
"Darien got pinched (tight squeeze at the beginning) at the start of the race," Loht said. "He was 20th at the half-mile mark. He moved up and ran a smart race. Darien didn't panic and fought his way up to the leaders, a place where he should be."
Mifflin County's other six runners had very good days too, as no Husky finished lower than 48th out of the 184 runners who competed.
The next two finishers for Mifflin County were underclassmen as sophomore Trent Yoder finished 23rd with a time of 17:52, while junior Joshua Aultz was 27th with a time of 18:10.
Two seniors rounded out the top five for Mifflin County. Chris Falkner was 30th with a time of 18:13, while Joshua Velez was 39th at 18:24.
Rounding out the Husky top seven were Keenan Walker, a junior, with a run of 18:50 for 46th place and sophomore Jay Ciccolini, who finished with a 18:54 for the 48th spot in the race.
"We have a lot of new faces with the boys," Loht said. "Four of the runners had no varsity experience and two are in their first year of cross country. Some of them ran track, but this is totally different."
On the girls side, Kibe was the only girl to reach the top 20 for Mifflin County.
Winning the race was Treicy Cedeno, of Shikellamy, with a time of 19:29. The sophomore beat out Emma Cousins, a senior from State College, who finished with a 19:47. Cedeno's younger sister, Yoangelys, was fifth with a 20:01.
"Alexis (Kibe) participates in two sports," Loht said. "She also plays soccer. She separated herself from the pack and went after the top girls."
Mifflin County has a very young team as it only has one senior in its top seven girls.
The next two girls to finish for the Huskies were sophomores, Amanda Hassinger, 28th (21:25) and Maggie Wilson, 40th (22:07). Jessica Miller, the only senior in the top seven, was 43rd with a 22:17.
Rounding out the top five was junior Makenna Pollock, who was 50th with a time of 22:31.
Two juniors closed out the Husky girls part of the race at 74th and 75th respectively. Madison Elsesser was 74th with a 24:04, while Kaitlyn Yearick was right behind her with a 24:05.
"I'm happy with the girls finish," Loht said. "We had a a lot of new runners and they gained a great deal of experience today. We expect better things to come from them later in the year."
In the junior varsity race, Mifflin County's top finisher was Andrew Kline, who was 13th with a time of 18:45. The Huskies' top girl runner in the junior varsity run was Anna Taptich, who was 17th with a time of 25:33.
Mifflin County's next run will be at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Central Dauphin in a Mid-Penn meet.