Members of the St. Joseph’s girls’ cross country team smiled with the runner-up team trophy during the PIAA championship awards ceremony on Saturday — but it was a disappointing day for the two-time defending state champion Lady Wolves.
St. Joseph’s fell just short of claiming another top team finish as the Lady Wolves finished second behind first-place Fairview. They received congratulations and cheers as one of the state’s top teams. And They smiled after another successful season. But they weren’t pleased with relinquishing their title as the No. 1 team in Pennsylvania.
“The fact that you’re bummed that you probably finished second is at least a good sign that you’re competitive,” SJCA coach Jayson Jackson said. “It’ll sting for a few days. It’ll probably sting until we get back to training on Monday.”
The Lady Wolves recorded a team score of 99 points, while champion Fairview had 96 points.
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SJCA started strong and led after one mile and after two miles, but the Lady Wolves didn’t put together a good enough finish to top Fairview. In the team race, Sera Mazza took fifth with a time of 19 minutes 26 seconds, and Julia Cusatis placed ninth with a time of 19:52 to lead St. Joseph’s. Maggie Urban (14th; 20:24), Addie Ebbs (21st; 20:49), Myah Chappell (50th; 22:04), Lindsey Carmack (72nd; 22:50) and Lexi Kranich (81st; 23:12) were the rest of the Lady Wolves’ competitors.
SJCA tried to avoid looking at its trip to the PIAA championships as the opportunity to “three-peat” or defend its title — the Lady Wolves simply wanted to earn the right to call themselves the 2017 state champs.
That was their goal this season.
“It was not an easy second place, but I know we’ll come back next year, and we’re going to work as hard as we have this year — maybe harder,” Mazza said.
Mazza, who won the individual state title with a time of 19:17 last season, placed eighth overall in the individual race. Marian Catholic’s Tina Capparell captured first place this year with a time of 19:01. Mazza also finished two spots behind Fairview’s top runner.
Fairview held the edge against St. Joseph’s with its top-2 runners on its way to capturing the state title.
“You got to win your matchups. The goal for the race is having the best No. 1, the best No. 2, down the line, and we just didn’t do that today,” Jackson said. “I think that’s what it came down to, especially when it’s only a couple points. Every second matters.”
The Lady Wolves ran as hard as they could Saturday, but it wasn’t enough. And they won’t forget the second-place finish when they train and compete to try to reclaim the title next season.
“It’s definitely very motivational that we came in second,” Cusatis said. “The fact that we were so close to coming in first again, I think it’s really going to drive us to keep working really hard.”
As teams competed in the Class 3A race, the Lady Wolves sat and listened to their coaches before each runner hugged their teammates to mark the end of the season. It wasn’t how the Lady Wolves wanted to finish, but Fairview was the better team Saturday.
“Fairview is a very, very worthy competitor,” Cusatis said. “They had it today, and we just didn’t.”
Other county teams at states
Led by Kileigh Kane, the State College girls’ cross country team placed fifth in Class 3A at the PIAA championships on Saturday.
“This team has overcome a lot,” coach Rebecca Donaghue said. “We’ve had a lot of adversity throughout the season with injuries. And these girls stepped up and produced fifth in the state. And they started up the race in ninth at Mile 1 and brought it all the way to fifth because they’re fighters.”
Kane finished eighth in the team race with a time of 19 minutes, 10 seconds, followed by Cailin Saylor (20th; 19:47) and Emma Simon (28th; 19:58). Other Lady Lions’ finishers included Gabriella Bock (56th; 20:38), Elle Haushalter (73rd; 20:56), Lizzie Gilpatrick (75th; 21:03) and Molly Solo (80th; 21:07).
State College finished with a team score of 185. Kane, who finished 12th in the individual race, was the highest-place finisher for the Lady Little Lions since 1997.
In Class 2A, Bellefonte’s Amber Shirey placed 131st (21:32) in the individual race, while Penns Valley’s Kelsey Hull was 152nd (21:46).