Undefeated in conference play entering the race, Penns Valley boys’ cross country was the favorite in Wednesday’s Mountain League Championship. That, according to Rams coach Terry Glunt.
But how did they ultimately perform?
“I thought they ran like the favorites,” Glunt said.
The final tally confirmed the coach’s confidence, as the Penns Valley boys outlasted Bellefonte, Philipsburg-Osceola, Clearfield, Central and Tyrone. The Rams posted a 31, while Bellefonte (78), Clearfield (78), Tyrone (83), P-O (98) and Central (126) trailed.
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That result followed another impressive Penns Valley performance, this from the girls’ side that competed just before the boys.
The Lady Rams finished closely behind Clearfield, earning second place at the Championships. Penns Valley compiled a 36, barely outpaced by Clearfield’s 31. Tyrone posted an 81 as Central and Bald Eagle Area posted a 104 and 108, respectively.
“I was expecting to have a battle with Clearfield,” Lady Rams coach Lynda Federinko said, “and that’s what it turned out to be.”
Federinko also expected Penns Valley’s Rebecca Bierly to finish first overall, which she did.
As Bierly came down the home stretch, her individual victory was a no-doubter. But Federinko was still racing up and down the spectator area, pushing Bierly to finish faster. “Let’s go Becca, pour it on!” she bellowed out.
“That’s how I operate,” Federinko said with a laugh.
It worked. Bierly — who Federinko noted has hovered around the 20-minute mark all season — posted a time of 19:52, beating her personal best of 20:04 at the Penns Valley course.
Bierly’s performance was closely followed by teammate Malarie Yoder, who placed third individually with a time of 20:54. They were followed by Karly Smith (eighth, 23:12), Abigail Duvall (13th, 24:24) and Alexis Witherite (19th, 25:34).
“They keep showing improvement,” Federinko said. “Can’t ask for anything more.”
BEA’s efforts were headed by Rachel Warner (14th, 24:39), Alexi Reese (26th, 30:02), Liz Wellar (28th, 30:30), Kendra Lizzey (29th, 30:33) and Kaleigh Kinley (30th, 30:48).
While Bellefonte didn’t log a team score, the Red Raiders were represented by a couple runners, notably Anya Hoaglund (fifth, 21:32). Kathryn Morgante (12th, 24:09) also finished strong.
Philipsburg-Osceola was in the same situation, represented by Kylie Whitehead (11th, 24:04), Kristen Bennett (16th, 24:57) and Sarah Bainey (34th, 31:37).
For the boys, Glunt’s squad wasn’t the only solid competitors.
Bellefonte’s second-place effort was paced by Brett Pope (17:59) and Mike O’Donnell (18:01), who ended up seventh and eighth, respectively.
The Red Raiders also saw contributions from Cole Hovis (14th, 18:41), Mitchell Pensak (21st, 19:14) and Cayden Lucas (31st, 20:38).
P-O’s fifth-place showing was earned by the following: Michael Shimmel (17th, 19:07), Kyle Albert (23rd, 19:16), Matthew Shimmel (25th, 19:25), Jacob Maines (32, 21:19) and Dane Soltys (34th, 21:31).
Tyrone’s Joe Kohler (17:25) was the individual winner.
But the Rams were bolstered by three top-four finishers. Chris Colwell (17:26), Keith Griffith (17:38) and Mark Bierly (17:48) finished second, third and fourth, respectively. Sammy Gray (ninth, 18:08) and Charlie Romig (13th, 18:36) also contributed.
Glunt said his runners were coming off some personal best performances from last week and was hoping they wouldn’t come out too lackadaisical.
“They pushed themselves to the limit,” Glunt said. “This is a difficult course, and I felt that the times were pretty respectable.
“Clearly, good enough to earn a championship.”