The Colwell brothers had always been competitive.
Whether Chris and Brendan are playing video games, something in the back yard — even chess — a good battle usually ensues.
“We’ve gotten better with it,” said Chris, a Penns Valley senior.
The brotherly competition took a different turn, however, at the season-opening Big Valley Invitational cross country meet. Chris made a move late in the race, but Brendan matched the move and then passed his sibling. The freshman finished fourth in the race, while the senior and defending District 6 Class A champion was 11 seconds behind in sixth.
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Brendan’s time in the race also was the fifth-best 5-kilometer time in program history — which knocked Chris off the all-time leaders list posted in the Penns Valley gymnasium.
“We both just push each other, get a lot better,” Brendan said. “It’s a friendly competition, I guess.”
Led by the Colwells and a blend of experienced seniors and talented freshmen, the Rams are enjoying yet another successful season. They won the Mountain League regular season title for a fourth straight season and will seek another league championship meet title Tuesday on their home course.
After that comes the District 6 meet — they have captured the last three titles — and they hope a strong finish at the PIAA Championship. Running a tune-up race last week, the Rams turned some heads by beating Altoona and nearly edging State College.
“Penns Valley is an excellent team,” Little Lions coach Dave Felice said after the race. “(They are) well-coached and run great together as a championship group. They will win the PIAA Class A title.”
Brendan didn’t give much thought to competitive running until last year. He was the manager for the cross country team, and ran for the junior high track and field program. He didn’t put in any training or conditioning time until this past summer.
“I always used to say, ‘I’ll never run, I’ll never do this,’” Brendan said. “But last year when I was managing for cross country I started running with the team. It’s a great team to run with, it’s a fun time and really just enjoyable. They kind of put the enjoyable-running-mindspirit into me.”
He then ran in a Foot Locker regional cross country meet and did well.
“I think that kind of sucked him into it,” said Chris, who has won each of his races since the opening meet and also has moved to fourth on the program’s all-time list with Brendan fifth.
It will take a while before Brendan is conditioning at the level of his older brother. They go for runs at Sinking Creek, bound up Centre Hall Mountain and log miles on their bikes. Chris, however, is putting in about 120 miles a week on his bike, plus about 20 miles a week running, while Brendan is running 30-plus miles a week and riding 50-80 miles a week on his bike.
Chris has the heavier ratio of time on the bike because he had bursitis in his hip last spring during track season, but he feels as if he has worked through it. Brendan missed the race last week against State College with a sore foot, but that event was less important than the next two — and maybe three — on the schedule.
The Rams’ roster of runners also has an interesting twist. When Chris was a freshman, along with a couple classmates, the team was led by a strong senior class with few from the grades in between. This fall, Chris is part of the senior leadership of four; there is one junior and the rest are freshmen.
“Now we get to lead these younger guys into their careers,” Chris said. “The passing of the torch.”
Chris plans to study business in college, perhaps at Penn State, but he doesn’t want to get into the ultra-competitive level of that team. He certainly has the leadership skills down for whatever he does.
“Chris is an incredible leader,” coach Terry Glunt said. “We’ve got a great group of seniors. ... This is a team that’s fun to be around, really funny.”
They still have track season next spring, but the Colwells have a few more chances to race against each other this fall — competing like only brothers can.
“This is the last time I’ll get to run with my brother,” Brendan said. “So that’s pretty cool.”