Bellefonte’s Mitchell Smith entered the final part of his senior cross country season feeling good.
He showed just how good on Saturday in the PIAA Cross Country Championships. Smith placed sixth overall among 228 finishers in the Class AA boys’ meet.
Smith’s big day led a strong day for local participants in the meet. State College, the lone team from Centre County, placed seventh in the Class AAA girls’ meet. Runners from Penns Valley and Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy also had finishes among the top 30.
Smith’s outstanding PIAA finish was a byproduct of his dedication in the offseason.
“He started running twice a day in the summer which is something he hadn’t done before,” Bellefonte coach Kim Gaspar said. “He was really feeling good the last couple of weeks and he should be. It all came together for him today.”
Smith covered the 3.1-mile course in 16 minutes, 38 seconds. He finished 38 seconds behind winner Vinny Todaro of Big Spring.
Gaspar said Smith, the District 6 champion, was an inspiration for the Red Raiders. “Our guys set a goal of making it to states this year and they camp up short,” she said. “They knew Mitchell was a key part of it. Mitchell knew he was a key part of it. He was getting better as we went through the entire season. These guys have bought into cross country doesn’t start in August.”
Saint Joseph’s Christian Hopple also had a fine finish in the Class AA meet. Hopple, a junior, was 24th with a time of 16:58.
Emma Cousins placed 35th overall with a time of 19:34 to lead the State College girls.
“Emma Cousins did an outstanding job again leading the team, just missing all-state just by a few seconds,” Lady Little Lion coach Rebecca Donaghue said. “She ran faster on this very challenging course than she did in the district meet, which is a very flat course. That is pretty remarkable.”
The Lady Little Lions totaled 201 points. Pennsbury took the crown in the 18-team division with 43 points.
Hannah Grubb (74th, 20:12), Sara Almarzooqui (76th, 20:14), Natasha Fedkina (81st, 20:20), Kaelyn Yoder (91st, 20:27), Hannah Catalano (105th, 20:36) and Madison Krieger (1922nd, 22:16) also participated for the Lady Little Lions. Grubb is the team’s lone senior.
“I’m really pleased with how we did,” Donaghue said. “Our goal was to better our ninth-place finish from last year and we did just that. The improvement from last year is huge because the bar was set very high this year. ... I think a lot of the other teams just maybe didn’t consider us a factor in the Ttop 10. It was fun to surprise them and turn some heads.”
State College had two individual participants in the Class AAA boys’ meet. Will Cather (17:01) was 68th, while Kyle Adams (17:16) took 89th.
Penns Valley runners had a solid day as well. Michael Decker took 39th in the Class A boys’ meet with a time of 17:29. Sophomore Alyssa Limbaugh (21:41) placed 79th. while junior Emma Ferinko (22:58) was 128th.