Sweet Success at Hershey
For the third time in five years, the Elk Lake girls’ cross country team returned to Susquehanna County from Hershey’s Parkview Cross Country Course with a PIAA trophy on Nov. 5.
The Lady Warriors just missed successfully defending their Class AA championship from 2010, finishing second to St. Basil’s Academy by just three points, 72-75. The top two teams in each of the four races at Hershey take home team trophies and medals for the team members. Elk Lake also won a second-place team title in 2007.
In addition, team members Maria Trowbridge and Jenny VanEtten claimed individual medals with top 25 finishes in the 284-runner field.
In the boys’ Class AA race, Elk Lake’s Luke Jones finished second in one of the most competitive contests in recent memory.
Trowbridge, a senior, collected her third individual medal in a brilliant career that included four appearances in Hershey, with an 11th-place finish in a time of 19:39. She had previously finished sixth in 2010 and ninth in 2009.
“I’m really blessed to come down here every year and have the success and fun I’ve had with this team,” the soft-spoken Trowbridge said. “I’m really happy.”
VanEtten, a freshman, ran a 19:44 time to finish 15th, overall.
Running for the first time on the PIAA’s biggest stage, VanEtten was thankful she had a chance to test the course earlier in the season during the PIAA Foundation race.
“It helped me because I was really nervous (for the Foundation race),” VanEtten said, noting that the course was in considerably better condition despite a 10-inch snow a week earlier than it had been on Sept. 24.
“The course was much better to run on,” VanEtten said.
Kirsten Hollister, Lainey Bedell and Abby Zdancewicz followed VanEtten across the finish line for Elk Lake. All three were in the top 79 runners, overall, and top 31 among the runners on teams on which the official scoring is based. They all finished ahead of St. Basil Academy’s fifth runner.
Hollister, a junior, was 31st in 20:28. Bedell, also a junior, finished 57th in 20:57. Zdancewicz, the only other senior on the squad, was 79th in a time 21:10.
Elk Lake’s other two runners were juniors Emily Williams and Kellie Grosvenor. Williams was 138th in 21:58, while Grosvenor crossed 210th in 22:53.
With Homer Center’s Angel Piccirillo cruising to a 32-second win ahead of her, Trowbridge coolly ran her typical intelligent race.
At the end of the first mile, she was in 14th place in a time of 5:46, a second ahead of VanEtten, who was in 17th.
By the end of the second mile of the 3.1-mile course, Trowbridge had moved up two spots while running a comfortable 12:07. VanEtten stayed steady at 17th with a time of 12:20.
Over the final mile, Trowbridge picked up one spot and VanEtten gained two positions.
Trowbridge felt she picked up the most ground on the upper end of the course leading to the bridge crossing and the twisting hill complex.
“That’s the toughest part of the course,” she said. “That’s were we need to keep our heads in it and never give up.”
VanEtten was very pleased with her consistent race.
“I thought I was pretty steady throughout the race,” she said, observing that a good start helped her.
Elk Lake coach Will Squier, who had watched the team struggle to a second-place finish at the District Two meet in late October, never had any doubts his squad would show up to run Saturday.
“We knew what happened at districts,” he said. “We knew that wasn’t our team.
“I wasn’t worried and the girls weren’t either.”
He felt that Trowbridge, who despite physical troubles that have plagued her the past two months, helped inspire the other girls.
“When Maria is up there and running well, that sets the tone,” Squier said.
Marc Weisgold, Squier’s assistant, agreed that senior leadership from Trowbridge and Zdancewicz helped carry the day.
“They carry us. They did it all year,” Weisgold said. “The two seniors pushed the middle and it worked out nice.”
Jones Medals Again
Jones, who took home a 17th-place medal as a sophomore in 2010 when Elk Lake claimed the Class AA team title, had to run the course alone Saturday.
But he wouldn’t have noticed as the entire field, save for race winner Brendan Shearn of North Schuylkill.
Shearn crossed the finish line in a blazing fast time of 16:15 with Jones just two seconds behind in 16:15.
Through the early stages of the race, the top 10 runners, including Shearn, Jones, Northeast Bradford’s Curt Jewett and Sam Williams, and Towanda’s Aaron Valoroso were within two seconds of each other. Oswayo Valley’s Barrett Kemp led the pack at the one-mile mark in 4:54 with Jones sitting eighth in 4:56.
By the second mile marker, the front pack had been pared down with Jewett leading the way in a time of 10:14.
Jones made his biggest move in the second mile, getting up to third behind Jewett and Shearn, with a time of 10:15.
With 1,000 meters to go, Shearn had assumed the lead with Jewett and Jones in second and third, followed by Holy Cross’s Rico Galassi.
Over that final leg, Jewett faded badly, back to 19th, while his teammate, Williams, made a charge up to fourth to follow Shearn,
Galassi finished third in 16:26, followed by Williams, who had a time of 16:29. Jewett finished in 17:00.
While Jones believed he was a medal contender entering the race, he was still somewhat surprised by his second-place effort.
“I didn’t know how I was going to do,” he said. “I was ranked seventh on someone’s website, but I didn’t know.”
That last downhill charge to the last 1,000-meter mark gave him the momentum he needed.
“I went down the hill really fast to stay with them,” Jones said. “When I got to the end, I just kept going.”
He credited the coaches and his training for his ability to handle the challenging hill complex.
“We do a lot of hills and that helps a lot,” Jones said. “The hills in the middle are the hardest part of the course.”