By Pete Chiodo
CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS —
The more things change, the more things seem to stay the same for the Saegertown boys cross country team, which completed its sixth consecutive season with an unbeaten region record.
In years past, the Panthers gathered their wins with the benefit of one runner that could just blow most everybody else away, like Nate Tallada or Hunter Johnston.
This season, while the Cats still do posses some terrific runners, the key word for the team has been depth. A perfect example of that came Tuesday as Saegertown picked up the sweep over Cambridge Springs (22-33) and Conneaut (17-40) and the 2013 Region 3 title, even while missing three key pieces to the puzzle.
“To have three guys out (Tuesday) and still do what we did, it’s really nice,” said Saegertown head coach Bill Hetrick. “I’ve never had depth, never. I’ve never had an eight or a nine who could run with our top guys.
“I’m really proud of our team. I have to say that.”
Meanwhile on the girls side, Cambridge Springs returned to the top of the heap in Region 3. The Lady Blue Devils had last won the region in 2011. Last year, the trophy went to Maplewood. But yesterday, the Spa girls (8-0) grabbed the title back with a 20-37 victory over formerly undefeated Conneaut (7-1) and a forfeit victory over Saegertown.
“My girls have been running really strong,” said head coach Cathy Shader. “There was a slight concern (about Tuesday’s meet), but I was pretty confident going in.”
Barclay leads depleted Panthers
For most teams, being without three of its top runners would be cause for concern.
However, the Saegertown boys cross country squad is not most teams.
Missing for the Panthers yesterday was their usual No. 1 runner, Morgan Schenberg, who was ill; Matt Schenberg, who is usually among the team’s top three or four but who was playing in a soccer match with the Saegertown boys team; and fellow lead-pack runner Alex Barclay, who is recovering from a recent illness.
Saegertown had little reason to worry, however. The Cats rolled.
“To place four in the top five with Morgan and Matt and Alex missing is a big deal for us,” said Hetrick. “That really shows our depth, which bodes well for districts. I’m really looking forward to that race. Hopefully we’ll have at least two of them with us that day.”
The Panthers’ Brendon Barclay led the field yesterday with a first-place time of 17:10.
“Brendon really wanted to show himself today, and he did. He ran very well,” said Hetrick.
Fellow Panther Brad Amy finished second in 17:29, overtaking Cambridge Springs freshman Connor Walsh (17:30) in an exciting sprint across the final stretch.
“What a great finish,” said Hetrick. “What a great finish for a race.”
Then Saegertown grabbed the fourth and fifth spots as Wyatt Fleischer (17:51) and Garrett Johnston (17:52) out-kicked Conneaut’s Christian Ladebu over the final 50 yards.
Saegertown’s fifth runner was Chris Guy, who finished 12th overall in 19:34.
Also in yesterday’s boys race, Cambridge Springs managed to beat out Conneaut 22-39.
Cambridge finishes the regular season with a record of 4-4. Conneaut ends the year at 0-8.
Spa duo seals title
Both the Cambridge Springs and Conneaut girls came into Tuesday’s meet with undefeated 6-0 records. But Conneaut was going to have to run one heck of a race to beat the Lady Blue Devils on their own course.
The Spa girls made sure there was no upset in the works, placing five runners in the top seven to claim the 20-37 victory over the Lady Eagles.
“We had a nice little group up there,” said Cambridge Springs junior Reilly Walsh who was the top finisher in the race, finishing the course in 19:59.
“I was very happy with Reilly’s time,” said Shader. “She broke 20 minutes on this course, and with the modified course that’s even more impressive.” (Note: This season, the Cambridge Springs course was extended to a full 3.1-mile length.)
Walsh was followed by teammate Olivia Mamula in second in 20:37. Mamula had trailed Conneaut’s Brooke Phelps throughout the first mile, but eventually overtook the Eagles runner and finished 57 seconds ahead.
“It’s a mental game, and I got beat,” said a dissapointed Phelps. “We had a chance, but it wasn’t today. ... We had a good season. It would have been nice to win it all. But if you can’t, you can’t.”
The Blue Devil girls also took fourth place, thanks to Sadie Brown’s time of 22:35.
“Sadie Brown has been phenomenal this year,” said Shader. “She’s really stepped up for our third girl. She’s several minutes faster than she was last year.”
Conneaut’s Lacey Murray was fifth in 22:47.
Then it was two more Spa girls in sixth and seventh — Kiersten Skelton (22:57) and Madison Klemm (23:37).