By Frank Foreman
There may not be a better example in high school athletics of a true team sport than cross country. For a entire group of runners to come together and collectively run the race of their lives at the biggest moment of the year requires not just one athlete but many.
Simply put, it takes a team to be the best, and on Saturday, Saegertown proved to the entire state that it is that team.
The Panthers’ top five runners all ran a 17:42 or better to lead Saegertown to a PIAA Class A cross country championship at Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey, improving on last year’s third place finish in the state.
Not a bad way to spend your Saturday.
“The kids ran the race of their lives,” Saegertown head coach Bill Hetrick said. “The top five were all within 45 seconds of each other. When you have that happen, it’s hard to lose. It was just a special day.”
The Panthers were paced by Morgan Schenberg’s time of 17:01, good enough for 14th overall. Brendon Barclay was 18th overall at 17:05, sophomore and first-year runner Brad Amy finished 25th at 17:16, Matt Schenberg clocked in at 17:35 for the 37th place, and Wyatt Fleischer rounded out Saegertown’s top five with a run of 17:42, the 48th-best time of the day. Garrett Johnston (18:38, 112th) and Chris Guy (20:15, 196th) also contributed to the Panthers’ memorable day.
“On the way (to Hershey), we talked about how in every big race this year they all stepped up and performed,” Hetrick said. “We tried to be humble about it, because we knew we were one of the top teams in the state. We thought we had a good chance going into today. We had a great race, and that was the difference.”
The best race of all for Saegertown came from Morgan Schenberg. The senior has battled an illness in the past month, hampering his running ability and dropping him down in the standing in both the region and district races.
It was clear Saturday that Morgan was finally back where he belonged.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Schenberg said. “I had a virus and didn’t run for five days. My lungs went downhill, and coming back was difficult for me.
“I was pumped (today), and I knew my lungs were good. My legs were fresh, and I just wanted to do my best in my last high school race.”
While Morgan was doing his thing, Barclay wasn’t far behind, just four seconds off his teammate’s pace, turning in another solid performance in 2013.
While the big guns were getting it done, it was a sophomore runner with no experience before the year started that turned in perhaps the most important race of the day.
Amy, who is a first-year runner, put together his most complete run of the year at the most opportune time, something that Schenberg was thrilled to see his young teammate accomplish.
“I’m so proud of Brad. When he started we didn’t know what to expect,” Schenberg said. “(Brad) pushed it at every practice and every race, and what he did today was remarkable. He will be an outstanding runner when he is a junior and a senior.”
Though Saegertown was having a breakout day, plenty of local runners were turning in spectacular performances of their own, including Maplewood’s Jeremy Parsons, who took second overall with a time of 16:33. First place went to South Williamsport’s Griffin Molino, who ran a blazing time of 15:54.
Maplewood’s Jake Parsons also ran well, taking sixth overall with his time of 16:47. Hanz Wentz added to Maplewood’s strong trio of runners with his time of 17:06, good enough for 19th overall.
Cochranton’s Seth Spykstra finished in 56th place with his time of 17:52, with teammate Nathan Kline clocking in at 18:03, good for 77th place.
Mercyhurst Prep’s Sebastian Curtin, the reigning District-10 Class A champ, took third place with a time of 16:33.
In Class AA, Meadville had a pair of runners in Kyle Rose and Matt Svetz, with Rose turning in the better time of 17:48, which placed him 77th overall. Svetz ran a time of 18:11, finishing in 114th position.
Conneaut’s first-ever state qualifier Christian Ladabu placed 157th overall with a time of 18:39.
In the team competition, Masterman was second with its total of 93 points, well behind Saegertown’s 60. Northeast Bradford was third with 117, Northern Potter was fourth at 152, while Mercyhurst Prep finished fifth overall with 199 points.
On the girls side, Cambridge Springs’ Reilly Walsh placed 11th overall in the Class A race with a time of 20:02. Avonworth’s Beth Shenck won the race at 19:20. Walsh’s teammate Olivia Mamula secured a top-30 finish, clocking in at 20:42, which put her 29th overall.
Maplewood’s Savannah Phillips placed 48th in 21:08 in the Class A race as well.
In the girls Class AA race, Conneaut’s Brooke Phelps finished with a time of 21:40 for 137th place, while Meadville’s Meredith Prather ran the course in 22:40, placing her 195th overall.