At the tail end of the cross county course at Buhl Park, there’s a narrow finishing chute about 150 yards long that is typically lined end-to-end with spectators shouting encouraging words at the runners as they strain to make a final push for a better position.
Asked who he overtook during this crucial stretch, Meadville junior Kyle Rose nervously shifted his eyes from side to side, smiled and answered:
“I actually ran down Matt (Svetz),” Rose said, indicating his Bulldogs teammate. “We were battling hard. It was a good race.”
Rose managed to take eighth place in 17:12 at Saturday’s District 10 Class AA cross country championship. Svetz was one second behind in ninth.
“It’s a good time,” said Rose. “It’s about 12 seconds off my best from last year. And I’m recovering from an injury, so I’m very happy with it. I was off for three weeks — one week completely off from running and three weeks off from competition. This was the goal. I had to get back for this race.”
Both Bulldogs runners were good enough to qualify for the state meet, which takes place this coming Saturday at Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey. It will be Rose’s second trip to states and a first for Svetz. Both runners are juniors.
“I am excited,” said Svetz. “I put in a lot of hard work. And to see it pay off, it’s great. (The 17:13) was a personal best. And on a course like this, I thought it was pretty good.”
As for getting passed by Rose, he didn’t mind so much. In fact, he was able to back-door Rose to the finish line to stay in front of Grove City’s Ryan Whiteman, who was 10th in 17:14.
“There was one guy trying to get ahead of me,” said Svetz. “And I didn’t know where I was place-wise. So I knew I just had to kick it in. And I just got right behind Kyle.”
One other local runner advanced out of double-A. That was Conneaut sophomore Christian Ladebu, who took 11th place in 17:18 and avenged a heartbreaker from a season ago.
“I missed going to states by one second,” he said. “I was really pleased with (yesterday’s run). I almost got my personal record — 17:15.”
He’ll be the first male Eagles runner to advance to the state meet in the school’s history.
Grove City was the top team in Class AA with 35 points. The Eagles had three runners in the top four. Aaron Benka was first (16:23), Ryan Budnik second (16:47) and Braydon Pyle fourth (17:06).
General McLane was second with 93 points, earning a trip to states in the process. The Lancers were led by Lukas Hallett in fifth (17:10), Grant Shields in 14th (17:24), Ian Parker in 21st (17:46), Ryan Groff in 22nd (17:47) and Hunter Hendricks in 31st (18:24).
Phelps gets mellow
Last year’s District 10 meet was a tough one for Brooke Phelps.
“It was bad,” she admitted. “I knew the difference between going to states and not going. So last year on the starting line ... I cried. I was so nervous.”
This time around, Phelps let it all go and just ran.
“I just relaxed and didn’t think about it,” she said.
Phelps’ Zen-like approach paid off as the junior posted her best time at the event, finishing in 11th place with a time of 20:36, earning a second trip to states after taking a year off.
“It was the best I’d ever done here,” said Phelps. “I beat a Hickory girl (Haley Boyd), and they’re really fast, so I was glad I did that. I beat her once before. But this time I passed her on the finish. She was speeding up, so I sped up and I passed her and stayed in front of her and stayed in front of a Villa Maria girl (Bernadette Prichard). So ... whew!”
Meadville also had a runner advance out of the Class AA ranks, with freshman Meredith Prather coming in 14th in 20:44.
“It was all right,” said Prather. “It was really tough. It was pretty windy. ... But it was a pretty good time.”
MASH freshman Paige Yoder just missed out on a state berth, finishing one place off the qualifying mark with an 18th-place time of 20:59.
The overall champion in Class AA was Hickory’s Lexi Bible, who clocked a time of 19:37. Hickory was second as a team.
Villa Maria won the team title with 48 points. Victors sophomore Claire Brown finished second in 19:45.