By Pete Chiodo
On the to-do list for the Saegertown boys cross country team on Saturday were three items.
No. 1: Finish high enough in the team standings to advance to states.
No. 2: Win a District 10 championship.
No. 3: Go eat at Golden Corral.
Regarding the third item, it was not confirmed at press time whether or not the Panther boys eventually made their buffet goal. That’s because the last time they were seen by this newspaper they were standing as a group on a picnic table at one of Buhl Park’s pavilions and soaking up the applause after being announced as Class A champions for the second straight year following their performance at yesterday’s district championship meet.
“Oh, we’re going,” said Saegertown head coach Brian Hetrick, promising that the final item will be checked off the list. “Our guys did exactly what they needed to do. Our mantra all year was ‘Find the ball, get the ball.’ Today we got the ball. And we’ve got a few more to locate.”
The Panthers finished the day with 83 team points, beating second-place Mercyhurst Prep (110), third-place Seneca (123) and Maplewood in fourth (142).
“Better than last year, we won by one point,” said Hetrick. “I was really concerned about Mercyhurst and Seneca. But they got 2-3.”
Brendon Barclay was the top finisher for the Panthers, claiming ninth in 16:59. He was followed across the finish line by teammates Morgan Schenberg in 13th (17:08), Brad Amy in 14th (17:10), Matt Schenberg in 18th (17:21), Wyatt Fleischer in 29th (17:46); Garrett Johnston in 38th (18:00) and Chris Guy in 94th (19:41).
“I knew Morgan was getting sick,” said Barclay. “So I knew I had to try and stay in front of him. And then when he started going out fast, I was like, ‘Wow, maybe he feels better. Maybe he feels good.’ Then about the second mile I saw that he was sucking wind. So I said, ‘I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go.’ And I tried to pick up as many people as I could. Luckily we have a strong pack and we all can stay with each other and pick people off. We’re so close, the benefit is huge.”
Saegertown has been battling illness in its lineup for most of the second half of the season. But the squad is so deep that they’ve managed to remain one of the best teams in the state. And they’ll look to continue that status.
“Things have been happening. But I think we have a legitimate shot,” said Barclay. “Yeah, we’re all facing challenges. But everybody is stepping up. We’ll face the challenges and do our best to beat them this year.”
The Panthers will now move on to the PIAA championship meet, which is scheduled for this Saturday at the Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey. Last year, the Panthers took third place at states.
“They give out places for first and second down there,” said Hetrick. “I’d like us to get on the podium, and if we can win a state championship that would be the icing on the cake.”
The individual medalist in the Class A race was Mercyhurst Prep junior Sebastian Curtain, who blazed the course in a time of 15:57.
“That’s a PR (personal record) for me,” said Curtain.
Curtain’s approach was to hang with reigning D-10 champ Jeremy Parsons of Maplewood.
“The strategy was to stick right on him as long as I can and wait for my kick,” said Curtain. “I got him around the hairpin turn around the tree in the third mile.”
Eventually Curtain made his move. And Parsons couldn’t hold him off.
“I was just dead,” said Parsons. “After the two-mile marker it started to really pack on, pack on. And then I got almost back to where the mile marker is located and I was just ... ‘Aw, man, I can’t go any farther.’ Then going down the finish line, that huge finish line here at districts, I tried to sprint. I couldn’t sprint. I tried to go as fast as I could so the next guy couldn’t catch me.”
Parsons came in second in 16:19. Still a great time. But not good enough for the Tigers senior.
“(Curtain) was the first person that beat me this year,” said Parsons. “That was a hard one. ... For how much he beat my by, I was a little disappointed in that. Hopefully I can close the gap and maybe get him at states. I just didn’t have it in me today.”
Jeremy was followed by twin brother Jake Parsons in third in 16:31, and Maplewood teammate Hanz Wentz in fourth in 16:43. All three will be advancing to states.
“We went 2-3-4, so that’s good,” Jeremy said.
Other runners to advance in Class A included Cambridge Springs freshman Connor Walsh, who was 16th in 17:15.
“I’m very happy with my time,” said Walsh, whose sister Reilly won the Class A girls title earlier in the day. “I had to do a lot of hard training and then I took Thursday and Friday off and I felt really fresh today.
“It was (intimidating) because I’m just a freshman and I’m going up against some juniors and seniors. So it was pretty nerve-wracking. This one was big.”
Cochranton’s Logan Herzberger and Nathan Kline will both be moving on also. Herzberger was 19th in 17:23, Kline was 22nd in 17:25.
“It was all right,” said Kline. “I haven’t been running good the past two weeks, so I’m going to have to get back in shape. I ran 18:43 at Rocky Grove and then 18:18 at regions. I was a little mad at myself, so I said I had something to prove today.”
It will be Kline’s second trip to states. Herzberger, meanwhile, missed out last year by just one place.
“It’s relieving,” said Herzberger. “We both pushed out well. And we were out with the top pack. And we just drifted off the last mile or half-mile. It was all right.”
It was all right enough to get to states.
“I think the course (at Hershey) is tougher than any of the courses around here,” said Kline.
“Lots of hills,” said Herzberger. “I went down with (Kline) last year to practice the day before. ... Everyone has to run them.”
“I just go to states to have fun,” said Kline.