SAEGERTOWN — In this corner was the Cochranton boys cross country team, which, despite suffering some huge graduations last season, has still worked its way into the hunt for its third consecutive Region 3 title.
In the other corner was the Cambridge Springs boys team, which started the season with enough weapons to actually unseat Cochranton this season.
Those two teams, both undefeated in the region, finally went head-to-head during a tri-meet with host Saegertown on Tuesday.
But wait, there’s more.
Cochranton has been led all season by senior Noah Bernarding. However, just a few days earlier, Bernarding was beaten to the finish line at the Cochranton Invitational by Saegertown freshman Sam Hetrick.
They would be meeting again on Hetrick’s home course on Tuesday.
But wait, there’s still more.
There’s the whole girls’ half of the event. And that featured one team, Saegertown, that was trying to keep its unbeaten start to the season going. And it also featured an anticipated battle at the front between a pair of swift sophomores in Cambridge Springs’ Elizabeth Kline and Saegertown’s Paige Fuller.
Put simply, Tuesday’s tri-meet at the Panther’s path was a doozy.
Let’s get to some results:
The Cochranton boys got the sweep, defeating Cambridge Springs 24-33 and Saegertown 20-41. Cambridge won the matchup with Saegertown, 21-36.
In the girls race, Saegertown stayed perfect in the region with a 20-38 win over Cambridge and a 15-50 forfeit win over Cochranton. Cambridge got a forfeit win over the runner-less
Cardinals as well.
As for the first runner across the finish line, Bernarding turned the tables on Hetrick, winning the race in 16:31, while Hetrick was second in 17:03.
Meanwhile, in the girls race, Kline eventually pulled away from Fuller, winning in a time of 20:26. Fuller was second in 20:49.
Cards vs. Devils
“Yeah, my kids showed some guts today,” said Cochranton head coach Mark Roche.
Now 6-0 overall and in the region, Cochranton still needs to sweep their final tri-meet of the season on Oct. 8 with Titusville at Franklin to claim the region title overall.
“We still have more to do,” Roche said. “But this was a big win.”
The fact that the Cardinals are in this position once again — even after graduating four very good runners from last year’s District 10 Class 1A champion squad — is
“If (a third-straight region title) comes true, this one might be a little more satisfying,” said Roche. “Because we were expected to get those other two. Where now it was, ‘Well, Cochranton might be fifth or sixth because they lost so many guys. We’re not going to worry about them.’ And we did lose some great runners.
“But this has been a real team effort. Because we went to the guys and said, ‘You were along for the ride last year. Now you’re driving the bus. Let’s go.’”
This year’s Redbird runners have made sure the program hasn’t missed a stride. During yesterday’s meet, for example, Franklin Morris contributed a fourth-place time of 17:13; Chase Miller scrambled into fifth place over the final few feet to finish in 17:16; Alex Jackson took eighth in 17:45; and Anthony Freer finished 11th
Cambridge Springs (5-1, 5-1 Region 3) did what it could to break up Cochranton’s pack, with Hunter Spaid taking third in 17:11; Alec Bidwell finishing sixth in 17:17; Christian Kline in seventh in 17:26; Bobby Moats in ninth in 18:21; and Corbin Lehner in 14th in 19:18.
It didn’t help the Blue Devils’ cause that they were without one of their top runners, Elijah Mamula, who is still out with the illness that kept him from running in the Cardinal Invite on
“I thought we did very well, considering,” said Cambridge head coach Cathy Shader. “We kept them on their toes. They keep us on our toes. And we’ll see what happens. I was happy with how the boys ran today. I know we have a lot of work to do. And our goal is districts.”
Bernarding vs. Hetrick
Tuesday’s race started out just like Saturday’s, with Bernarding taking the lead from the start, but Hetrick staying a handful of strides behind.
On Saturday, Hetrick eventually overtook Bernarding after the first mile or so and ended up winning by 7 seconds.
This time around, Bernarding wouldn’t be caught.
“(Hetrick) was just better than me that race, that day. He got me,” said Bernarding. “So I had it in my mind today — new day, new place, different course. I knew that I could get him. I didn’t try to make it mental. New day. New everything.”
Kline vs. Fuller
Similar to the boys race, yesterday’s run by the girls also had a tight 1-2 battle up front in the early going, with Saegertown’s Fuller staying hot on Kline’s heels during the first mile-plus.
The two, still just feet apart, disappeared into the woods for the final third of the race. But by the time they emerged for the final stretch, Kline had a comparably comfy lead, eventually leading Fuller by 23 seconds.
“Paige is really good,” said Kline. “She’s very competitive. We both went to states last year as freshman. We’ve always been friends. I’m glad I had her as motivation. She’s really great to run with.”
Saegertown vs. the world
Saegertown head coach William Hetrick admits that the Region 3 girls title race isn’t the most competitive this season. But his team, at 6-0 overall and in the region, is still leading that pack. And he’ll take it.
“Our girls are looking really good right now,” he said. “I have to say, the region is down this year. Some teams don’t have teams. But our girls are pretty competitive. I think we’re in the top five in the district level, which will be nice.”
The Lady Panthers certainly had a nice group yesterday. After Kline finished first for Cambridge, the next six runners were all from Saegertown, with Fuller in second; Karley Steiner in third (22:26); Maddie Mondi in fourth (22:36); Karley Price in fifth (22:49); Cassidy Boylan in sixth (24:01); and Kami Fuller in seventh (24:26).