This week’s notebook features the district champion CR North boys squad as well as several of the top performances at districts.
By DENNY DYROFF
Council Rock North is no stranger to hoisting the team championship trophy at the District 1 Class AAA Cross Country Championships.
The Indians won the district title in 2002 – the first year after the split – and then added a second championship in 2010.
The Indians may have won the title before – but never as convincingly as they did at this year’s meet, which was held Friday at Lehigh University’s South Campus.
At the 2015 District 1 Class AAA Cross Country Championships, five of the top 12 finishers were runners from the Suburban One League. At the 2016 district meet, five of the top 21 finishers were runners from Council Rock North – Ryan Campbell (third), Tim Haas (seventh), Bryan Keller (ninth), Sam Earley (13th) and Ethan Koza (21st). North’s non-scoring finishers were Kevin Ehrgott and Matt Mullen.
The Indians won the meet handily with 53 points. Downingtown West was a distant runner-up with 169 and Central Bucks West was third with 196.
“Our kids ran really well – beyond our expectations,” said Council Rock North’s veteran coach Dave Marrington. “We were expecting to place five in the top 35 and we had all five in the top 21.
“And, their times were really fast. All five ran 16:00 or faster. We had six kids whose times placed them in North’s all-time Top 30 for times on the Lehigh course.
“Placing three in the Top 10 – we knew that was an outside possibility. These five guys have changed places every race we’ve run. Timmy (Haas) has been running really well. He’s gotten very consistent. Sam Earley was the biggest surprise – and he’s not really a cross country runner. He’s an 800 (meter) runner in track and he’s had a great season in cross country this year.”
It came as no surprise that Campbell led the way for the Indians. Campbell’s 2016 weekend meet results include second place at the William Tennent Invitational, second at the Council Rock Invitational, seventh at the Briarwood Classic and 23rdat the PTXC8 meet.
“Ryan really stepped up this year,” said Marrington. “He’s a junior and this is just his second year running cross country. He was a basketball player. That was his main sport as a freshman. He ran spring track in ninth grade and was still committed to basketball. But then, he had great success last spring. As soon as he started having success with his running, he came on board pretty quickly.”
Campbell was satisfied with his district meet finish.
“I was happy with third,” said Campbell. “I was looking for a top five finish so third is great. I thought I had a good race.
“I was fifth at the mile and the second mile went well. The third mile was tough but it was all downhill. It was easy to pick up the pace without knowing it. I tried to close on the two guys in front of me, but they were too far away for me to catch up.”
Not only is this year’s Rock North squad really good – it is really young. Haas and Keller are the only seniors in the group of seven. Mullen is a sophomore and the other four are juniors.
“We call them Quadrant One kids,” said Marrington. “All of them are talented and motivated. That’s a very good combination. They’re all good students and they get along really well.
“Our conference did really well at districts this year. Rusty won the race and we won as a team. Pennsbury had a runner in the top 15 and William Tenennt had two kids in the top 20.”
Rusty is Neshaminy’s Rusty Kudych, who claimed the gold medal with a clocking of 15:20. Souderton’s Connor McMenamin nabbed the silver medal with a time of 15:29 and Campbell was bronze medalist at 15:33.
“I finished first -- so I reached my goal,” said Kujdych. “I knew I would be facing good competition at this year’s district meet. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy win.”
Kujdych, a junior, started the season on a high note with a gold medal performance at the Mill Street Run. He also logged wins at the Council Rock Invitational and the William Tennent Invitational and picked up bronze medals at the Paul Short Invitational and the Briarwood Classic.
“The race at districts went out slowly and that was something I could work with,” said Kujdych. “At the beginning of the second mile, I made my move – me and a few other guys in the top pack.
“At the two-mile mark, it was just me and Connor racing each other. He passed me at the beginning of the third mile. I caught up with him and we ran neck-and-neck for a while. With 1,000 to go, I made my move. I was able to capitalize on the downhill.
“I wasn’t sure how far back he was but I never looked back. The last mile was my fastest mile. Last year, I was 12th at districts and 19th at states (PIAA Class AAA Championships), This year at states, I definitely want top five.”
Prior to last Friday’s race, McMenamin said, “I want to finish in the top three at districts and top five at states.”
He has already achieved half of his goals.
“At districts, my main goal was to qualify for states,” said McMenamin. “Going into the race, I knew I’d be near the front and, if (the win) was there, I’d go for it.
“With a mile left, Rusty and I broke away. When I knew I wasn’t going to get first, there was about 400 to go. I was just not feeling good to put in another kick after all that surging back-and-forth in the last mile. I thought I might be able to catch Rusty, but he’s a phenomenal runner and I knew he wouldn’t go down without a fight.
“I knew I had another big race next week so I didn’t push too hard. It would have been nice to say District 1 champion but I’m still really happy with how I finished. Being healthy and getting second puts me in really good position for states – knowing the best is still to come.”
Like Council Rock North, Central Buck West qualified as a team for this Saturday’s PIAA Class AAA Championships in Hershey. The Bucks’ contingent to the state meet included Brian Mass, Teagan Fortna, Alec Hofer, Ben Bunch, Mark McClenahan, Michael Samson and Carter Laatsch.
Other SOL qualifiers for the boys’ state meet are William Tennent’s Evan Hutton and Sean Rahill, Pennsbury’s Eric Kersten, Cheltenham’s Will Griffen, Central Bucks South’s Matthew Scarpill, Quakertown’s Hudson Delisle, Souderton’s Joe Breen and North Penn’s Colin Grace and Brendan O’Toole.
Central Bucks East’s Hannah Morris made it to the elite group of state qualifiers – but not by much. The final qualifier was Wisssahickon’s Hayley Ross, who placed 39th at the District 1 Championships last Friday. Morris finished 38th.
“I made it – barely,” said Morris. “It wasn’t my best race but it was still good enough that I was able to qualify for states.
“I don’t know if it was the weather. It was pretty cold and my muscles felt numb. I didn’t get a very good start and that put me behind.
“I usually, I have a pretty good kick but not in this race. I wasn’t able to pass anyone at the end. But, I knew I was close to the cut-off place so I made sure no-one passed me down the stretch.’
Earlier in the season, it was questionable if Morris would be in good enough shape to do well in the post-season.
“Hannah was hurt for a couple weeks,” said CB East coach Sam Losorelli. “She had a foot injury and was going through therapy.
“By the end of the regular season, she was running well. She had a good race at the Foundation meet at Hershey a few weeks ago and she took first place at the Neshaminy Invitational.
“She’s doing well now. She’s back to the old Hannah. She’s in good shape for the post-season. Hannah is a tough competitor. She’s very resilient.”
Morris said, “The Neshaminy meet was good. I didn’t know the course and made a couple wrong turns – but I still ran a good time. It was nice because I had missed a few weeks of training. It felt great to get a good race in before leagues and districts.
“I had a foot injury from too much running. The bottom of my foot was really knotted. It was similar to plantar fasciitis. I went to an advanced sports chiropractor. They had me using Graston Technique (a therapeutic method for diagnosing and treating disorders of the skeletal muscles and related connective tissue), heat and electric stimulation.
Morris, a senior, placed 28th at districts in 2015. A National Honor Society student, she plans on majoring in science with Pitt, Penn State and St. Joe’s topping her list of possible college choices.
Now, she is ready to close out her scholastic cross country career at the highest level – as an individual qualifier for the PIAA Class AAA Championships.
The top SOL finisher at last Friday’s district meet was North Penn’s Ariana Gardizy, who placed fourth overall. North Penn finished fourth at districts to qualify for states as a team and will be sending a septet to Hershey that also includes Olivia Dyer, Mikaela Vlasic, Jenna Webb, Maeve Gimbert, Ximena Trejo-Mora and Clare Dentner.
The Suburban One League’s other individual state meet qualifiers are Cheltenham’s MaryGrace Rittler, Souderton’s Emily Bonaventure, Central Bucks West’s Megan Kolbe, Central Bucks East’s Cameron Billingsle, Abington’s Kelly Jawork, Pennsbury’s Chloe Connor, Hatboro-Horsham’s Hannah Knudsen and Pennridge’s Juliet Ryan.