Girls' Cross Country Notebook: Vol. 2

By Alex Frazier

Meet…Council Rock North’s Julie Fricke
Julie Fricke has only been running for three years, but it didn’t take long for her to make an impact.
Fricke grew up playing basketball, which she started at the age of six. Two years ago, her friend and current teammate Bridget Tull convinced her to try cross country.
“I loved it,” said Fricke. “The girls are like my family.”
That decision set her life on a new course. Although she still plays basketball, her sports of choice now are cross country and track, which she is planning to pursue next year in college, possibly at Bucknell. She also wants to major in education so she can teach and coach running.
“After getting myself into running and the feeling I got from doing a workout, nothing compares to the feeling you get when you go running,” she said. “I love it.”
Going out for cross country for the first time as a sophomore, she still managed to make the team and qualify for her first state meet.
With the graduation of Ali Sikora, Fricke took over the No. 1 spot her junior year.
Fricke also runs track in the spring. Very versatile, she can run anything from the 200 to the two-mile.
“That’s unusual for a runner,” noted coach Cliff Robins.
Her favorite events, however, are the 800 and the mile. In her first ever indoor meet as a junior, she ran the leadoff leg of the 4x800 at the National Indoor Championships, following a shortened basketball season. Her teammate who ran in the preliminaries on Saturday was unable to run Sunday, so Fricke stepped in, and the team placed eighth in the nation.
“I never even saw an indoor track before,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. It was a lot of fun.”
Unfortunately, in spring track she suffered a stress fracture near the end of the season. She was able to run the preliminaries of the 4x800 at the state meet, but it hurt her too much to run in the finals.
“It was awful watching them, but they did awesome anyway,” she said. The relay finished second in the state.
Although Robins doesn’t have a captain for his cross country team, instead, relying on all his seniors to lead, Fricke is about as close as it comes to being one.
“When I want to get something done, I generally call her,” he said.
This year the Indians hope to contend for a state title. They have come close the last two years, finishing fifth on 2006 and seventh in 2008.
Fricke has put her own personal goals on hold to focus on the team.
“It’s more team oriented for me this year,” she said. “I really want to win states. We have agood solid top five. If we work hard enough, we can do it.”
Ram tough – After missing out on states as a team last year, Pennridge is aiming to return this year for the second time in three years.
But it won’t be easy for the Rams, who have switched to the very tough Continental Conference this year, along with North Penn, last year’s National Conference champion, and Central Bucks South.
Last year the Rams could count on a couple of breathers in the league meet schedule.
Not this year.
On the contrary, the Rams will have to contend with perennially strong Hatboro-Horsham, a very good C.B. West and a Souderton squad that will be equally tough if it stays healthy.
“The league is absolutely loaded,” said coach Bill Smith. “From top to bottom it’s going to be so much tougher. Everybody’s going to take turns beating each other. If you’re not at your best, you’re going to get beat by somebody. I can’t see an easy win.”
If the first invitational of the season is any indication, Pennridge could be right there at the end. The Rams return two state runners in captain and four-year runner Nicole Mehlman and Marie McKenna, and they have a pair of very promising freshmen in Tori Gerlach and Jesseye McGarry.
“They’re learning,” said Smith of his two ninth graders. ‘They did a little bit of running over the summer, but not a lot. I have a feeling they’re going to come on big time.”
At last weekend’s John Sharp Viking Invitational. Mehlman finished 8th, running 55 seconds faster than last year when she ironically finished sixth. McKenna also ran 45 seconds faster to finish 19th, though her time would have placed her sixth a year ago.
Just goes to show how tough the competition was.
The Rams’ two freshmen were running in their very first invitational and showed their potential. Gerlach was the third freshman to cross the line, finishing 30thwhile McGarry was Pennridge’s fifth runner coming in 55th. McGarry had been running third to start the year, but went out too fast and pulled a quadriceps muscle.
Rounding out the top seven for Pennridge are: Senior Janelle Ketterer(38th at the Viking), junior Maggie Jordan and sophomore Kasey Jones.
Smith said that Mehlman and McKenna were likely to be his top two runners all year, but that the next five places could be up for grabs from meet to meet.
While Pennridge would like to win all its meets, Smith’s goals are focused on the end of the season, especially getting to states as a team.Last year the Rams missed out, finishing seventh in the district after placing sixth the year before.
“When it’s all said and done, we’ll be pretty good,” said Smith. “My goals are the end of the year. My expectations were that there would be some teams that beat us early that we’re hoping we’ll be able to catch and go by at the end of the year.”
Around the league – Last weekend, 11 SOL teams competed in the kickoff John Sharp Invitational at Tamanend Park in Southampton. Five teams placed two runners in the top 20, while Neshaminy had one in Laura Histand, who finished 15th in 19.56.
Council Rock North’s Lindsay Rheiner was the top finisher, placing third in 18.54. The Indians’ Julie Fricke, who fell on the course, finished 12th in 19:35.
Kaylee Irwin of Hatboro-Horsham was fourth in 18.54 and freshman teammate Casey Uhrich was 20th in 20.06.
Pennsbury’s Allison Ludwick was sixth in 19.05 and another freshman Ann Herman crossed in 19.32.
Pennridge also had a pair of runners in the top 20, with Nicole Mehlman finishing eighth (19.12) and Marie McKenna 19th (20.05).
Laura Gundry and Shannon Stirdivant of Central Bucks West finished 13th (19.39) and 18th (20.03), respectively.
SOL Top Five teams
1.       Council Rock North
2.       Hatboro-Horsham
3.       Pennsbury
4.       Pennridge
5.       Upper Dublin
Top Five SOL Runners
1.       Lindsay Rheiner, Council Rock North
2.       Kaylee Irwin, Hatboro-Horsham
3.       Kate Gorman, Plymouth Whitemarsh
4.       Allison Ludwick, Pennsbury
5.       Nicole Mehlman, Pennridge