EPHRATA – Don’t think about the kids who finished in front of him. Focus on the number of runners who finished behind him.
Not only was it a matter of perspective, it was also a matter of relevance.
On a picturesque Tuesday evening at Ephrata Middle School, Lebanon High’s Caleb Hershey ran a rewarding and remarkable third at the Lancaster-Lebanon League Cross Country Championships. Of the 174 competitors in the boys’ race, only winner Aidan Hodge of Hempfield and Colin Whitaker of Lampeter-Strasburg came in ahead of Hershey.
Hershey’s third-place showing was not only the Cedars’ best in recent memory, it was also one of Lebanon’s finest performances at the league meet ever. But while it was the highlight of the day for the contingent of local student-athletes competing at the L-L League Cross Country Championships, it wasn’t the only one.
Cedar Crest senior Ryan Wolfe finished sixth among competitors in the boys’ race, and he teamed with fellow senior Luke Hinegardner to pace the Falcons to a fourth-place showing in the team competition, behind only champion Hempfield, runner-up Manheim Township and Lampeter-Strasburg.
On the girls’ side, Annville-Cleona senior Braetan Peters enjoyed the best Lancaster-Lebanon league race of her career and took home 11th-place hardware.
But certainly the local story of the day was Hershey, who was clocked in 16:33.8. Hershey’s time was 22 seconds off the winning pace set by Hodge and 15 ticks slower than Whitaker.
“I’m happy. It was a good finish,” said Hershey. “The only guy who beat me in the league was Hodge, so I thought it would probably be between him, me, Colin and Tyler (Stevens of Hempfield). If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the season that I was going to finish third at the league meet, I would’ve been happy.
“I started running in the seventh grade, and I was pretty good,” continued Hershey. “But not up to the level of this competition. This year I made a huge jump in training. I had a decent track season (in the spring), but not as good as this cross country season.”
Following a bit of a slow start, Hershey worked his way up to the lead group. He competed gamely with Hodge and Whitaker, before the two began to create a working margin ahead of Hershey.
“I’m not a good sprinter, but I eventually caught up with the front guys,” said Hershey. “Then I tried to stay with Whitaker and Hodge as long as I could. I was just trying to hold on. Every once in a while I’d peak over my shoulder to see where Stevens was.
“I’d like to finish in the top ten, the top fifteenish at districts, maybe higher,” added Hershey. “Maybe qualify for states. Medaling at states would be awesome.”
Peters, the reigning District Three Class A champion, had not shown well at the Lancaster-Lebanon League cross country champions the last two years. While yesterday’s performance was much better, the Little Dutchmen 12th-grader was hoping for a little more than her time of 20:46.0.
“I’ve never run a real good race here,” said Peters. “This is as well as I’ve run. My sophomore and junior races didn’t go quite as planned.
“I was looking to run mostly in the 19s and stay in the lead pack,” added Peters. “That’s what I was hoping for today.”
Peters was in the lead pack with eventual winner Isabella Shertzer of McCaskey which missed the first flag about a third of a mile into the race. While the pack recovered relatively quickly, it cost them a handful of meters in distance and even more in seconds on the clock.
Shertzer’s winning time was 19:47.2, about a minute faster than Peters’.
“I’m a little disappointed,” said Peters. “There were six of us who missed the first flag. That threw us off. Then I was trying to play catch-up. I definitely think it affected my finish and time. I was on a roll and it changed my trajectory around. We were in a zone.
“I was really looking forward to this,” Peters continued. “I don’t usually get to run with the (Class) AAA girls. I knew who the girls in AAA were and I wanted to run with them. I was looking forward to competing with them.”
|2||Elena Barrall||Manheim Township||19:51|
|3||Ava Shirk||Manheim Township||20:04|
|7||Claire Thomas||Lancaster Mennonite||20:24|
|10||Abby Ames||Penn Manor||20:38|
|15||Macyn Fogleman||Manheim Township||21:07|
|19||Avery Ebersole||Manheim Township||21:13.8|
|21||Sarah Russo||Manheim Township||21:15|
|22||Lizzie Lowe||Cedar Crest||21:16|