BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – ‘Over hill, over dale
As we hit the muddy trail,
And those caissons go rolling along.’
It took less than 20 minutes for the future to pass through the present, and turn into the past. But for Gwyneth Young, Gage Krall and Lily Brubaker, it was less about time, and more about timing and wining the moment.
On a chilly Saturday morning on Hershey’s Giant Center’s undulating 3.1-mile Parkview Course, the Cedar Crest sophomore, the Northern Lebanon junior and the Elco senior lived out their potentials during the PIAA Cross Country Championships – the 79th edition for the boys and the 48th annual for the girls. All three locals earned coveted state individual medals.
Young ran sixth in the girls’ Class AAA race, Krall was 17th among Class AA male competitors and Brubaker came in 18th in the Class AA girls’ competition. Meanwhile, a group of Cedar Crest boys’ harriers, which had scored a surprising team championship at the District Three Class AAA a week prior, finished 17th among the best squads in the state.
“This was like icing on the top of my career,” said Brubaker. “It (a state medal) was my goal since my sophomore year. I was just trying to get a medal. It’s an emotional time. I’m super happy about it.”
“I think it happened during the race,” said Krall. “I was thinking about how much work everyone put into it and how much work I put into it. I was at peace during the race. I kept telling myself, ‘Just run’. I closed my eyes for part of the race and kept going.”
“If I would look ahead, I’d like to move up,” said Young, forbidding herself to entertain the possibility of a gold medal in the future. “I would make sure I have confidence. Each year I want to build. I’ll be nervous, but not like I was today.”
At a meet where Lebanon County competitors haven’t always put their best feet forward, Young’s sixth-place performance was truly an accomplishment.
The Falcon tenth-grader may have earned her achievement between the first and second mile, when she moved up six places, from 15th to ninth place. But her kick to gain three additional places wasn’t bad either.
Young, who was 40th at states last year as a freshman, was clocked in 19:20. West Chester-Henderson freshman Jenna Mulhern easily won the Class AAA race in a blistering 18:42.
“Over the first two miles, I felt great. But on the third mile I realized I had to push through,” said Young. “We we do (pre-race) striders, I like to have a friend in front of me to envision pushing myself. I also like to listen to upbeat music to motivate me.
“I feel like I’m kind of in a dream right now,” added Young. “I sort of can’t believe it. But I think I’ll remember the ending because it was better than last year. I’ll remember jumping forward, from 15th to ninth.”
“Today did not surprise me one bit about Gwyneth,” said Cedar Crest head coach Brandon Risser. “She’s one of the top girls in the state, and she raced like that today.
“She’s very consistent with her training, therefore she’s very consistent with her racing,” continued Risser. “This whole cross country season has been about building off her track success (in the spring). Adding experience and adding stamina, things kind of came together for her the last two weeks. She finished great. She was the top District Three finisher by 11 seconds today.”
Krall ran a 5:02 over his initial mile and found himself 13th at that point in the Class AA boys’ race. His second split was naturally slower, and he finished with a time of 17:13.
Krall had garnered a Class AA bronze medal a week earlier at the District Three Cross Country Championships at Big Spring High School.
“I was looking around at everybody else,” said Krall. “It was surreal. This is such an incredible event. At the beginning of the season, I just wanted to make it to districts. I did well. It wasn’t even in my wildest dreams.
“My coaches said I could medal,” Krall added. “But I was taking in the scenary. It was such a beautiful course. I just wanted to enjoy the race.”
What made Brubaker’s day even more special was the fact that she had come so close to a state medal last year as a junior. Not bad for a runner who played soccer as a freshman and finished in the middle of the pack as a sophomore.
On this day, Brubaker was in 14th-place at the mile mark and 20th at the two-mile post.
“It just proves it’s never too late to find your passion,” said Brubaker. “The second mile in any race is the hardest. I just had to stay strong, stay strong.
“I was just trying to stay with the second pack,” Brubaker continued. “I found some girls from my district. I didn’t have any of my teammates here, but I wanted someone to work with.”
While the event belonged to Young, Krall and Brubaker, it was not the Cedar Crest boys’ day. A poor start doomed the Falcons to an unfullfilling ending.
“It was not good,” said Risser. “But we were willing to race. The kids’ effort was there. The execution in the first 1000 meters wasn’t. By 1000 meters we were way back. They got on the wrong side of a traffic jam.
“You can’t put a price tag on experience,” continued Risser. “You only hope we can learn from this and be a little more hardened for this type of racing in the future.”
The last time the Cedar Crest boys’ competed at states as a team was in 2010.
“I thought we were a top-12 team in the state, on a good day,” said Risser. “Our best finish in school history was 14th. We wanted to surpass that. We didn’t. We knew there were going to be a lot of good teams at the top of the race.
“Nobody gave us a chance coming in here as District Three champions,” concluded Risser. “But you can’t take that away. You learn more from days like this.”
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PIAA Cross Country Championships
(at Hershey’s Giant Center’s 3.1-mile Course)
Boys’ Team Result
17. Cedar Crest (3) 39 Luke Hinegardener, Fr 17:26 5:37 79 Jake Barrett, Sr 17:59 5:48 81 William Sheffield, Jr 18:01 5:49 92 Ben McElroy, Fr 18:16 5:53 100 Ryan Scicchitano, Jr 18:24 5:56 103 Tommy Bildheiser, So 18:26 5:57 114 Dj Laliberte, So 18:36 6:00 Total Time = 1:30:06 Total Places = 391