BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – Derin Klick and Lily Brubaker saved their individual bests for the very end. Members of the Palmyra boys’ and girls’ teams’ performed their individual bests together, throughout.
Saturday afternoon’s annual Lebanon County Cross Country Championships, contested at Annville-Cleona High School for the first time, came down to motivation. Klick and Brubaker’s motivation came from within, while the Cougar boys and girls were more affected by external forces.
Klick and Brubaker captured the boys’ and girls’ races in similar comeback fashions. Klick’s kick with 50 yards remaining nipped Elco’s Nick Madigan at the finish line, and Brubaker had enough left in the tank to catch and pass Palmyra’s Ellie Keck with about 100 yards to go.
But those late-race heroics could not dampen the team party that the Cougars conducted. Palmyra counted 27 team points to easily capture the boys’ team championship, by some 36 points, and the Cougar girls totaled 20 team points to out distance runner-up Cedar Crest by 44 points.
Elco was third among girls’ teams and host Annville-Cleona fourth. On the boys’ side, Cedar Crest was third, Annville-Cleona fourth, Lebanon fifth and Northern Lebanon sixth.
“It’s all about individuals as well,” said Palmyra boys’ and girls’ head coach Dave Hollen. “I want every kid to run their best on any given day. We talked to every single kid about what we wanted them to do. Each one had their own individual goal.”
“This is my first year of cross country,” said Brubaker, a sophomore, who runs distance for the Raider track and field team in the spring. “Track season is mostly the reason I wanted to come out for cross country. The team aspect of cross country is different. Everyone cheers you on and is proud of your accomplishments.”
“I forget it’s my senior year,” said Klick, himself a star on the track, but as a middle-distance runner for the Cedars. “It really hits me hard. I should’ve gone (hard) earlier. There was a second I was doubting myself. I was worried if I was going to catch him (Madigan).
“I definitely prefer track,” Klick continued. “It’s just two different builds. It’s a lot more pushing. In track, you’re out there and you stay out there. In this, it’s about making moves.”
While Klick’s move came late, he never allowed the goal to leave his sight.
For the first mile, Klick ran with a Palmyra pack that included Matt Carroll, Derek Wadas, Brad Blaszynski and company. But somewhere around the two-mile mark, Madigan joined the fray and actually assumed the lead.
“I really settled into the pace during the second mile,” said Klick. “I figured whoever went for it at the end was going to get it. There comes a point where you know you should be ahead of some of the other runners.
“It all starts with him (Lebanon coach Tom Pearson),” continued Klick. “He knows everything. If you listen to him, everything will work out. This course was confusing. Some people didn’t know where they were going. But we all worked together.”
Klick, who was the runner-up to Elco’s Jared Harnish a year ago, was timed in 17:31.6 and ended up a full two seconds ahead of Madigan. Carroll, Wadas and Blaszynski finished together in a pack, another spot and a few more seconds off the pace.
Ryan McAllister of Elco was fifth, followed by the Cougars’ other two ‘counters’, Kevin Cole and Garrett Funck, while Raider Cole Nelson was ninth and Dylan Mehler of Cedar Crest tenth.
“I’m ahead of where I was last year,” said Klick, who owns a personal best of 17:03. “But it’s been a tough week. I ran a lot of hills. This course has a lot of short hills.
“Last year, I really wanted to make it to states,” added Klick. “States is always a step ahead. It’s what it’s all about for me – a step ahead. I want this year to be my best year.”
“We thought we had a pretty good chance,” said Hollen, whose boys and girls were coming off team championships at last weekend’s Lebanon Valley College Invitational. “We’d like to see them (Cedar Crest’s top runners) here, but I know they want to get ready for the postseason. We think we can compete with them.
“Right now, I just want to improve on what we did last year,” Hollen continued. “Districts will be a nice test for the boys because they’ve never been (Class) AAA before.”
For the opening portions of the girls’ race, Brubaker trailed Keck by significant amounts of time and distance. But Brubaker never lost track of her and she refused to be swallowed up by the Cougar pack that was stalking her.
Over the last mile, Brubaker made steady strides in her attempt to run Keck down, finally catching her before the leaders entered the stadium portion of the race.
“No, I didn’t think I was going to win,” said Brubaker. “My coach was yelling at me when there was three-quarters of a mile left, ‘If you want to do it, do it now’. So I kicked it in.
“I never lost sight of her (Keck),” Brubaker added. “But I did fall behind further than I wanted to. Sometimes you just have to go for it. I had my doubts. I just pushed with everything I had in me.”
“It doesn’t matter that much that she got passed at the end,” said Hollen of Keck. “It’s not a big deal when a good runner passes you when you’re going all out. Ellie was our first girl last week, and she was our first girl today. You’ve got to be ready to go out hard in these big meets. I was happy to see her in front.”
Brubaker’s margin of victory over Keck ended up being almost seven seconds – 20:08.8 to 20:15.2. Keck headed a Cougar pack that was evenly spread out, one which featured teammates Kelsei Bixler in third place, Sarah Hollen in fourth place, Amelia Baldo in fifth, Emily Cowfer in sixth and Caroline Williams seventh.
Cedar Crest junior Hannah McCurdy came in eighth. Elco junior A.J. Madigan took ninth. And Cedar Crest freshman Mia Reigert finished tenth.
“My goal was top five,” said Brubaker. “My strategy was staying with the pack. I was expecting more of a group up front.
“I like the course,” Brubaker added. “It’s not very hilly. I like the macadam walkways.”
“Yes, we’re very pleased,” said Hollen. “It was one of our goals, to stay up front and run as a pack. We talked about closing gaps in front of us.
“It happens in practice,” continued Hollen. “They know to push each other. They’re kind of interchangeable, up front and in the middle.”
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Annual Lebanon County Cross Country Championships
(at Annville-Cleona High School)
1. Derin Klick (L) 17:31.6, 2. Nick Madigan (E) 17:33.9, 3. Matt Carroll (P) 17:36.5, 4. Derek Wadas (P) 17:37.5, 5. Brad Blaszynski (P) 17:39.9, 6. Ryan McAllister (E) 17:41.4, 7. Kevin Cole (P) 17:51.2, 8. Garrett Funck (P) 17:54.7, 9.Cole Nelson (E) 17:58.2, 10. Dylan Mehler (CC) 18:05.5, 11. Jordan Berger (NL) 18:05.5, 12. Anthony Frattarole (AC) 18:08.2, 13. Klayton Adams (NL) 18:12.9, 14. Daryl Werni (L) 18:13.2, 15. Zach Toth (P) 18:17.7, 16. Sean Springer (AC) 18:21.8, 17. Lucas Richardsen (P) 18:27.2, 18. Alec Richard (P) 18:47.0, 19. Lucas Wampler (CC) 18:47.4, 20. Ryan Firestone (CC) 18:47.7, 21. Taylor Taylor (AC) 18:52.5, 22. NIck Blandy (CC) 19:00.2, 23. Levi Brooks (E) 19:00.3, 24. Dominique Brooks (CC) 19:06.8, 25. Chance Leed (E) 19:08.6, 26. Darren Hitz (CC) 19:11.2, , 27. Chris Habowski (E) 19:15.0, 28. Sterling Hetrick (E)19:18.3, 29. Alex Kudlanov (NL 19:19.1, 30. Matthew Inman (AC) 19:19.1, 31. Gavin Knox (AC) 19:33.1, 32. Quinten Pemberton (CC) 19:37.6, 33. Doyle Shertzer (AC) 19:39.3, 34. Nick Felty (CC) 19:43.8, 35. Anier Caldwell (L) 19:44.6, 36. Hunter Hartranft (E) 19:46.7, 37. Devin Root (L) 19:48.8, 38. Earl Pyles (NL) 19:50.7, 39. Riley Klick (L) 20:04.8, 40. Ethan Fortuna (AC) 20:47.9, 41. Xavier Carpenter (AC) 21:00.7, 42. Brandon Bomberger (NL) 21:25.3, 43. Matthew Hoffman (L)21:48.5, 44. Patrick Bray (L) 21;52.1, 45. Dustin Varvel (NL) 21:57.9, 46. Scottie Porter (L) 23:37.9.
1. Palmyra 27, 2. Elco 63, 3. Cedar Crest 91, 4. Annville-Cleona 107, 5. Lebanon 118, 6. Northern Lebanon 125
1. Lily Brubaker (E) 20:08.8, 2, Ellie Keck (P) 20:15.2, 3, Kelsei Bixler (P) 20:39.4, 4. Sarah Hollen (P) 21:05.4, 5. Amelia Baldo (P) 21:34.4, 6. Emily Cowfer (P) 22:30,3, 7. Caroline Williams (P) 22:40.4, 8. Hannah McCurdy (CC) 22:51.2, 9. AJ Madigan (E) 22:51.8, 10. Mia Reigert (CC) 22:54.2, 11. Mary Tshudy (AC) 23:25,2, 12. Jacy Carmenatty (P) 23:33.7, 13. Krysta Weik (CC) 23:42.6, 14. Emily Williams (E) 23:49.0, 15. Kayla WIlburn (CC) 24:12.6, 16. Jess Gutekunst (AC) 24:19.1, 17. Jalissa Nolt (E) 24:21.1, 18. Michaela Smith (CC) 24:30.4, 19. Shakira Lopez (L) 25:02.3, 20. Zoee Garis (AC) 25:04.2, 21. Drashti Patel (NL) 25:33.8, 22. Sarah Domencic (AC) 26:00.6, 23. Hailee Smith (CC) 26:12.5, 24. Zoe Sweigert (AC) 26: 28.6, 25. Abbey Dubble (P) 26:50.6, 26. Mackenzie Peters (CC) 27:01.1, 27. Jaya Hackman (E) 27:08.8, 28. Erin Ditzler (NL) 27:08.9, 29. Julia Underkoffler (E) 27:20.0, 30. Shaylin Youman (NL) 28:26,2, 31. Sydney Flory (E) 30:02.2, 32. Megan Werni (L) 30:54.7, 33. Amanda Rhoads (AC) 31:37.9.
1. Palmyra 20,2.Cedar Crest 64, 3. Elco 65, 4. Annville-Cleona 88