BY JEFF FALK
EPHRATA – This concept of ‘winning and losing’ is less prevalent in cross country than it is in nearly any other scholastic sport. But someone forgot to break it down for Shawn Wolfe.
Wolfe is one of those rare runners who thrives on winning and being in the front of every line.
On Tuesday afternoon at Ephrata Intermediate School, Wolfe of Annville-Cleona completed his senior season in the Lancaster-Lebanon League undefeated, by winning the boys’ individual championship at the circuit’s cross country championships. After going undefeated during the Little Dutchmen’s dual-meet regular season, Wolfe solidified his position as the league’s top thinclad by running away from his 166 competitiors at the Lancaster-Lebanon meet.
Wolfe, the reigning District Three Class AA champion, covered the hilly and demanding 3.1-mile course in 16:22, which was 14 seconds faster than runner-up Harrison Schettler of Penn Manor. Last week, Wolfe’s will to win was put to the test by a multiple-night stay in the hospital, brought on by repeated fainting spells.
But following a battery of tests, Wolfe’s doctors cleared him to run. And run he did.
His first-place finish paved the way for the Little Dutchmen to come in sixth as a team, behind champion Penn Manor, Hempfield, Warwick, Cedar Crest and Garden Spot.
“Yeah, winning is important to me,” said Wolfe. “I mean I don’t want to be the guy who says second is the first loser. But I want to win.
“It (his fainting spells) happened at practice, while I was playing lazer tag, in a car,” continued Wolfe. “I was in the hospital a few days and they said it could’ve been a virus. If it was some weird heart thing, I couldn’t have done it. I remember laying in the hospital and wanting to get out and run.”
As a junior, Wolfe came in eighth at the L-L run, after finishing 13th as a sophomore.
“This year, Shawn’s looking to be the front-runner and win the race,” said Annville-Cleona coach Ben Wenger. “Today anything less than first would’ve been a great disappointment to Shawn. Shawn wins the race before he runs it. He visualizes it and then takes it to the course. He goes after it.
Wolfe got off to a good start and established a modest lead 500 yards in. By the halfway point his lead had expanded to the comfortable level, but he refused to look over his shoulder.
He simply kept applying pressure to his pursuers.
“I feel good. Maybe a little tired,” said Wolfe, who came in 11th at the ‘big-school’ Carlisle Invitational earlier in the season. “My goal was to get out hard, lead by the second mile and finish strong. I wanted to get it into their (his competitors’) heads early that they couldn’t keep up with me. The biggest thing at the start is paying attention to the starter. You just have to listen for the gun.
“I kind of go through the race in my head,” added Wolfe. “I just keep myself where I need to be. I wanted to get runner of the year (in the Lancaster-Lebanon League). That was a goal too. The goal was to put everybody away in this race.”
“You worry about the heart with fainting like that,” said Wenger of Wolfe’s health condition. “We really didn’t know what to expect. He wasn’t anywhere near himself. He looked a little shaky on the course.”
Wolfe’s teammates, senior Mark Bachman and senior Ben Mason, came in eighth and 24th respectively. Cedar Crest’s fourth-place finish was buoyed by Falcon juniors Chad Bomgardner, Willy Bragg and Jarrod Cruise coming in 11th, 12th and 13th.
“The goal was to finish where we finished in the regular season,” said Wolfe. “If we would’ve gotten higher than fifth, it would’ve been really nice.”
“Bachman ran an incredible race,” said Wenger. “He came in ranked 13th, and came in seventh. For him to beat six kids who had a better season than him, it was a great race.
“Penn Manor is such a great team,” Wenger continued. “We knew they’d be the favorite. From a team standpoint, we finished in a tie for third in the league, and all but that would be a disappointment.”
“We were 18-3 during the regular season, and got beat by three teams,” said Cedar Crest coach Brandon Risser. “It was a solid performance. But I thought we missed an opportunity to mix it up. I was very proud of the guys who ran today. They train together in a pack and you saw it out there today. We missed second by ten points.
“You’ve got to learn,” Risser added. “You’ve got to take it as a chance to make yourself better. But it’s up to them (his runners) to take ownership of it.”
On the girls’ side, the top honors went to Penn Manor junior Greta Lindsley and the team of Hempfield. Lindsley out distanced second-place finisher Emily McBride by a ridiculous 18:30 to 19:45, while the Black Knights’ margin of seven points over runner-up Garden Spot was much closer.
Locally, Cedar Crest freshman Mackenzie Shiner ran a surprising sixth, in 19:56. Annville-Cleona’s Shelby Dove was 32nd among the 140 female competitors.
The District Three Cross Country Championships will be staged on Wednesday afternoon, October 25th, on the old Milton Hershey School campus along Hersheypark Drive, across from Hersheypark Arena and Giant Center.
Those who qualify will compete at the PIAA Cross Country Meet, to be contested on the same Hershey course on Saturday, November 3rd.