By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
MERCER COUNTY AREA —
STONEBORO — Bible was the gospel truth Saturday morning in Stoneboro.
Hickory High sophomore Lexi Bible bested the field with a 20:22 clocking, defending her individual crown while leading the Lady Hornets to the Mercer County Cross Country Invitational crown.
The annual event — encompassing Regions 1 and 2 and hosted this year by Lakeview High — serves as the final prelude to the annual state qualifier, the District 10 Championships.
Hickory harvested 48 points to outdistance Wilmington (55), though the runnerup Lady Greyhounds’ 56-second pack time (Lexi Brumbaugh, Allison Baldwin, Hannah Drake, Rikki Brumbaugh and Hannah Winters) was considerably tighter than Hickory’s.
Greenville’s Dylan Foley flew to a 22-second victory over Slippery Rock’s Andrew Maxwell in the boys’ race; however, Commodore Perry prevailed over Hickory for the title, 50-90.
“Our men really pulled together, and they ran extremely well (Satur)day,” summarized 9th-year Commodore Perry Coach David Snyder. “These are the kind of conditions they love: Fast course, great day to run. Nothing better than cross country in the wind and cold.
“They’ve really just pulled together, so much more so than they have in past years, and I’m just so proud of all the men,” Snyder added.
Though defending champion Nathan White finished 4th, Perry placed 5 runners in the top 15, including Chad Peterson, Cody Schreiber, Paul Jewell and Eric Johnston — 8th, 10th, 13th, 15th, respectively. Their pack time was approximately 49 seconds.
“All seven of our runners were in the top thirty-five ... pretty impressive,” Snyder said.
A year ago as a freshman Bible burst on the scene and paced Hickory’s 1-2-3 finish. On Saturday, Bible belied any pressure she may have felt as defending medalist as she was in control from the outset. Bible, Jackie Abraham, Haley Boyd and Bailey and Paige Brown clocked in approximately 3:38 apart.
“I really pushed, stride by stride, all the way, and it got me to first,” Bible began, admitting, “There was a little bit of of pressure. I knew throughout the race where my competition was, but I wanted to keep my (caliber of) running going from my freshman to my sophomore year, so I ran and just focused ...
“I know my competition, and we’re always pushing each other and focusing on each other, pushing each other throughout the race. So it’s just good competition,” added Bible, who bested Sharpsville’s Maddie Przicina by 28 ticks. Abraham annexed 3rd and Boyd 5th.
“She had a good start, and at this time of year it’s very important to get out and go,” assessed veteran mentor Tony Mastrian. “The middle of this course is, pretty much, uphill, so that was a real focus area on the course. She was able to do that and she accelerated on the downhill, the last part.
“She ran a very strategic race and a very solid race, and that’s good to see at this time of year,” Mastrian added. “You could see her at the starting line that her mind was very focused for an aggressive race, and she was ready to go.”
Foley finished 71st in last year’s PIAA Championships, but sent a message to the remainder of his county counterparts. He assumed the lead on the 2nd mile and never relinquished it, outkicking Maxwell, Wilmington’s Calvin Gealy and White by approximately 22, 25 and 32 seconds, respectively. White was 29th at last fall’s state championships, Snyder said.
“I just tried to pace with them — not that I wanted to go out that fast — but just tried to pace with (the leaders). When I got to the loop, I just tried to pick up the pace and tried to keep at that pace and make a strong finish, too,” Foley related.
“Grove City didn’t run their varsity ... but the competition was really tough ‘cause some of these guys have hit ‘sixteens’ (minutes), too, and I didn’t know if I’d get there But I got ’em,” added Foley, who trailed Maxwell as the mile mark, 5:24 to 5:27 (as well as Gealy and White).
Hickory has its sights set on qualifying for the PIAA Class AA Championships, but only 2 spots out of D-10 advance, and Villa Maria and Gen. McLane loom as Lady Hornets’ hurdles, as well as neighboring rival Grove City.
“We have a good chance ... I’m very excited!” Bible added.
“They do push each other,” Mastrian said of his Lady Hornets — all of whom, with the exception of Bailey Brown, are underclassmen. “They’re a very close group.
“We know the importance ... in cross country, it’s not just your first or second (placewinner); it’s all the girls working together. So we’re still trying to get our fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh girls up closer to the top three, and they realize it and they work very hard together,” Mastrian added.
“With the district (championship) coming up, some people tend to not run in this race,” Mastrian said regarding Saturday’s tune-up. “But we think it’s important to give it a really good push, focus, and get the girls in a good race mentality for next week, ’cause we realize next week is the most important race to get you to the state level.”
Last year White went from Region 1-2 titlist to 29th at the state championships. In so doing, he may have put Perry on the PIAA cross country radar.
“I think so,” Snyder asserted. “(White) just really brought it hard, and he’s still improving, and everyone else is improving. I think there was pressure (on White), but more from his own internal drive to do well and to perform just like he has in the past.
“But we know he’ll make us proud, and (the Panthers) do everything they can to do the right thing,” Snyder continued, noting, “The guys in front of him are super-fast and also in AA, as well. As far as single-A, he was the top single-A finisher.”
Note: As he has in the past, Mark Courtney of RunHigh.com provided timing and race results. ... Lakeview Coach Glenn Dosch and assistant Deanna Maxwell coordinated the day’s slate. Dosch said he arrived at the school’s campus at 5:34 a.m. ... Former Lakeview coaches Jack Cress and Greg Slatcoff assisted at the finish line. Along the 3.1-mile course there are two key points: The Faulcon Bridge (named for former coach Lee Faulconbridge) and Cress’ Corner bridge. ... Saturday’s District 10 Championships will take place in Buhl Farm Park.
MERCER COUNTY INVITATIONAL
Team standings and key: Hickory (H) 48; Wilmington (W) 55; Commodore Perry (CP) 122; Sharpsville (Sv) 128; Greenville (G) 130; Sharon (Sh) 136; Slippery Rock (SR) 147; Grove City (GC) 181; Lakeview (L) 218; West Middlesex (WM) 224.
Individual Results: 1. Lexi Bible (H) 20:22; 2. Maddie Przicina (Sv) 20:50; 3. Jackie Abraham (H) 20:54; 4. Shae Grinnell (CP) 20:56; 5. Haley Boyd (H) 21:05; 6. Tabitha Donaldson (SR) 21:21; 7. Lexi Brumbaugh (W) 21:42; 8. Maddie Thrahser (G) 21:47; 9. Allison Baldwin (W) 21:57; 10. Hannah Drake (W) 21:59; 11. Nanami Mano (G) 22:00; 12. Bailey Brown (H) 22:05; 13. Rikki Brumbaugh (W) 22:19; 14. Andrea McConnell (L) 22:30; 15. Samantha Oakes (CP) 22:32; 16. Hannah Winters (W) 22:38; 17. Cassie Lukonic (Sv) 23:10; 18. Brienna Roys (Sh) 23:21; 19. Michaela Schmid (GC) 23:22; 20. Kate Adams (CP) 23:23: 21. Lindsey Anderson (J) 23:28; 22. Izzy Schell (Sv) 23:35; 23. Helena Zrile (WM) 23:38; 24. Xsila Powell (Sh) 23:45; 25. Melanie Wizorek (GC) 23:46.
Team standings and key: Commodore Perry (CP) 50; Hickory (H) 90; Grove City (GC) 107; Wilmington (W) 108; Greenville (G) 139; Slippery Rock (SR) 172; Lakeview (L) 186; Jamestown (J) 200; West Middlesex (WM) 210; Sharon (Sh) 223; Reynolds (R) 250.
Individual Results: 1. Dylan Foley (G) 17:16; 2. Andrew Maxwell (SR) 17:38; 3. Calvin Gealy (W) 17:41; 4. Nathan White (CP) 17:48; 5. Caleb Bickel (J) 17:57; 6. Kyle Boyd (H) 18:05; 7. Logan Griffen (H) 18:08; 8. Chad Peterson (CP) 18:14; 9. Jared Masters (W) 18:17; 10. Cody Schreiber (CP) 18:25; 11. Ryuji Mano (G) 18:31; 12. Christian McElhaney (J) 18:32; 13. Paul Jewell (CP) 18:34; 14. Jacob Hughes (GC) 18:37; 15. Eric Johnston (CP) 18:39; 16. Justin Pago (R) 18:40; 17. Bradley Calleja (Sv) 18:40; 18. Jacob Powell (GC) 18:40; 19. Ryan Davis (W) 18:41; 20. Colton Moretti (H) 18:43; 21. Brady Anderson (GC) 18:44; 22. Will Henry (SR) 18:45; 23. Kody Cropp (CP) 18:48; 24. Justin Walter (H) 18:48; 25. Matt Dilts (Sh) 18:52.
Team Standings: Commodore Perry 33, Grove City 48, Hickory 75, Greenville 106, Lakeview 111.
Individual Results: 1. Kyle Tumpak (Greenville), 19:15; 2. Jason Casteel (CP), 19:46; 3. Tony Kiser (CP), 20:14; 4. Brandon Hogue (GC), 20:16; 5. Scott Magargee (Lakeview), 20:27.
Team Standings: Hickory 15, Slippery Rock 41.
Individual Results: 1. Christa Marrie (Hickory), 23:45; 2. Nina Ordinario (Hickory), 24:27; 3. Jessica Garcia (Hickory), 25:21; 4. Destiney Golub (Hickory), 25:50; 5. Kaitlyn Slezak (Hickory), 26:13.
JUNIOR HIGH BOYS
Team Standings: Hickory 39, Grove City 41, West Middlesex 74, Wilmington 94, Lakeview 108.
Individual Results: 1. Chad Grundy (Hickory), 11:37; 2. Ben McKnight (GC), 11:42; 3. Zach Tingley (Lakeview), 11:45; 4. Drew Slezak (Hickory), 12:00; 5. Ryan Myers (GC), 12:05.
JUNIOR HIGH GIRLS
Team Standings: West Middlesex 29, Hickory 117, Wilmington 117, Grove City 121, Greenville 121.
Individual Results: 1. Hope Pursel (WM), 13:20; 2. Hannah Pursel (WM), 13:32; 3. Olivia Mott (Reynolds), 13:38; 4. Macey Redmond (Hickory), 13:48; 5. Ashley Shoemaker (Mercer), 13:54.