Paced by his gold-medal gallop in the boys' class AA race, the Little Dutchmen repeated as District Three champions with three runners finishing in the top 10. Wolfe led the way in 16:44, followed by junior classmates Mark Bachman (fourth in 17:17) and Ben Mason (ninth in 17:33). Overall, A-C (64) edged Lancaster Mennonite (74) and Boiling Springs (81) in the closest of the day's four races.
And the Dutchmen won't be the only Lebanon County runners returning to Hershey next Saturday for the PIAA State meet. The Palmyra girls' squad also qualified with a third-place finish, earning the first Class AAA berth in school history. Individually, Cedar Crest sophomore Haleigh Echard will be making her second state appearance after crossing in 26th in the AAA girls' field (20:20).
On the boys' side, Mid-Penn Conference champion Connor Strynkowski of Palmyra will continue his impressive senior season after coming in sixth in the boys' AAA event with the county's fastest time of the day (16:38). He will be joined by a pair of Falcons in senior Bryce Ebersole (23rd in boys' AAA) and sophomore Daniel Neiswender (35th) in the state version.
Still, it was A-C's Wolfe who stole the show on Wednesday.
"No, no way (did I expect it)," he said.
Aside from the steep hills on the converted golf course, Wolfe also had to contend with Lancaster Mennonite's Jared Schatz, the odds-on-favorite who went undefeated in the Lancaster-Lebanon League regular season. Wolfe ran neck-and-neck with Schatz and Littlestown's Xavier Sauvageau until about halfway through the first mile when he took the lead for good.
"I surged going into the hills and looked back and figured I'd just keep this gap the whole time, then pick up on the downhill, and I'll open it up on them. That was my strategy," added Wolfe. "I was so scared having him next to me the whole time 'cause I knew he had a great kick, I didn't want to be near him in the last stretch.
Wolfe's ponytail proved to be the only thing that could keep up with him down the stretch. Schatz finished more than 20 yards back in 16:59 with Sauvageau third in 17:02. Wolfe's time was 12 seconds better than his personal best of 16:32; set on Elco's much flatter course earlier this season. Still, Wolfe said this was the best race he ever had. Annville-Cleona first-year coach Ben Wenger agreed.
As did his teammates. Bachman, Mason, Phil Corle (19th), Jon Zechman (34th), Jeff Inman (36th) and Michael Darok (42nd) all finished in the top half of a field consisting of 127 runners.
"They're ecstatic. They put so much time and effort into their workouts over summer and in practice. They took it seriously when they had to, but still had a great time this season," Wenger added. "This is special, but they've done it before. States was a whole different story last year. Now, we're going to keep plowing ahead and keep moving forward."
Basically, keep making progress, just as the Palmyra program has done in recent years. Two seasons ago, the Cougars sent one runner to the PIAA meet followed by three last fall.
In 2011, they will have eight with Strynkowski and the girls' team comprised of junior Laura Duquette (13th), freshman Maria Tukis (14th), junior Mariah Ricci (37th), freshman Salvo Miranda (49th), junior Olivia Farabaugh (63rd), junior Ashley Cypher (84th) and sophomore Devin Strynkowksi (119th).
"I think (the girls' team) might have gone in '79, but they would have been AA, and that's a very different dynamic," said Palmyra coach Barb Mellinger. "We're very excited and actually had no idea until we heard the results.
Mellinger also mentioned the Cougars may stay in a hotel next Friday night to celebrate the achievement.
"We're going to stay in a hotel next Friday, because we want to get the state experience," she said. "'Cause otherwise, it's just like coming (to Hershey) for a dual meet. We're excited."
Notes: In class AAA, the top five teams and the top 25 individuals, not part of a state-qualifying team, advanced to the PIAA meet. ... In class AA, the top two teams and top 10 individuals, not part of a state-qualifying team, advanced to the PIAA meet.