In the 2010 Class AAA race, a sophomore from Central Bucks East was run over by a rogue deer halfway through the race, causing a fractured eye and concussion. The year before, a girl from Elk Lake was bumped by a passing deer in the AA race.
Still, antlers or not, Lebanon County runners had plenty of obstacles to deal with on the way to the finish line at Parkview's course in Hershey on Saturday.
Annville-Cleona's Shawn Wolfe, the District Three gold medalist, collided with a spectator early in the boys' Class AA race.
"I had a really bad start. I got boxed in and was trying to weave in and out," said Wolfe, who took 16th in 16:58. "I ran into a spectator trying to go around the corner. He just like walked out, I don't know."
Palmyra's Connor Strynkowski, the Mid-Penn Conference and County Meet champion, ate some elbows in the boys' AAA field.
"It was the turn-to-turn section - people were going down like crazy, people were elbowing," he said after finishing 45th in 16:50. "I saw one guy limp off to the side. There was like a 100 people per square foot."
Fortunately, Strynkowski's classmates found no problems navigating up and down the hills of the 3.1-mile converted golf course. For the first time in school history, the Cougar girls' squad finished in the top 10, accumulating 267 points in the Class AAA field.
"We are unbelievably proud of all of us, our whole team," junior Laura Duquette said. "All the hard work we put in over the summer and during the offseason really paid off."
Duquette set the pace for coach Barb Mellinger's crew, clocking 19:50 for 54th. Freshman Maria Tukis (59th in 19:54) and Salvo Miranda in (83rd in 20:10) followed close behind. Juniors Mariah Ricci (21:03 for 163rd) and Olivia Farabaugh (21:22 for 185) also finished strong, gaining ground after each mile.
"The strategy was not go out as fast as I did at districts so I'd have more energy for the end, which really helped my finish," added Duquette, who finished 13th in 19:24 two weeks ago. "I really wanted to medal (top 20). That goal was kind of unreachable, but it helped to motivate me and pull me along further."
For the Annville-Cleona boys, it was a bit of the opposite. The Dutchmen got out of the gate in a flash, holding fourth place after mile No. 1. They faded back to 12th after the second checker before ending in 14th
"We're happy district champions," said A-C coach Ben Wenger. "Obviously only one team can say they won states, so everybody else goes home unhappy. We're still proud of the guys. And we're proud of the fact that we're a young team and return everyone next year."
Along with Wolfe in 16th, fellow junior Mark Bachman turned in another solid performance, legging out a 17:03 for 24th. In addition, Phil Corle (176th in 18:36), Ben Mason (209th in 18:51) and Michael Darok (237th in 19:16) also picked up points for the red and white.
"I think I went out way too hard. I went out like 4:50 something, I think," Wolfe added. "The group of guys, like (North Schuylkill's race winner) Brendan Schearn and his little pack, kind of went up ahead and I couldn't keep up with them. I wanted to stay on their backs, but on the hills they started to lose me a little bit."
After back-to-back state appearances, the young Dutchmen already have their sights set on 2012.
"At the very least, we'll be back here," added Wenger, who replaced Dan Armanivage in the offseason. "You can't look into the future and foresee things whether they'll happen good or bad, but you'd expected that we'll be back to take care of business. Maybe throw a wild card or two in, and we'll be right at the top."
In all, 1,134 student-athletes from across the Keystone State, 18 from the county, competed in four races. Other local qualifiers included Cedar Crest's county champion Haleigh Echard (21:15 for 177th) in the AAA girls and Falcons Bryce Ebersole (165th in 17:44) and Daniel Neiswender (212th in 18:13) in the AAA boys.