Maintaining their fluidity while coasting through courses and darting up steep hills with full heads of steam, South Western High's Ryan Hertzog and Littlestown's Xavier Sauvageau were the stabilizing forces for their respective cross country teams.
Both displayed consistency and excellence while representing the Hanover area deep into the season.
Because of this, Hertzog and Sauvageau share the All-Area Boys' Cross Country Runner of the Year award.
Hertzog, a 5-foot-11 junior, proved winners are made when nobody is watching. He ran every day during the summer through blistering heat and relentless downpours. Days off were never an option, though there were certainly some recovery runs mixed with all of the mileage.
The residual effects of Hertzog's fierce workout regimen were evident from the start of the season. Avoiding a late-season flameout and the inevitable factors which tend to derail runners -- injuries, bouts of inconsistency, overtraining, shin splits, cramps -- Hertzog was the model for consistency.
After logging 300-plus miles over the summer, Hertzog arrived at the season in top-tier shape. He dipped under the high-water mark of 17 minutes before any other area runner did, breaking the barrier on Sept. 22. Hertzog clocked a scalding 16:50 at South Western's home course, one Hertzog values because of its "simplicity" and the smooth terrain under the tall autumn trees.
Following a race in which he was never challenged or close to being picked off, Hertzog looked as if he had just completed an intensified warm-up.
There was no gasping for air. There was no collapse after he reached the finish line. There was no sucking back wind or burning lungs. Hertzog, though spent, may still have had some gas left in the tank.
This race was certainly a portent of things to come for the junior, whose painstaking work ethic seems unmatched. Hertzog was second in the YAIAA Championships and the District 3 Class AAA championship. He placed seventh in the Briarwood Invitational and also took second in the Paul Short Run.
"Ryan is a traditional cross country runner who likes the hills and will perform well on the hill, which is his advantage," said South Western coach Bruce Lee. "I think he proved that in states and districts. Those hills, he was really able to charge them and tackle them. It showed how fit he really was."
In the District 3 Class AAA Championship, Hertzog trekked through the multi-faceted course at Hershey Parkview with the speed of 5:21 per mile, blazing up the monstrous hills. He labored through the dreadful final mile with the same furious pace and extended stride, clocking a smoking-hot 16:34 5K finish.
Like a sweet-toothed child chasing the ice cream truck, Hertzog was relentless.
Hertzog churned out 16:45 in a dramatic dash to the finish at the more difficult Hershey course in the PIAA Championships.
Sauvageau, who balanced the exhausting beam of being a dual fall athlete, was propelled by a late-season burst. He capped his junior year with fine showings at districts and states and exceeded the expectations heaped upon him.
The meets get bigger and bigger and Sauvageau gets faster and faster.
In districts and states, Sauvageau did what Littlestown coach Dan Lawrence has constantly stressed while strategizing for mega-meets. He hit his mile splits at the times projected for him.
"I think districts was an encouraging race both physically and emotionally for me," Sauvageau said. "It was a privilege to be able to play soccer because I was able to use it as a speed workout. It developed my speed for cross country. Districts were definitely my most memorable race because I was focused throughout. I felt like I could really accomplish something."
In the state championships, Sauvageau came up a thread short of a trip to the medal stand by clocking 17:09 (5:32 per mile) to place 26th in Class AA.
At districts, the kid who hails from a rich running bloodline (his brother Chris starred at Delone Catholic and currently runs at Canisius College) ran possessed.
Xavier jumped out with the front pack and never let up, opening up his stride and darting up super-steep hills with a vivacious vigor. This ultimately led Sauvageau to a resounding third-place finish, clocking a 17:02 to earn his second consecutive berth to the PIAA Championships.
"He really is goal-driven," Littlestown coach Dan Lawrence said of his lead runner. "His dad even told me that, before the state meet, he was watching cross country races on Youtube. He's always setting goals for the end of the season. He's setting goals for each race. Each race presents an opportunity to get a better time than he had before. He's very goal-driven."
One of the biggest sources of motivation for Sauvageau this season was a lackluster race at the YAIAA Championships, when he was overwhelmed by a debilitating case of cramps.
Sauvageau was disappointed after the race, but it helped made him humble and hungry as he finished the season with a personal best in districts and another commendable race in states.
"When he had the issue at counties, we talked about it very briefly that day," Lawrence said. "We know it doesn't happen all the time and I told him that we've got to keep moving forward. There's no sense of looking back at things you can't change."
Sauvageau didn't change much to his pre-race routine for his final two races at Hershey. Once again, music from his IPad still pumped into his ears throughout the van ride to Hershey. Once again, Sauvageau closed his eyes and said a brief prayer before positioning himself at the starter's mark.
A memorable season.
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ALL-AREA BOYS' CROSS COUNTRY TEAM
--- Danny Beegle, sr., Gettysburg: Known to start well and pick off runners, Beegle led an oceanic-deep unit under coach Jack Harbaugh. Beegle did a commendable job charging the behemoth hills and navigating the challenging landscape at Hershey Parkview, clocking 17:56 during the District 3 Championships. Beegle smoked many on his home course, where he registered 16:38 to leave many highly-decorated visitors in the dust.
--- Aaron Gebhart, fr., New Oxford: Gebhart looked was an accurate depiction of a seasoned harrier in some of the pressure-cooking races. Gebhart raced to an 18-minute 5K at Hershey and emerged into the alpha dog of Colby Frantz's pack. His poise beyond his years was evident during the YAIAA Championships, where he kicked in 17:42 to claim 20th.
--- Ryan Hertzog, jr., South Western: Hertzog repeats his All-Area first-team selection after he produced the best finish among the boys at the PIAA Class AAA Championships with 37th place. The leading runner in the Hanover area in dual meets, the Co-Runner of the Year also placed in five other invitationals, icnluding runner-up finishes in the YAIAA and District 3 Class AAA meets.
--- Nick Poole, jr., Delone Catholic: With a late kick that picked off runners, Nick Poole emerged into one of the area's most dynamic runners. His ability to catch frontrunners added some entertainment value to his races. Poole posted 17:50 at Codorus State Park. Poole, meeting coach Scotty Watt's expectations, filled the leadership gap left by Chris Sauvageau.
--- Xavier Sauvageau, jr., Littlestown: The strain of playing two sports hardly affected the Thunderbolt junior, who joined Hertzog as Co-Runners of the Year. He placed 11th at the Gettysburg Invitational with a time of 16:25, third in the District 3 Class AA Championship in 17:02 and 26th at the PIAA Class AA Championship.
--- Dakota Laughman, soph., Spring Grove
--- Kirk Mummert, fr., South Western
--- John Roan, jr., Fairfield
--- Brady Wilt, fr., Biglerville
--- Joel Zepp, jr., New Oxford