Not even a district three-peat satisfies the Annville-Cleona boys' cross country team nowadays.
The Dutchmen captured their third straight PIAA District Three Class AA cross country title Wednesday afternoon at Hershey's Parkview Course. Yet, their biggest challenge still lies another 3.1 miles away.
"We said we wanted to (three-peat), but we didn't make a big deal about it," head coach Ben Wenger explained. "We said the more important thing is to peak at the state meet. There's no reason this team can not place in the top five of the state."
With three runners in the top 16, the Dutchmen topped York Suburban 100-127 to walk away with the seventh team district championship in school history. Seniors Shawn Wolfe, Mark Bachman, Ben Mason and Phil Corle joined sophomores Jeff Inman, Jon Zechman and Garrett Bosworth to add another trophy to A-C's collection started in 1970, 1973-74 and 1979.
Wolfe, last year's District Three champ, will carry the torch to next Saturday's PIAA meet after claiming second place in a field of 219 boys. The Lancaster-Lebanon League's top gun crossed the finish line in 16:39 - four seconds behind Big Spring's Vinny Todaro (16:35). Todaro took fifth in the AAA field a year ago, but the Bulldogs bumped down to AA when the district split into three classes over the summer.
"I would've liked to repeat (individually)," Wolfe said. "But if I had to choose, I'd choose the team because we never won three districts in a row for our school ever.
That group includes his classmate Bachman, perhaps the most consistent of A-C's long-distance runners over the past three years.
"We've been running together for a long time and this is the last year," reflected Bachman. "Our team goal is to the win the state meet. That's the one thing we haven't done. We want to be on the 'State Wall' at school. There's a 'District Wall' and a 'State Wall.' We need first or second (at states), but we want gold; we don't want silver."
Bachman, making his seventh career trek around Hershey's course, placed seventh Wednesday in 17:27 after collecting third and fourth in his sophomore and junior years, respectively.
"Mark's made such a living off the postseason that today was actually a little bit of a disappointment for him time-wise," said Wenger, in his second season since replacing Dan Arminavage. "But Mark always steps up for us at big meets. Last week at leagues he had a tremendous race. Today, maybe not as good, but last year at the state race, he had probably the best race of everybody."
Inman, a 10th-grader nursing a bum knee, appeared to be fully recovered Wednesday, checking in at 16th in 17:46.
"No question, our No. 3 runner had a great race coming back from an injury he was battling," Wenger added. "We held him out of the last race of the year, and at the (L-L) league meet, he didn't do well. He wasn't up where he should have been. Today, he was definitely back to where we've seen him for most of the year."
Mason (31st) and Corle (44th) also earned points for A-C. Mason, the district's two-time reigning 400 dash champ, displayed his closing speed by reeling in a York Suburban runner down the stretch.
"Ben Mason has one of the all-around best kicks of any of these guys running, if not the best kick. You might know about his exploits in the 400," boasted Wenger. "A kid of that build - running cross country and just being able to torch people at the end of the race - is incredible."
The Dutchmen finished 14th at the state meet last season. The 2012 PIAA Class AA boys' race will be held back at Parkview next Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Palmyra's Calvin Conrad-Kline will also be lacing up his shoes for the PIAA gallop. Conrad-Kline qualified by finishing in fifth place Wednesday in 17:02. This will be the first state appearance for the Cougar senior after an Achilles' injury cost him his junior season.
"I was expecting top five; I knew who was up there. They were mostly local except for the kid from York Suburban (Chris Diaz)," said Conrad-Kline. "I got a great start. I started right next to Shawn Wolfe; me and him are pretty good friends. We had that pack of three of four at all times.
"The course reminded me a lot of (Palmyra's home) course. There's a lot of ups and downs. But for every up, you get a down almost immediately after. Times are about the same, too. They are about what we though they'd be for the conditions."