By DENNY DYROFF
For 21st Century Media
UPPER PROVIDENCE -- With both Downingtown West and Methacton listed as team entries in the girls large school race at Saturday's Bulldog Invitational cross country meet, it appeared as if there would be another good race between the Whippets' Aislinn Devlin and Methacton' Kara Steinke.
At last week's Abington Invitational, Steinke crossed first and Devlin was second. But, a repeat showdown this week was not to be.
"We only brought our junior varsity teams today,' said Devlin, who was at the meet in street clothes. Our coach wanted out JV runners to have the chance to run against varsity competition.'
As expected, Steinke, Methacton's standout senior, took first place in the annual meet at Rose Tree Park -- with no one challenging her. The state meet veteran clocked a winning time of 18:18 while Central Bucks East's Elizabeth Huuki was a distant runner-up at 18:42.
The top finisher from Chester County was Downingtown East's Lexi VanBlunk. The freshman placed 11th with a time of 19:19 -- close on the heels of North Penn's Brianna Mengini (19:16) and Central Bucks West's Maggie Villalba (19:18).
Villalba was the gold medalist at last year's Bulldog Invitational. C.B. West also captured the team trophy while Downingtown West was runner-up.
This year, the team trophy was taken back to Bucks County but by a different Central Bucks team. C.B. East placed first Saturday with 38 points followed by North Penn (80), Cardinal O'Hara (83), Central Bucks West (117), Downingtown East (125), West Chester Henderson (165), Methacton (223), Avon Grove (230), Downingtown West (243) and Upper Darby (246).
Lexi VanBlunk led the way for Downingtown East, which had two other finishers in the top 25 -- Anja Weiler, who was 20th at 19:45, and Maddy VanBlunk, who was 21st at 19:50.
"I went out hard, said Lexi VanBlunk, who placed third at last weekend's Twin Valley Invitational. "At the mile, I was 13th or 14th. It was a little fast but it got more comfortable as the race went on. I felt really good in the second mile and went from 14th to 11th.
"In the third mile, I stayed in 11th until the very end. A girl came up on me (Cardinal O'Hara's Grace Mancini, who finished one place and one second behind VanBlunk) but I was able to hold her off. I had a good kick. I liked this course a lot because there weren't many hills.'
West Chester Henderson had three finishers in the top 25 -- Maddie Bixler, who placed 18th with a clocking of 19:42; Taylor Kitchen, who was 22nd with a time of 19:56; and Laurel Sutherland, who finished 24th at 19:57.
"I tried to go out at a decent pace and pick girls off as I went,' said Bixler, a junior. "I was 29th at the mile. I picked it up in the second mile but more in the third mile. At the end, I passed a Central Bucks East girl (Meaghan Wilcoxen) and we finished together.'
Both Bixler and Wilcoxen finished at 19:42 but the officials listed the C.B. East runner at 17th and Bixler at 18th.
The only other Chester County runner to finish in the top 25 in the girls' large school race was Avon Grove's Emily Castle who placed 23rd with a time of 19:57.
In the small school race, Villa Maria Academy placed sixth with 210 points. Strath Haven took the team trophy with 26 followed by Upper Merion (101), Gwynedd-Mercy Academy (139), Episcopal Academy (151) and Merion Mercy Academy (183).
The only area girls to finish in the top 25 were Bishop Shanahan's Emily Bracken, who was 15th at 20:46, and Villa Maria's Moira Abbott, who was 23rd at 21:06.
At Rose Tree Park
Small School team scoring: Strath Haven 26, Upper Merion 101, Gwynedd-Mercy Academy 139, Episcopal Academy 151, Merion Mercy Academy 183Individual
1. Kennedy (Strath Haven) 19:24, 2. Wilson (Strath Haven) 19:37, 3. Wolters (Strath Haven) 19:43, 4. Stribrny (Notre Dame) 20:05, 5. Galligan (Speringfield) 20:10, 6. Butler (Upper Merion) 20:15, 7. Malmberg (Episcopal Academy) 20:24, 8. Szekely (Gwynedd-Mercy Academy) 20:28, 9. Snyder (Strath Haven) 20:33, 10. Ashworth (Masterman) 20:37.
Large School team scoring: Central Bucks East 38, North Penn 80, Cardinal O'Hara 83, Central Bucks West 117, Downingtown East 125Individual
1. Steinke (Methacton) 18:18, 2. Huuki (Central Bucks East) 18:42, 3. Black (Wissahickon) 18:48, 4. Dawson (Central Bucks East) 18:50, 5. Morris (Central Bucks East) 18:52, 6. Kelly (Cardinal O'Hara) 18:57, 7. Clowser (North Penn) 19:02, 8. Valenti(North Penn) 19:11, 9. Mendini (North Penn) 19:16, 10. Villalba (Central Bucks West) 19:18.