By DENNY DYROFF
For 21st Century Media
EAST MARLBOROUGH -- Unionville simply outclassed the competition when it hosted Friday's Ches-Mont League Girls Cross Country Championships. The Indians put all five scorers in the top eight and had all seven runners come across in the top 15.
The Indians won the meet with a score of 22 while Downingtown West was runner-up at 76. They were so dominant that if the championships were scored as a dual meet featuring the Indians against every other runner in the meet, the host team would have won by a score of 22-33.
Last year, Unionville easily won when they placed all five scorers in the top 10 -- and all seven runners in the top 14. This year, the Indians did even better -- and they did it without the services of Emily Fisher, one of their top three, who missed the meet because of illness.
For the third year in a row, Unionville's Courtney Smith won the gold medal with ease. She crossed first with a time of 18:00 -- well ahead of Downingtown West's stellar freshman Aislinn Devlin, who was runner-up at 18:40.
"We just wanted to come out without killing ourselves because we'll be extending our season for over a month with regionals and hopefully nationals,' said Smith, a senior who was the gold medalist at last year's PIAA Class AAA Championships in Hershey. "It was a good day -- really nice weather.'
For the first third of the race, Devlin was running right with Smith.
"It was nice being pushed,' said Smith, who will attend Harvard University next year. "Our coach (Mark Lacianca) told me to stick with her (Devlin) for the first mile. She's awesome for a freshman. Having her with me helped. It's nice to not have to run three miles by yourself.
"I just stayed with Devlin for the first mile. Then, when the race went into the steeplechase part of the course, I pulled away.'
Devlin said, "I was kind of intimidated because she (Smith) is amazing,' said Devlin, one of the Ches-Mont League's all-time best freshmen. "I knew she didn't start super fast so I just tried to stay with her. I ran with her for the first mile-and-a-half.
"I was right with her. Then, she took off in the second mile. I tried not to totally die. I still felt pretty strong in the second mile. But, the last mile was hard because it was so windy. I felt I couldn't get my legs going -- especially in the last 800. I had a little kick at the end -- but it was hard.'
So far this season, Smith has fared extremely well at prestigious East Coast invitational meets. She won the McQuaid Invitational in Rochester, N.Y, and took first in her race at the Cherokee Challenge in Marlton, N.J. Last weekend, she was third in the Eastern States race at the Manhattan Invitational in New York City.
"We finished first as a team at all three of those meets,' said Smith. "Manhattan was a 4K race, McQuaid was a three-mile race and Cherokee was a two-mile race. So, today was our first (multi-school) 3K race this season.
"At McQuaid, we beat New York's Fayetteville-Manlius. They're seven-time defending champions at the Nike Cross Country Nationals. Then, we beat them again at Manhattan.'
Currently, Unionville is ranked high nationally by a number of sources -- first by Running Times magazine and second by experts Saucony Elite and Dyestat.
The Indians' other finishers in Friday's meet were Olivia Young (third), Kacie Breeding (fourth), Ellie Edwards (sixth), Gretchen Mills (eighth), Bridgette Zerbe (13th) and Molly Wentz (15th).
"It was a good race for me today,' said Young. "Kacie and I ran five-six for most of the race. We knew we were going to work off each other. Our main goal was just to get out of this healthy -- to get a good run in but not kill ourselves.'
Breeding, a sophomore in her first season of cross country, said, "This was my first time running with Olivia in a race. It was a step up for me. And, it was more of an all-out race for me.
"I thought the second mile was good. But, going uphill at the start of the third mile, it began to get hard. Then, Olivia said ' we're kicking,' So, I said ' O.K.''Also placing in the top 10 were Downingtown West's Michelle Myland (fifth), Downingtown East's Lexi VanBlunk (seventh), Great Valley's Sarah Hipwell (ninth) and Kennett's Taylor Kitchen (10th).
Ches-Mont LeagueGirls Cross Country ChampionshipsTeam Scores: Unionville (UN) 22, Downingtown West (DW) 76, Great Valley (GV) 97, Downingtown East (DE) 101, Avon Grove (AG) 138, West Chester Henderson (WCH) 142, Coatesville (CO) 167, West Chester Rustin (WCR) 220, West Chester East (WCE) 244, Oxford (OX) 246, Kennett (K) 318, Octorara (OC) 325, Bishop Shanahan (BS) 367, Sun Valley (SV) 440.Individual: 1. Smith (UN) 18:00, 2. Devlin (DW) 18:40, 3. Young (UN) 19:13, 4. Breeding (UN) 19:13, 5. Myland (DW) 19:42, 6. Edwards (UN) 19:52, 7. VanBlunk (DE) 19:54, 8. Mills (UN) 19:58, 9. Hipwell (GV) 19:58, 10. Kitchen (K) 19:58, 11. Loftus (DW) 19:58, 12. Claffey (GV) 20:00, 13. Zerbe (UN) 20:00, 14. Keegan (AG) 20:02, 15. Wentz (UN) 20:04.