By DENNY DYROFF
For 21st Century Media
EAST MARLBOROUGH -- Heading into Friday's 63rd Ches-Mont League Boys Cross Country Championships there was little -- make that zero -- doubt about what team would win the meet. The trophy could have had West Chester Henderson's name written on it before the meet even began.
But, the individual title was definitely up for grabs.
Once the race began, West Chester East's Chris Cummings made sure he was the one who would be grabbing the gold medal. The Vikings' speedy senior finished first on the 5K course at Unionville High with a clocking of 16:03.
Henderson's Tony Russell, who posted a time of 16:25, was runner-up and his teammate Erci Stratman was third at 16:26. The nationally-ranked Warriors -- fifth by Running Times, 12th by Dyestat and 15th by Saucony Elite --placed all five scorers in the top nine to win the team title with 28 points.
West Chester East, which had three runners finish in the top 10, was second with 90 points followed by Downingtown West at 107, Downingtown East at 125 and Great Valley at 132. "It was a nice day -- a beautiful day to run -- so that helped a lot,' said Cummings, who was ninth at last year's Ches-Mont meet with a time of 17:07. "But, it was hard to close it in with no-one there pushing me.
"The first mile was pretty relaxed. I think a lot of the top guns were holding out. I made my move a little before the mile. It was earlier than I intended to but, with the way the race was going, I thought it was the right time.I came through the mile in 5:05.That's a little slow if I'm trying to run for time. Today, I was running for place so that's what I was looking for. In the second mile, Kennett's Chris Kienzle was running tough. I was really impressed with how fit he is.
"By the two-mile, I had a sizeable lead. After that, I was really feeling it. I just set mental goals -- trying to get to a certain place at a certain pace or trying to get the top of a hill while pushing it. Those self-challenges definitely worked. I want to congratulate the Henderson team. They ran really well.'
Russell was also silver medalist at the Ches-Mont Championships last year. He then went on to win the gold medal at the District 1 Class AAA Championships and followed with a gold-medal performance at the PIAA Championships.
"I wasn't really going for the win today,' said Russell, a senior.'We were just cruising -- getting ready for next week (District 1 Class AAA Championships) and states (PIAA Class AAA Championships).
"Around a mile into the race, Cummings told me he was going to go. Our entire top five just stuck together the entire time. Now, it's time to just rest and get ready fornext week.'
Stratman, also a senior said, "I just wanted to get out and run -- whatever felt good. The second mile felt good. We stayed together as a pack. With 800 (meters) to go, I opened my stride a bit and rolled up on people. My kick felt pretty good today.'
West Chester East's Eric Diestelow was fourth at 16:26 and teammate Stephen Dages finished 10th at 16:42.
"I went out and just tried to stay with the lead pack and not work too hard early,' said Diestelow. "I was in sixth or seventh at the mile. We were all together -- except for Chris (Cummings). The second mile was good. We all stayed in that pack and ran together until the two-mile.
"Then, as we went out in the steeplechase, it was pretty strategic. With 800 meters left, the pace picked up. The Henderson guys took off and I just tried to stay with them. My kick felt pretty good.'
The top 10 also included Avon Grove's Josh Smith, who placed fifth with a time of 16:29, and Downingtown East's Billy Caldwell, seventh at 16:32.
Ches-Mont LeagueBoys Cross Country ChampionshipsTeam scores: West Chester Henderson (H) 28, West Chester East (WCE) 90, Downingtown West (DW) 107, Downingtown East (DE) 125, Great Valley (G) 132, Coatesville (CO) 156, Avon Grove (AG) 156, Unionville (UN) 222, West Chester Rustin (WCR) 234, Kennett (K) 264, Bishop Shanahan (BS) 290, Oxford (OX) 376, Sun Valley (SV) 379, Octorara (OC) 445.Individual: 1. Cummings (WCE) 16:03, 2. Russell (WCH) 16:25, 3. Stratman (WCH) 16:26, 4. Diestelow (WCE) 16:26, 5. Smith (AG) 16:26, 6. Barchet (WCH) 16:30, 7. Caldwell (DE) 16:32, 8. Knapp (WCH) 16:34, 9. Collins (WCH) 16:36, 10. Dages (WCE) 16:42, 11. Kienzke (K) 16:44, 12. Willig (GV) 16:46, 13. Moy (WCH) 16:48, 14. McDonald (UN) 16:51, 15. Sappey (DW) 16:54.