By DENNY DYROFF
Journal Register News Service
LOWER SAUCON --For the second year in a row, the showdown for the team title at the District 1 Class AAA Girls Cross Country Championships was a two-team battle between Unionville, which is ranked number one in the state, and No. 2 Pennsbury.
Not surprisingly, Unionville, which has a higher national ranking than its rival from Bucks County, prevailed. They took first with 39 points and Pennsbury placed second with 56. Central Bucks East was third with 163 followed by Strath Haven with 187 and Great Valley with 188. The top five teams from District 1 qualify for the state meet as teams.
As expected, Unionville not only finished with the best team, it also produced the best runner in the meet. For the second year in a row, Courtney Smith won the gold medal. Last year, she did it with a time of 17:36. This year, she did it with a clocking of 17:18.
"I felt really good today,' said Smith, who is the defending Class AAA state champion.
"I actually got a little boxed in at the beginning. Olivia Sargent took the lead but she was never out of striking distance. She was just a couple steps ahead of me.
"The second mile was when I moved up. At the 2400 (meter-mark), I was up by 30 yards. It was a little windy but I was ready for it. I feel that I had more in me at the end of the race, I could have pushed a little harder but it's difficult to do when you're running alone.'
The fight for the runner-up position brought about an interesting reaction from fans lining the final stretch to the finish line. Everyone was cheering for Olivia -- but some of the screamers were wearing Pennsbury black-and-orange and others were wearing Unionville blue-and-gold
It was a "Battle of Olivias' that ended with Unionville Olivia Young taking second place at 17:47 and Pennsbury's Olivia Sargent finishing third at 17:57.
"The ' Battle of Olivias' -- it was exciting,' said Young. "I heard my name even if it wasn't specifically for me. There was definitely some jostling for place at the start, I was around 20th and was running in the main pack at the mile. My teammate Kacie Breeding was right there with me and we were working off each other. I was sixth at the two-mile but my time was a little slower than I wanted.
"The third mile was mostly downhill and I tried to use that to my advantage. I moved into second place and then tried to hold it for the last 1,200. But, I knew that Olivia Sargent had a great kick and that if she was anywhere near me in the last straightaway, she'd beat me.'
Unionville's other finishers were Breeding (sixth, 18:07), Gretchen Mills (10th, 18:28), Elizabeth Edwards (20th, 18:46), Bridgette Zerbe (68th, 19:36) and Emily Fisher (80th 19:45). Fisher, who is usually the team's third runner, ran despite being quite ill.
Downingtown West's standout freshman Aislynn Devlin made an impressive district meet debut by finishing fourth with a time of 18:02.
"I didn't have goals for times or place today,' said Devlin. "I just wanted to qualify for states. Olivia (Sargent) had a great race and just beat me by a little. I felt good the whole time. I was sixth or seventh at the mile.
"The second mile was my weakest part but I still was able to move up to fifth. After that, Olivia and I were going back-and-forth. My finish was O.K. but I think I could have started kicking a little sooner.'
Great Valley, which has a strong track record for qualifying for the state championships as a team, did it again this year. The Patriots' scorers were Anna Willig (12th, 18:34), Elise Claffey (21st, 18:46), Sarah Hipwell (30th, 18:57), Tabitha Wismer (56th, 19:22) and Haley Quinn (69th, 19:36).
The top 25 finishers not from qualifying teams earned individual berths for the state meet.
This year's list of state qualifiers included Conestoga's Annamarie Shultz (32nd, 18:58), Downingtown West's Michelle Myland (34th, 18:59) and Tabitha Loftus (42nd, 19:08), West Chester Rustin's Jess Delviscio (37th, 19:05) and Downingtown East's Lexi VanBlunk (41st, 19:07) and Maddy VanBlunk (45th, 19:11).
In the Class AA meet, Villa Maria Academy's Moira Abbot placed 10th with a time of 20:15 and Octorara's Caroline Stickey finished 14th with a clocking of 20:26. Both earned berths at next weekend's state meet.