Lebanon County was well represented at Saturday's PIAA Cross Country Championships as the Palmyra girls' galloped to gold and the Annville-Cleona boys brought home bronze.
Held at Hershey's Parkview Course, the Cougar girls edged Class AA runner-up Dallas by three points in the final standings, 94-91, to claim the school's first cross country title and fifth overall in county history.
Palmyra's golden performance in the 3.1-mile race wraps up the third leg of a fall trifecta that already featured a Mid-Penn Conference championship and District Three title.
"We talked about the other teams vying for the No. 1 position. We knew we could win, but we didn't emphasize that," Palmyra coach Barb Mellinger said.
Led by the sophomore tandem of Maria Tukis and Miranda Salvo, the orange and black placed four runners in the top 40 of a field of 217.
"They work really hard, and they work really hard as a team," added Mellinger. "We knew it would take 1-to-7 to win. We flip-flopped a couple, and it took 1-to-7 to win."
Tukis, fresh off her district victory two weeks ago, crossed in 19:40 for ninth place. Her rapidly improving classmate Salvo came in three seconds later for 10th place. Olivia Farabaugh (32nd), Laura Duquette (40th), Devin Strynkowski (63rd), Katie Keck (108th) and Mariah Ricci (131st) also contributed to the Cougars' cause.
"We knew it would be really close," said Salvo, who beat her personal record by one second Saturday. "I think our confidence and experience really helped us."
"No one ever PR's here (at states)," quipped Tukis. "Salvo always peaks at the big moments."
Six of the seven Palmyra runners had previously competed in a state event. The experience of the big stage, along with knowing the ups-and-downs of Parkview's contoured path, paid dividends Saturday.
"I think some of the other teams that do not run here ran out too fast," Mellinger guessed. "If you go out too hard, you're going to feel it on the hills in the middle, and then you'll have nothing left for the end.
"The first mile is a very fast section of the course, but you have to be a little conservative because of the middle section being probably the hardest thing they've run all year."
Perhaps no team - regardless of gender - knew the course as well as Annville-Cleona's boys. Making its third straight state appearance as a team, head coach Ben Wenger's boys placed third with 151 points behind Class AA champion Pottsgrove (96) and Grove City (99).
"Out of any of the teams here, we had the most experience.
Reigning Lancaster-Lebanon League champion and 2011 District Three titleist Shawn Wolfe took 26th place in 17:01. Mason, running the course for a seventh time in his scholastic career, clocked a 17:14 for 32nd. A third senior, ultra-steady Mark Bachman, came in 48th.
"Every single time we come into it with high expectations, and every single time - nerves or something - but we haven't been able to perform as well as we wanted to," added Mason. "Today, we definitely did a lot, a lot better.
Jeff Inman, Garrett Bosworth, Phil Corle and Jon Zechman also zipped through the field of 228.
"I think (experience) is a huge deal. For instance, Ben Mason had one of his worst races at states this past year, and then today, he had the best race of everybody - because he had something to build on," said Wenger. "Shawn Wolfe did not have his best race today, but he was able to hold it together enough to still keep the team in contention."
Individually, the fastest finish by any county athlete belonged to Palmyra's Calvin Conrad Kline. The senior placed seventh in the Class AA field in 16:38.
"I was hoping for a medal; I'm more than happy to get in the top 10," said Kline, a newcomer to the state scene after an Achilles' injury sidelined him as a junior.
Other individual competitors included Annville-Cleona's Shelby Dove (90th in girls' Class A) and Cedar Crest freshman Mackenzie Shiner (125th in girls' Class AAA).
Notes: In other boys' action, West Chester Henderson won the AAA title as Warrior Tony Russell finished first in 15:45. In Class A, Northeast Bradford bagged the boys' crown, while Holy Cross' Rico Galassi took the race in 15:59. ... In other girls' action, Pennsbury took the top prize in AAA, and Unionville's Courtney Smith snatched gold in 18:16. Elk Lake claimed the Class A title, while Elk County Catholic's Kennedy Weisner whizzed home in 18:29.