Neiswender and his Falcon teammates continued their perfect seasons Tuesday afternoon by strolling to victory at the Lancaster-Lebanon League Cross Country Championships at Ephrata Middle School.
Cedar Crest placed four runners in the top 15 to hold off runner-up Hempfield 54-94 in the boys' team standings. Neiswender crossed first in 16:27, pulling away from Warwick's Michael Urban (16:42) for gold. The senior flirted with the lead for most of the race, using a relentless kick on the homestretch to blow by Urban.
Falcons Willy Bragg (16:50, 5th), Jarrod Cruise (16:59, 8th), Chad Bomgardner (17:14, 14th) and Jordan Cruise (17:33, 26th) joined gold-medalist Neiswender as point scorers for the Falcons.
"We got the job done, and that's the bottom line," Crest head coach Brandon Risser said. "Were we 100 percent on our 'A' game? No. But we had a lot of people step up and a lot of people run tough. It was a team effort."
Neiswender became the sixth county boy to win the L-L League title since 1990. He is the first Falcon to win the 3.1-mile race since Alex Galli led Crest to the L-L championship in 2010.
"This was a humongous goal," explained Neiswender. "It was really, really nerve wracking coming into this race because historically in the past few years I haven't done well.
The 3.1-mile race opened with little separation at the front of the pack. Neiswender and Urban exchanged the lead several times before gaining a slight edge on the field in the final mile.
"No one really wanted to take it at the exact pace I wanted. I had to lead, which I really don't like to," said Neiswender, who holds a personal-best time of 16:14. "In the first half of the race, I would much rather let other people lead and stay in the back of the front pack -- but I got what I wanted at the end."
Neiswender entered the race as the league's top runner after going undefeated during the regular season.
"Even though I did go undefeated through the regular season, I had guys with me every single race," said Neiswender. "That's what made it nerve-racking coming into this race."
He expected his biggest threats to be either Manheim Township's Brian Delany or one of his many capable teammates.
"It's awesome. I love having my teammates back there behind me," said Neiswender. "It just gives me the comfort up there because I train with those guys so I know that's right where I'm supposed to be.
As a group, the Falcons captured the Section One Crown with a 21-0 overall record (10-0 league).
"I love the process even more than the result," said Risser. "I love the process of it all because it starts over the summer. Heck, for some of these kids, it started three years ago."
Risser also received a strong performance from sophomore Matthew Royer, who finished 28th in 17:40.
"You need five in cross country, but guys outside of that top five can really have an impact on who gets there," added Risser. "We wanted to get out there and mix it up, be in the race in the first mile and try to take control in the second mile. I'd say we executed pretty well there, then some people felt better than others in the last 1.1 (miles)."
Next up, the Falcons travel to Hershey's Parkview Course on Wednesday for the District Three Class AAA Championships at 12:45 p.m. "I am 100 percent confident that in one week most people on the line are going to feel better than they did today," said Risser. "Hopefully we can build on this and cash in even more so."
In the girls' race Tuesday, Penn Manor's Greta Lindsley completed a four-year sweep by running away from the field in 19:15. Manheim Central senior Danae Peters took home silver in 19:42. Cedar Crest junior Michelle Kiss came in 34th as the top local finisher (21:38).
In the team standings, Hempfield upended Manheim Township, 74-94, to repeat as champions. The Falcons placed 14th as a team with Kiss, Kyla Waldron (22:03), Mackenzie Shiner (22:33), Kelsey Lyter (23:06) and Anna Moffitt (23:36) earning points.
Annville-Cleona's Jon Wenger won back-to-back titles in 1994-95. Dutchmen grad and current Shippensburg freshman Shawn Wolfe collected gold a year ago. The Cedar Crest trio of Pat Clark (2001), Jon Jackson (2009) and Galli (2010) has also won the league title since 1990. "
Next Wednesday's district schedule also includes the Class AAA girls (1:45 p.m.), Class A boys (2:30 p.m.), Class A girls (1:45 p.m.), Class AA girls (3:30 p.m.) and Class AA boys (4:15 p.m.).
High School Cross Country
Lancaster-Lebanon League Championships
Tuesday at Ephrata
Boys' Team - 1. Cedar Crest (54), 2. Hempfield (94), 3. McCaskey (127), 4. Garden Spot (192), 5. Penn Manor (202), 6. Warwick (210), 7. Manheim Central (211), 8. Solanco (226), 9. Manheim Township (235), 10. Lancaster Mennonite (237), 11. Annville-Cleona (278), 15. Lebanon (413), 20. Elco (470), 21. Northern Lebanon (542).
Boys' Individual - 1. Daniel Neiswender (CC) 16:27, 2. Michael Urban (WAR) 16:42, 3. Xavier Guttierrez (McC) 16:46, 4. Brian Delaney (MT) 16:48, 5. Willy Bragg (CC) 16:50, 6. Duncan Brady (HEM) 16:50, 7. Duncan Hopkins (McC) 16:54, 8. Jarrod Cruise (CC) 16:59, 9. Noah Brady (SOL) 17:01, 10. Ethan Hummel (MT) 17:05.
14. Chad Bomgardner (CC) 17:14, 21. Jonathon Garcia (EL) 17:26, 26. Jordan Cruise (CC) 17:33, 27. Jeff Inman (A-C) 17:33, 28. Matthew Royer (CC) 17:40, 29. Tyler McFeaters (NL) 17:42, 30. Garrett Bosworth (A-C) 17:50, 37. Zach Miller (CC) 17:53, 39. Jared Harnish (EL) 17:55, 52. Tanner Craun (CC) 18:16, 54. Linus Morales (LEB) 18:16, 57. Anthony Frattorole (A-C) 18:20, 59. Derin Klick (LEB) 18:22, 77. Jon Zechman (AC) 18:44.
Girls' Team - 1. Hempfield (74), 2. Manheim Township (97), 3. Ephrata (140), 4. Warwick (174), 5. Elizabethtown (175), 6. Manheim Central (197), 7. Solanco (198), 8. McCaskey (206), 9. Donegal (223), 10. Garden Spot (232). 14. Cedar Crest (290), 16. Annville-Cleona (421), 18. Elco (493).
Girls' Individual - 1. Greta Lindsley (PM) 19:15, 2. Danae Peters (MC) 19:42, 3. Kara Mueser (ET) 19:47, 4. Molly Conrad (HEM) 19:59, 5. Maryn Bernhardt (MT) 20:01, 6. Emily McBride (MT) 20:01, 7. Morgan Perry (SOL) 20:13, 8. Kim Campbell (HEM) 20:20, 9. Brianna Thomas (HEM) 20:23, 10. Kelsey Gerhart (GS) 20:24.
34. Michelle Kiss (CC) 21:38, 43. Kyla Waldron (CC) 22:03, 44. Molly Foster (LEB) 22:04, 52. Tiarra Helman (A-C) 22:19, 56. Abby Dundore (EL) 22:26, 59. Mackenzie Shiner (CC) 22:33, 77. Kelsey Lyter (CC) 23:06), 83. Michelle Rudd (A-C) 23:15.