LOWER SAUCON — Looking at the results of the top finishers at this year's District 1 Girls' Class AAA Cross Country Championships could give the reader a feeling of dÃ©jÃ vu.
For the second year in a row at the district meet, the top local stories were produced by Methacton's Kara Steinke, Wissahickon's Lotte Black and Gwynedd-Mercy Academy's team.
The Gwynedd Mercy girls captured their second straight District 1 Class AA title. Steinke was the top local finisher from the area in the Girls' Class AAA race and Black was the second-best local finisher at the meet which was held Friday morning at Lehigh University's Goodman Campus.
Gwynedd-Mercy claimed the Class AA team championship trophy with 59 points and was part of the Athletic Association of Catholiuc Academies' sweep of the top three places. Nazareth Acadey was runner-up with 71 and Merion Mercy Academy finished third with 125.
"Our girls ran great today,' said GMA coach Larry Wilson. "It was a very good day. I'm very proud of my girls. They worked hard to get to this point. We're defending champs and we only graduated Emma Keenan from last year's team.
"We're still very young with two freshmen and two sophomores among our top runners. Our freshman Steph Szekely got third overall. Caroline Dennin, our third runner, ran really well and so did Allie Flint.'
Gwynedd-Mercy was led by freshman Stephanie Szekely, who placed third with a time of 19:51. The Monarchs' other finishers were Allie Flint (eighth, 20:02), Caroline Dennin (14th, 20:32), Allie Szekely (19th, 20:52), Emily Gregor (20th, 20:55), Tara Webster (22nd, 21:02) and Sydney Hirokawa (30th, 21:32).
In the Class AAA race, Steinke, despite feeling ill, crossed 14th with a time of 18:35. Last year, a healthier Steinke claimed the fourth-place medal with a clocking of 17:57. With her top 15 finish, the Methacton senior qualified for the 2013 PIAA Class AAA Championships, which are scheduled for next Saturday at Hersheypark.
"I collapsed after I crossed the finish line,' said Steinke, who won her fourth straight gold medal at the PAC-10 Championships. "But, I definitely felt better than I did at Heebner (Park, the site of last week's PAC-10 meet) and Foundation (PIAA Foundation XC Invitational at Hershey). I'm iron deficient. Hopefully, my iron pills are working.
"I'm really happy with finishing 14th because I wasn't even sure I was going to be able to finish the race. Our taper has been going well so my legs felt strong. But, my breathing was a little off. It was choppy toward the end of the race and I felt weak.
"Still, it was a great day to run. The course was in the best condition I've ever seen it. It was padded down. It felt like running on a track. I'm sure that if I had been 100 per cent healthy that I would have finished in the top five.'
Black, who placed 26th at districts as a freshman with a time of 18:55, finished 18th this year with a clocking of 18:42. And, she qualified for the state meet for the second year in a row.
"I knew last year I got an 18:55 and I wanted to beat that time,' said Black, who won her second consecutive Suburban One League American Conference gold medal last week on the same course at Lehigh. "The first mile today was definitely fast.
"I picked the North Penn girl (Brianna Mengini) to work off. She really helped me push myself. Whenever I felt her surging, I'd pick it up. I worked the uphill, passed a few girls on the downhill and then got a few more on the last straightaway. I finished strong.'
The battle for the Girls Class AAA team trophy was won by Unionville, the top-ranked team in the state. The Indians took first with 39 points and second-ranked Pennsbury placed second with 56. Central Bucks East was third with 163 followed by Strath Haven (187) and Great Valley (188).
Unionville's Courtney Smith repeated as district gold medalist when she crossed with a time of 17:18 and her teammate Olivia Young was runner-up at 17:47. Pennsbury's Olivia Sargent placed third with a time of 17:57.
The top five teams qualified for states as teams. The 25 highest-placing individuals not on any of these five teams qualified for next Saturday's meet in Hershey.
The area's other individual qualifiers for next Saturday's state meet were all North Penn runners -- Brianna Mengini (19th, 18:43), Phobe Clowser (27th, 18:52) and Melanie Vlasic (35th, 19:01).
"The first mile was really good,' said Clowser. "We had a good box and we all got out well. The first mile was exhilarating with all the people and all the cheering. It was a good race for me. I got 27th and I qualified for states.'