HERSHEY — In many years, when the athletes at the PIAA Boys Class AAA Cross Country Championships are called up to the stand to receive their medals, the group of the top runners in the state has a number of runners from the Times Herald area.
Unfortunately, that was not the case this year.
Only 25 of the 219 competitors in the race received medals and only one of the elite 25 was a runner from this area.
Spring-Ford High's Paul Power was the top local state qualifier based on his performance at last weekend's District One Class AAA meet.
It was the same story Saturday in the state championship race at Hersheypark's Parkview Cross Country Course. Power crossed the finish line with a time of 16:39 to finish 20th overall.
"I got off to a pretty good start,' said Power. "I was all the way at the end (box) on the start so I knew I wouldn't get trapped. I went through the mile in 4:49 and was right there with the front pack.
"In the second mile, I just tried to stay with the lead pack. I was sixth or seventh at the two-mile and my time was around 10:05.The third mile went great — until the last hill. That hill hurt. Right after the hill, about 10 guys passed me. I tried to kick but my legs were on fire.'
The top 20 was dominated by runners from the Delaware Valley, including West Chester Henderson's Tony Russell, who won the gold medal for the second year in a row.
There were 13 Philly area runners in the top 20 with 11 from District One and two from the Philadelphia Catholic League.
One other local runner broke into the top 50. Upper Merion's Austin Cooper accomplished the feat when he placed 47th with a time of 16:59.
"I had a really good race,' said Cooper. "I got caught up a lot at the start and was back in the 100s. I tried to work my way up through the woods. I was 70th at the mile. My time was 5:02 which was right where I wanted it to be. In the second mile, I worked the hills pretty well.
"I was at 10:36 at the two-mile and had moved up to around 50th. The pace was OK. I tried to work the third mile hard. I caught a lot of people on the last downhill and then had a pretty good kick.'
The PIAA Class AAA meet is such a competitive, talent-laden meet that even finishing in the top 100 is an impressive achievement.
Three other runners from the Times Herald area were able to place in the upper century — Plymouth Whitemarsh's Dan Shalala, who was 54th at 17:03, North Penn's Ryan Tung, who took 58th place at 17:05 and his Knight teammate Ryan Grace, who finished 85th at 17:19.