HERSHEY — They ran their hearts out, each and every one on that Pottsgrove boys team that wanted so much to repeat.
It just wasn't meant to be.
A second straight state title slipped away by a mere four points as the Pottsgrove boys team finished behind Tunkhannock at the PIAA-AA championships, Saturday, at the Hershey Parkview Cross Country Course.
Tunkhannock won the AA team title with 101 points while Pottsgrove finished second with 105 points.
After one mile the Falcons were fifth as a team. After two miles they were third and then they really cranked it up that last mile.
"We just ran out of real estate,' said veteran Falcons coach Larry Rechtin.
Second best team in the state in Class AA is still something be darn proud off. And last year, when they made history winning their first ever state title, they had no individual medalists. This year they had two with Derek Lopez leading the Falcons pack and crossing 22nd (17:10), and Josh Toth right behind him at 23rd (17:13).
Evan Cook (37th, 17:28, John Garges (52nd) 17:38, Brenda Wurtz (85th) 17:53, Mickey Prior (160th) 18:40), K'Lif Underwood (194th) 19:12) rounded out the Falcons team.
And there seems to be a trend of history making on the area teams over the last years.
With all the good distance runners Spring-Ford has had, Paul Power became the first ever Spring-Ford boy runner to medal, crossing 20th here in Class AAA with a time of 16:29.
Former Spring-Ford girls standout Heather Giovagnoli was the Rams only other medal winner, placing 25th five years ago.
Power felt sick to his stomach and all over his body. It took him 40 minutes to be able to utter a word. White as a sheet, Power looked on the verge of passing out any moment for that more than half an hour. He still finished way up from his 88th position last year.
Not the best day either, health-wise, for Methacton and area four-year standout Kara Steinke, who finished 46th in Class AAA with a 19:55, 20 spots behind her 26th finish last year, but was still the area girls highest finisher for the fourth straight year.
Steinke has not been feeling well in recent weeks. And this has also never been one of her favorite courses.
Also in the Class AAA girls, Owen J. Roberts senior Jill Weston placed 60th (20:09) in her first time here, and Boyertown junior Emily Schumaker, in her second time here, placed 81st (20:23), way up from her 132nd last year.
Daniel Boone junior Sophia Guglielmi placed 73rd (20:19), Alex Santora 84th (20:25).
Upper Perkiomen junior Rachel Landis, the lone area AA girls qualifier, placed 131st (21:36).
In Class AA boys, Phoenixville's Adam Yosua placed 69th (17:45) while Upper Perk's Jake Keiper placed 150th (18:37).
In Class AAA boys, the only other AAA area qualifier, aside from Power, was Perkiomen Valley senior Dave Garton, who placed 155th (17:54).
And as the Pottsgrove boys will tell you, there is nothing like having you whole team competing along side at states to add strength, drive, and joy.
"I'm happy with how I ended this race, but honestly, I just wanted to go out for the rest of the guys,' Lopez said. "Because we worked so hard. We started running in June and it was all about giving it everything I had today. Not only for me, but for my school, and the other six guys we had in the race. I was trying as hard as I could for that. We weren't really nervous coming in, we were more anxious. Because we're been preparing for this moment right here, right now all year long.
"Of course we wanted to be first, but there is nothing wrong with second place. And hope we win again nest year and I can medal again too.'
Lopez will be back, while the senior Toth will not. The two have been switching back and fourth in first for the Falcons all season long. Toth was the one at districts, Lopez here.
"We race together for half of the race, and then we pick the rest of the race like we want to run,' Toth said. "Today I held on as long as I could. Team-wise, this year was definitely tougher competition because there wee just so many tough teams. We really had to step it up our game to compete. Considering that we laid it all on the line and we raced our hearts out, that's all we can do for the team. I am very happy that I medaled, it was actually a goal that I set last year. But the main goal was to get everyone to have that momentum to go and chase after the state title again.
'I talked with Garges and Cook, the other two seniors that will be leaving, that we laid the foundation, set the example for what they need to do to come back here and win that state championship again.'
And strength in the AA teams did shift this year. Grove City, who the Falcons beat by three points last year finished fifth this year.
"Very proud of the guys, they re awesome,' said veteran Falcon coach Larry Rechtin. "Second in the state, that's impressive. Great group of guys. We made up so much ground (on the last mile). The kids stuck to the game plan. The last mile of the race, we were running people down left and right. We just ran out of real estate.
"Our team was a little bit different this year in the sense that we had a couple of medal winners. But the way they all ran was incredible. We've come a long way and we'll continue to build, try an give it another run next year.'
So will Power. For now, he has already made Rams boys history. The Rams highest ever finisher at PIAA championships.
"It feels awesome. Unbelievable!' Power said. "No, it doesn't make the pain go away,' he conceded, trying to smile. "Right before the last hill I felt it. The stomach and the head.'
He was in seventh place at the time.
"I tried to push it the last hill and just couldn't,' he said. "And I really slowed down and just struggled to the finish. But I wanted to get a medal today and I still got 20th, so that's what I was aiming for. The 16:29 was a good time for me, that's what I was aiming for.'
It was 40 now minutes after the race and he still couldn't walk, or stop throwing up, but he toughed it out like the trooper he is.
"I think he went out there and really, really pushed himself, see how high he could get up at states,' his Rams coach Brian Sullivan said. "And think he just kind of ran out of a little bit of gas at the end. He laid it out there, was going above an beyond what he did at districts last week (when Power was 10th).'
For Steinke it was, of course, her final high school race. But she never liked this hilly Parkview trail.
"I am definitely not going to miss this course,' Steinke said sternly. "And I still do not feel as good as I should be feeling. Coming in, I was really, really hoping to be back to normal, feeling like I normally feel racing. I didn't happen. Obviously, I am iron-deficient (according to her doctor), and have other health issues that we're not sure of yet. But I felt exactly the same as I felt last year finishing 26th, that I raced my absolute hardest, whether or not my body is tired, whether or not I'm fighting something I don't know what it is.
"Also, my season is really long. More and more invitationals are being added. I kind of accepted that. I've kind of accepted the fact that it may not always be the way I want it to be here at states. I honestly don't think I could do another high school cross country season. I'm ready for a change and to move on.
"But I'm really, really proud that I definitely have seen an improvement on my mentality. Not getting so worked up in races, and really remembering to have fun along with racing as hard as you possibly can. I was sentimental at the start, suddenly thinking it was the last time I'd be wearing a Methacton jersey for cross country.'
Methacton veteran cross country coach Steve Mahan, sure was sentimental.
"I've used the expression a couple of time during the course of this season, bitter-sweet is the way it is,' Mahan said. "I've never had anybody in my entire career to coach anybody as good as Kara. It's been a great run and an honor to coach her for four years.'
If Schumaker keeps up her speed, her runs here aren't over. And she was happy to improve much from last season here.
"Oh, my gosh, I was super excited,' Schumaker said. "I couldn't have asked for a better day, better weather, a better race. I definitely had more fun, but I was also nervous this year. But definitely a lot better than last year's states and I couldn't be happier.'
Weston had to wait until her senior year to finally make it here. And she made it a great race.
"I don't know what happened today,' Weston said, all smiles. "It's a great race just to be in. It's the last race of my senior year, so I had to go as hard as I could, That's what I was thinking the whole race, that it was my last one and I had to give it my all, that I could rest later. It was a lot of pressure, There's a lot of people here, and all caliber runners. It's a very different ball game, it seems like PAC-10's (which her OJR team has won twice now) is so far away.'
Landis, too, will be back.
"Just for time today,' Landis said. "I was going for trying to get under 21, but it was over. My first time at states and this is a pretty hilly course, so I'm OK with it. Hopefully, I'll be back here next year,'
West Chester Henderson won the Boys AAA team title (60), ahead of North Allegheny (97), and Cardianl O'Hara (101 ... W.C. Henderson's Tony Russell won the boys AAA race (15:49) ...
AA boys winner: Dominic Deluca, Dallas (16:21) was the boys AA winner ... District 1-AAA girls winner Unionville was also the PIAA winner (51), ahead of Pennsbury (57) and Mount Lebanon (101) ...
Tessa Barrett (Abington Heights) won the AAA girls race (17:30 ... Dallas won the AA girls team title (99), with Elizabeth Chikotas (Saucon Valley) the AA girls winner (18:43).