Hear from athletes and coaches around Franklin County who will head to Hershey next week for the PIAA Cross Country Championships. Video by Lindsey Smith
In her first District 3 championship meet, and on the biggest stage of her short cross country career, Greencastle-Antrim's Taryn Parks met all expectations to claim the District 3 Class 2A girls championship, beating the next runner - another freshman - by six seconds.
Parks cut the tape in 18:21 for a 5:55 pace, breaking her course PR at Big Spring by 23 seconds. Her finish qualified her for a bid to the 2016 PIAA cross country championships next Saturday in Hershey.
The Chambersburg girls placed third in the 3A race to qualify as a team for states for the sixth straight year, and two area boys - Andrew Feldman of Chambersburg and Dalton Leab of James Buchanan - also will advance to states.
"She ran a totally different race here today," Greencastle coach Rich Secrest said of Parks. "She ran the race we wanted her to run at Mid Penns, so she made her move at about the mile and a half mark. This race was a little more stressful, she was a little more taxed (because she made her move so early), you could tell when she was coming down, but she moved well and kept that gap."
Although Parks was being challenged by Oley Valley's Rebecca Snyder at the one-mile mark, and Eastern York's Maddie McLain continued to push to the front of the pack, Parks separated herself from freshman Marlee Starliper of Nothern York, who finished second, in the final 800 meters of the race.
"I really focused on the downhills and accelerating down them to keep going and try to surge a little bit," Parks said. "It feels awesome. I wouldn't have expected this being a freshman, so it feels great."
She is Greencastle's first girls champion since Tracy Bowers won back-to-back titles in 1984-85, and is bringing home the first individual championship for Greencastle in more than 25 years.
Joining Parks at the PIAA championships next week is teammate Lauren Hirneisen, who placed fifth overall (19:40) to qualify.
"I just wanted to try to place in the top five and stay with the pack," Hirneisen said, "My legs were a little dead. I was hoping to stay up with the pack a little longer, but they kept pulling away, but there really wasn't anyone close behind me so I was just trying to stay ahead."
Chambersburg's Abby Yourkavitch also made a run at a district title, but fell to second place in the girls 3A race, finishing in 18:20, five seconds behind the winner, Jamie Zamrin of Cocalico. Yourkavitch improved on her third-place finish from last year, and shaved 23 seconds off her last finish at Big Spring during the Mid Penn championships.
The Chambersburg girls team was also hoping to contend for a district championship, but a rough patch on the course made the team stumble - literally.
Cadie Kiser, the final puzzle piece in Chambersburg's top-three threat, fell during the final downhill on the course, losing a places along the way. But despite the fall, Kiser finished 18th with a time of 19:35 to earn a medal and aid the Lady Trojans in a third-place team finish to qualify for states next week.
"I was going down the hill into the last 800 and I was trying to go fast to pass everyone, but I ended up tripping over a rock and doing a couple front flips," Kiser said. "I was happy with my finish just because of my fall and because the competition is so good this year. I'm happy with the top 20."
"It means the world that we get to go back to states," Yourkavitch said. "The team is who I run for, so without them there's nothing really there, so having them behind me makes all the difference."
Kaylee Mowery finished 11th (19:24) as Chambersburg's second finisher, while Sydney Parson (68th, 20:55) and Anna Degrange (74th, 21:02) finished fourth and fifth for the Trojans.
"When you look at the field between the top five and the top 15, they are all the same people and they are all elite runners, so I can't be too upset (with 11th place)," Mowery said.
Chambersburg finished more than 24 points ahead of Carlisle, who placed fourth in the team standings, and just four points from second place. Olivia Sommers (111th, 21:37) and Camaryn Ellis (114th, 21:39) crossed right behind Parson and Degrange with a small time gap between the final four Chambersburg finishers.
"It feels good, because going into it we knew we would contend for a top-four spot, but when we crossed the line we weren't really sure," Mowery said. "When we heard that we got third was definitely huge."
"It wasn't our best day of the season, but we didn't fall apart," Chambersburg coach Chris Monheim said. "Our top three were as good as any top three in the meet, and it was nice to see Sydney Parson have a great day for us, and Anna Degrange had a super day as our fifth. Some girls were a little off today, but others stepped right in. We showed some depth today which we didn't have a month ago."
Leab, Feldman qualify as individuals: A pair of top Franklin County male runners will travel to Hershey to compete in the PIAA Championships next week after stellar individual performances at Big Spring.
James Buchanan's Dalton Leab placed eighth in the boys 2A race with a time of 16:55 to earn a district medal and qualify for the state meet, while Chambersburg's Andrew Feldman squeezed into the top 20 individual finishers in the 3A race to qualify in 28th place with a time of 16:26.
"We put in a lot of hard work this season and I was expecting a great race today, and that's what happened," Leab said. "All that hard work paid off. I tried to get out fast and stay with the top pack and it worked well. I stayed with the front and at the last 400 meters I tried to push through to gain a couple spots."
In the boys 3A race, Feldman crossed the line with a gaggle of other runners trying for a top-30 finish, but in the confusion, Feldman's place chip was read incorrectly, scoring him at 221st place, rather than his rightful finish at 28th. After seeing the "official" results pop up, with the Chambersburg boys team falling to 22nd place, and Feldman out of PIAA contention, the team knew there had to be something wrong.
But despite the confusion, Feldman will be making his way to Hershey for his first state-level meet.
"I'm really happy that Andrew qualified, that was the goal," Chambersburg coach John Ambrosio said. "Today was the youngest team I've ever lined up in all the years I've been coaching. We didn't fair super well - we were hoping for a top 10 finish - but at 17th we weren't too far (in points) from where we were hoping to be."
"I thought I had made it, but when they told me I was 220-something I figured something was wrong," Feldman said. "I was hoping for a district medal, but I figured that was a bit out of reach, so making it to states was a big goal."