Second place suits Cedar Crest just fine
EPHRATA - Sometimes it's better to be gutsy than great. And sometimes second place feels an awful lot like first.
The Cedar Crest boys cross country team didn't win the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship on Tuesday, but it did something almost as impressive, placing all seven of its runners in the top 37 en route to an eye-popping runner-up finish in the L-L meet at Ephrata Middle School.
The Falcons, led by senior Jesse Cruise's 10th place finish in 17:05.7, actually were deadlocked for second with Section One champ Hempfield after each totaled 91 points - Manheim Central ran away with the team crown with 61 points and McCaskey star Nathan Henderson was the individual champion in 15:57.3 - but won the tiebreaker for the runner-up spot thanks to the efforts of No.6 and 7 runners and supposed non-counters William Sheffield and Dylan Mehler.
Sheffield took 35th and Mehler 37th, besting Hempfield's No.6 and 7 runners by 13 and 17 places, respectively, to give Cedar Crest sole possession of second place and head coach Brandon Risser a reason to strengthen his belief that in any race, everybody who suits up matters. Absolutely everybody.
"This is going to be coached about for years," Risser said. "The take-home point is every spot matters, and we were fortunate enough to be on the right side of that today. It's pretty exciting when you can do that, because it shows that in a 3.1 mile race everyone matters, everyone has a job to do. This is a good reminder."
Also leaving their footprints all over the collective effort were Adam Wolfe, who nipped at Cruise's heels while finishing 11th, Jake Barrett (20th), and Noah Bragunier (24th), each of whom departed Ephrata with individual medals. Devyn Stump was right behind in 26th, followed by Sheffield and Mehler.
Lebanon High's Derin Klick, the reigning Lebanon County champ, also joined in the medal fun, taking 16th in 17:23.3.
"It was a gutsy performance. It wasn't our best," Risser said. "I think we have a better race in us. Hopefully we see that at districts. But it was a gutsy performance."
Lead Falcon Cruise echoed those sentiments, expressing a bit of disappointment with what was still his career-best L-L meet effort in terms of place finish.
"I don't think the race went as I wanted it to," said Cruise, who went out hard and was fifth at the mile mark. "I wanted to finish a lot higher than I did. It was a little disappointing, but I was glad Adam Wolfe was out there to push me. I ran faster last year (16:50) so it was disappointing in that way."
"In championship races, nothing ever goes as planned," Risser said. "But I think we were solid, we were tough and we had some guys really step up."
On the girls' side, Elco sophomore Lily Brubaker was the top Lebanon County finisher and lone medalist, placing 19th in 20:24.7.
The reigning girls county champ and a first-year cross country runner, Brubaker, like Cruise, expected more out of herself than she produced on Tuesday. But it was hardly a disappointing effort for the Raider standout in her L-L meet debut.
"Not as good as I wanted to," Brubaker said, when asked to assess her performance. "My goal was top 20 but I just wanted a better time."
Still, Brubaker later acknowledged that her season as a whole has been more than she could have hoped for.
"It's been really fun," she said, managing a smile. "I didn't expect anything like this. It (competing in the L-L meet) was a great experience; when the boys took off it gave me chills. I was really nervous for this race, but it was a good experience."
Cocalico's Jamie Zamrin won the girls individual title in 19:07.6, and Manheim Township posted a dominating win in the team competition with 51 points, well ahead of runner-up Ephrata's 110.