Runners from across the state gather today at the Parkview Course in Hershey for the PIAA Cross Country Championships and the area will be well-represented when the races get underway this morning.
The biggest change this year is the addition of a third classification for both boys and girls.
One thing that has not changed, however, is that eyes and pressure will once again be on the Central Cambria girls, a perennial power across the state and well-respected for their tradition of toughness on the course.
“We look a little bit at the other teams across the state, but we are not going to change anything that we do,“ said Central Cambria coach Randy Wilson, whose team is running in Class A. “We are going to run as fast as we can (today). We don’t change any of our training based on who we are going to run against. Our girls train hard. Races are not as hard as our hardest workouts.
“Nothing can be compared because everyone runs a different course during the season. We only run this course (at Indian Valley in the District 6 final) once a year. There are so many variations that affect it.“
Currently in Class A, Elk Lake (District 2) is ranked first with Central Cambria second and New Hope-Solebury from District 1, third. Fourth is West Middlesex from District 10.
Other teams of consequence today could be Laurel Highlands foe Penn Cambria, which is ranked fifth in the state, Laurel from District 7 and Wilmington from District 10.
“My philosophy is ‘Why train to be second?’ ” Penn Cambria coach Todd Niebauer said. “I am going to challenge the girls again. These girls have responded well and every time we’ve asked them to. We’re going (to states) with high expectations. Why not? We gave ourselves the opportunity (finishing second at District 6) and we’re there, so why not take advantage of it?”
Sophomore Kennedy Weisner of Elk County Catholic was the runner-up to Homer-Center’s Angel Piccirillo last year and is the top individual contender this year. The Red Devils’ Alyssa Brandis won the District 6-A individual title and will also be one of the runners to watch today.
The other Red Devils team members include three freshmen: Hannah Swope, Jackie Bracken and Jordan Hayward, along with seniors Olivia Lipnic and Katie Bracken and junior Laken McKeel.
The Panthers runners are Arlee Simendinger, Kaitlyn McGarry, Emily Roberts, Sara Clauto, Danielle Pompa, Sarah Roberts and Shelly Pompa.
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