Clarion Area Cross Country Varsity Boys And Girls Chalk Up 2nd Place Team Wins Against Top District 9 Multi-Class Teams At Bradford Invitational (09/16/18)

(By Matt Lerch)

(Photos by Matt Lerch)

The Bradford Invitational was held September 15th in Bradford under partly cloudy skies with high temperatures and high humidity.  Clarion Area submitted 29 of their 37 runners in varsity and junior high races at George Blaisdell Elementary School with 252 competing runners.

The Varsity girls started the races with Clarion fielding four freshman and three seniors.  Freshman Evelyn Lerch, returning from an injury, won the race against 52 girls with a time of 20:32 ranking her first in District 9 and 20th in the state in single A high schools.  Fellow freshman Bella Scott came in 9th place with a time of 21:57, currently ranked 6th in District 9 and 61st in A high schools.

Senior Phylicia Hockman came in 16th in 22:42, senior Katie Craig came in 24th in 24:01, freshman Grace Adams clocked 25:08 in 29th place to fill out the top scoring 5. All 5 top finishers medaled being in the top 30 runners.  Senior Gabby Fleming came in 34th and freshman Aaliyah Dittman placed 43rd.  The Varsity girls came in 2nd place only to Villa Maria private school.

Nick Schill

Not to be outdone, the Clarion boys also came in second out of ten teams in an early glimpse into the future of the District 9 Championship with Elk County Catholic private school capturing first.  Smethport was also present as last year the Clarion boys edged out Smethport by a point for second place in the D9 championship earning a berth into the 2017 State Championship.  This time was no different as the boys handily defeated Smethport 73-97.  To add to the accolades of this highly competitive single A team from Clarion was that this invitational wasn’t class specific, trouncing AAA invitational host Bradford 73-83.

Captain Nathaniel Lerch led the Clarion pack, which was only separated by 1:17 for the top 5 scoring runners.  Junior Lerch took 5th place in 17:47 in the sweltering heat against the best of the D9.  Not far behind were senior and co-captain Nick Schill in 13th place in 18:37, who ran an astoundingly fast third mile, and sophomore Don Cunningham in 14th in 18:39.

Bella Scott

Senior Noah Schill battled a tight pack of runners to come in 19th at 18:45 and senior Daniel “Kitten” Ketner closed out the top 5 Clarion runners at 23rd place in 19:04.  Notably freshman Gavin Hoover had a personal best time of 19:39 in 33rd place on his rise through the ranks of the varsity squad.  Senior Jacob Smith placed 43rd, junior Nate Datko was 58th, junior Alex Cussins was 69th,  and junior Sam Smith was 92nd.

The Clarion junior high girls were up next as the clouds disappeared and the temperature rose.  Seventh grader Gia Babington continued her District 9 dominance as she came in second to an unattached runner.  Bolstering Babington’s performance were the pack of Clarion runners who’s scoring helped the girls capture 3rd place as a team.  Anna Gribik and Maya Wilshire came in 24th and 25th place respectively.  Abi Frederick came in 28th and Taylor Alston finished out the scoring 5 runners in 30th place.  Mercedes Cunningham came in 46th,  Maura Dunham in 49th  and Grace Troese in 50th.

Evelyn Lerch

The Clarion junior high boys didn’t have enough runners to score as a team but nonetheless turned in great performances.   Bailee Verdill and Seth Weckerly provided a Clarion one-two punch capturing 5th and 6th place.  Jack Franchino came in 23rd and Blaise Cunningham in 33rd.

Coaches Keith Murtha, Tammy Lerch and Bill Grove were extremely pleased with today’s performance noting the strong camaraderie of this burgeoning team of distance runners.  The Bradford Invitational gave another taste of large-scale competition leading up to the much larger Hershey Invitational next Saturday.  With the strong commitment from the runners, coaches and parents, this year’s Clarion Area Cross Country team has promise on all levels, and only time will tell if Clarion’s hard work will have the ultimate payoff, another State Championship berth.

(Thanks to Matt Lerch for this article and photos.  Great work, Cats!!!!)