Clarion Area Bobcats Reveal What May Be To Come In District 9 Championships At Ridgway Invitational(10/07/18)
(By Matt Lerch)
The Clarion Area Bobcats Boys and Girls Varsity Cross Country squads arrived in Ridgway on a damp, humid and relatively warm fall morning on October 6th at the host site of the District 9 Championships for the Ridgway Invitational. This race is used as the predictor for what is to come during the District 9 championships to be held right before Halloween on October 27th. The Clarion crew showed up in force but faced severe and unexpected competition, especially on the boy’s side of the Clarion roster.
The Bobcat girls, however, led by a bunch of freshmen, showed their cards again today that they are a force to be reckoned with among the District 9 teams.
The Bobcat girls started first at 10:00 AM at Ridgway against a field of 11 teams, both A and AA classifications. The Bobcats girls were astonishing. With only 4 girls attending, the team was unable to score without a fifth runner. Seniors Phylicia Hockman and Gabby Fleming and freshman Aaliyah Dittman were unable to attend. But that didn’t stop the Bobcats from asserting their dominance.
Freshmen Evelyn Lerch and Bella Scott placed in the top ten in a crowded race 116 runners. Lerch broke away from the chase pack after the first mile to the two lead runners flowing into mile 2. Lerch tracked down and usurped the power of the two preparatory school runners in the sloppy and muddy 3.1 mile course. Freshman Lerch reeled in runner number 2 but was unable to take the 2016 Single A State Champ, Sera Mazza, and settled for a second place finish. Lerch was joined by stellar freshman runner, Bella Scott, who picked off runners one by one during the miserably mud-covered cross country race. Scott took over the pack and finished as the 3rd freshman in the race and 8th place overall.
Three time state qualifier senior Katie Craig found success in her ascent in times this year almost surpassing her best time in 2018 on the muddy course making it her best race of the year. Freshman Grace Adams proved to be a show of force trailing Craig by 33 seconds. Due to the strong placement of all 4 runners, the Bobcats showed that with Hockman, Fleming and Dittman back on the roster for the District 9 Championship, the sky is the limit.
The Bobcat boys showed up with familiar competition but with some added twists, and literal muddy turns, to their possible rebirth into a back-to-back State Championship showing. Last year the Bobcat boys beat the Smethport harriers by one point at the D9 Champs for a second place D9 finish with Elk County Catholic (ECC) being the overall winner qualifying both ECC and Clarion for States. Cranberry boys have been strong all year with new-found freshman talent, similar to the ascending Clarion girls. The Bobcat boys finished in 4th place overall behind Smethport, Elk County Catholic and Cranberry.
Junior and Captain, Nathaniel Lerch, scored in 6th place overall in 17:51 well off the personal best of 17:25 on the course. But then again, every top runner was slower during the treacherous, slippery and muddy conditions. The second Bobcat to cross the finish was promising sophomore Don Cunningham in 18:52 and 16th place, 44 seconds off of his best time. Senior Noah Schill, the third Bobcat finisher came across the line in 19:28 rising through the Bobcat ranks looking strong throughout the race of 165 runners in 28th place.
Senior Dan Ketner soon followed Schill and took 35th place as the Bobcat 4th man. Schill’s twin brother, Co-Captain Nick Schill, came in 43rd in 20:01 rounding out the top Bobcat scoring 5. Freshman Gavin Hoover showed up with a spectacular performance coming in as the sixth man in 20:33 while running the last two miles of the race without a shoe and senior Jacob “Smitty” Smith followed Hoover in 4 more seconds during the grueling race. Nate Datko rounded out the Bobcat top 7 in 22:08 also without a shoe leaving it behind in the inches deep mud.
Although the Clarion Area Bobcats finished the traditionally successful Ridgway Invitational in respectable form, some new chinks in the armor were revealed in the boys team’s previous year’s standing within the highly competitive D9. Coaches Keith Murtha, Tammy Lerch and Bill Grove have their work cut out for them to help propel the Bobcat boys….and girls to a successful post season breach into the PIAA State Championships in Hershey during the chilly November 3rd States foray of Single A Cross Country dominance. Smethport, Elk County Catholic and Cranberry stand in the Clarion boys’ way, but they’ve been there before and leadership and venerability will be their guise.
As far as the Bobcat girls go, this is their maiden run as a team into D9 supremacy as a virtual unknown and four freshman and three seniors will determine if their growth profile and undetectable Cinderella season proves to be a reality.
(Thanks to Matt Lerch for this article and photos. Keep up the hard work, Clarion Cross Country!!!!)