Clarion Bobcat Cross Country Program Sends Third Consecutive Team to States (11/03/19)

(Photo by Matt Lerch) Coach Keith Murtha, Nate Datko, Gavin Hoover, Milton McElravy, Keagan Phillips, Alex Cussins, Don Cunningham, Nick Frederick, Nathaniel Lerch, Philip Bartley, Assistant Coach Tammy Lerch

(Matt Lerch)

The weather in Hershey was perfect for running with sunny skies and temperatures in the low fifties. The course was muddy from previous storms on Saturday November 2nd, during the PIAA State Cross Country Championships.  

The Clarion Bobcat boys successfully captured another berth to the State Championship when they placed second beating Elk County Catholic during the District 9 Championships.  This was their second trip to States in the last three years as they placed second during the District 9 Championships in 2017 edging out Smethport by one point. 

At the end of each season, the Bobcats have lost seniors that have been hard to replace.  The 2017 season saw senior Frank Weber leave to graduation and the Bobcat team was able to cover for the loss with some newcomers.  However 2018 was not the boys’ year to make it to States. But the Bobcat Girls Cross Country team earned a spot in Hershey.  The 2018 Bobcat girls also lost seniors Phylicia Hockman, Katie Craig and Gabby Fleming to graduation.  That team is still in the midst of rebuilding. 

2019 was a season in question as the 2018 boys’ team graduated core runners Nick and Noah Schill, Daniel Ketner and Jacob Smith.  With another year of rebuilding, many questioned whether the team could make up for the loss of the four seniors.  This year the Bobcat squad was led by Senior Nathaniel Lerch, two-time Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference Champion, four-time State Qualifier and 2019 District 9 Class-A Champion.  Sophomore Gavin Hoover soundly made his place on the team, in second place for the Bobcats for most of the season.   The pack, consisting of sophomore Keagan Phillips, junior Don Cunningham, senior Nick Frederick and senior Nate Datko, was very tight in scoring all season long.  Senior Alex Cussins, and sophomores Philip Bartley and Milton McElravy provided depth on the squad.  Junior Daniel Griebel also helped the Bobcats through the season. 

What magic elixir keeps this Bobcat team of harriers resilient year after year?  Head Coach Keith Murtha, Assistant Coach Tammy Lerch and Assistant Coach Bill Grove is the correct answer.  Coaching style is used in conjunction with bringing in motivational speakers, former Clarion athletes, nutrition experts and many other facets to compliment their style of coaching. 

This year also marked a new bridge between athlete and Clarion Bobcat alumni support.  Clarion alumnus Angela Zaeske Rudy spearheaded a fundraiser to outfit the Bobcats with embroidered North Face warmups.  She was able to raise the money in a matter of a week, with a tremendous push to have them ready by the District 9 Championships.  Thanks to generous donations from Clarion alumni, the Bobcat boys and girls teams will be kept warm with these windproof warmups. 

It was another successful year for the Bobcats with their eye on the 2020 season and the hopes of another State Championship qualifying team. 

(Thanks to Matt Lerch for this article and photo. Fine Season, Cats!!!!)