New Castle News


October 26, 2012

Photo Gallery, Story: Laurel, Shenango cross country teams lead local runners at WPIAL Championships

NEW CASTLE — The heat proved to be the toughest opponent for runners at the WPIAL Cross Country Championships at Cooper’s Lake yesterday.

The Laurel and Shenango high girls teams were able to keep their cool, finishing in first and second place, respectively, in the Class A race to qualify for the PIAA Championships.

For the Lady Spartans, the victory signifies the first time Laurel has made the state meet in cross country as a team. It is the third WPIAL team title in school history, joining a football title in 1980 and a volleyball crown in 2000.

The Shenango girls also made history with their second-place finish. It’s the first time the girls team has made it to the PIAA Championships in school history.

Emily Maxwell won the individual championship for the Lady Spartans, finishing at a time of 20:14 in the field of 161 finishers. Bishop Canevin’s Caroline DeFrank was second at 20:33. Madeline Schmiedeknecht from Winchester Thurston finished third with a time of 20:39. The top three schools and top 15 runners from each class advance to the PIAA Championships on Nov. 3 at Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey.  

“It was better than I expected,” Maxwell said. “I knew that from the start I didn’t want to go out too hard, especially with a day like this with the heat so oppressive. I wanted to stay with that lead pack, though, not let them get too far ahead.”

Laurel was first in the event with a score of 100. Shenango was second with 117. Vincentian Academy was third with 132. Mohawk finished 11th with a score of 291.

The unexpected October heat got to the runners, including Neshannock’s Lizzie Manickas, who led for the majority of the race until passing out in the home stretch. Three races were delayed by at least 10 minutes each because all ambulances were driving runners to local hospitals. Races resumed when at least two ambulances were available at the event.

“She’s a competitor, and she wanted to do well today,” Lady Lancers coach David Antognoli said of Manickas, who finished third in the event last year. “I think that took over for her, and she went out too fast. She’s a tough girl. She’ll bounce back, it’ll just take her a little time.”  

Maxwell, who trailed Manickas until the 800-meter mark, didn’t realize her opponent had passed out.

“I saw her in front of me, I could tell she was tired.” Maxwell said “She didn’t look well. I had no idea she passed out.”

Maxwell, a senior, will be making her fourth appearance in the PIAA event. She is hoping her experience will pay dividends.

“There’s a lot to learn at states, especially going in your first time, it’s a whole new world,” Maxwell said. “It kind of helps you with the bigger and faster crowds.”  

Alison Filer (11th overall) finished second for Laurel with a time of 21:20. Next was Kristin Dicks (26th, 22:29) and her sister Brooke Dicks (27th, 22:30), who came in a second apart. Freshman Kacee Caughey (47th, 23:37) rounded out the top five for the Lady Spartans.

“This is what we were working for all year, and I knew we could do it,” Laurel coach Greg Schmitt said. “I’m excited for the whole girls team. They worked really hard all year. It’s a huge improvement for our school and where our program came from.”

For second-place Shenango, youth dominated the field.

Freshman Katie Bruce (fourth, 20:44) led the way for the young squad, which didn’t have any senior runners in the event.

“I’ve been training all summer and over the winter,” Bruce said. “It’s scary going up against some of these girls because they’re all a lot older and more experienced than me, but I think it makes you better. I’ve never been to states before so I don’t really know what it’s like. It feels really good. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”

“Katie doesn’t know how good she could be,” first-year coach Phil Thompson said. “She started out in 18th place at the mile, and she finished fourth. Someone jumping up that much is unbelievable. It shows how much power and how much skill she has as a runner. You wouldn’t even know if you look at her, because she’s so humble. That’s what makes her a better runner.”

Elizabeth Salem (21st, 22:13) was next for the Lady Wildcats. Courtney Fontana (30th, 22:40), Carly Danielson (31st, 22:41) and Rachel Reamer (45th, 23:31) were the rest of the top five finishers for Shenango.

“I couldn’t be more proud of these girls,” Thompson said. “They pushed themselves all season. I’m sure at some points they hated us, but we’re looking like the good guys now. No credit goes to us, it really goes to all the girls. It’s all about dedication. I’ve never seen a team have more dedication and will than this group.”

Mohawk also will be sending a freshman to the PIAA Championships in Breyona Wagner (eighth, 21:00).

“I feel good,” Wagner said. “My team’s really supportive of me and always cheers me on. I practiced as hard as I could at practice. I am trying to do everything I can.”

Mackenzie Moon (61st, 24:16) was next for the Lady Warriors. Joelle Bromey (78th, 25:09), Katelyn Byers (87th, 25:40) and Holly Duncan (94th, 26:03) were the other top finishers for Mohawk.

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