Shenango High cross country runners Carmen Medvit, Emily Olcott and Riley Bruce all received some solid running advice from their parents.
Medvit said she was forced into running by her parents, Lottie and James Medvit, and used to run 5K races hand-in-hand with her father in third grade. She stopped running in sixth grade before reluctantly picking the sport back up again.
Olcott said she, too, was forced into running by her mother because her older brother, Lucas, was on the Wildcats’ cross country team.
Bruce wasn’t pushed into the sport by her parents, but rather received a pep talk from her mom after an up-and-down freshman year that led to a better runner’s diet and, in turn, faster times this fall.
The three are now happily running — and leading — the Shenango girls program into potentially its best year yet. The Lady Wildcats have their eyes set on a top finish at the WPIAL championship. On Saturday, the Big 3 put the area on notice by sweeping the top three podium spots at the Midwestern Athletic Conference championship meet at Neshannock High School with Medvit winning in 21:00, Olcott second at 21:58 and Bruce third at 22:44.
“That was impressive,” coach Chris Thompson said. “We kind of knew what was going to happen with Carmen, just the way she’s run all season. She won Erie McDowell and she won (at West Middlesex), just to be able to win that for the third year in a row. I don’t think too many people saw Emily and Riley coming. We have three solid runners who are really capable of making a lot of noise at the WPIAL finals.”
For their 1-2-3 finishes, Medvit, Olcott and Bruce have been named the Lawrence County athletes of the week as chosen by the New Castle News sports department.
“Everybody knows what you have in Carmen, but with Emily and Riley I don’t think people realize what’s coming,” Thompson said. “They’ve seen Emily run too, but Riley has been a bit of a shocker for teams because they realize, ‘Holy cow, Shenango has three runners capable of making states.’”
Medvit is the Lady Wildcats leader, anchoring a group that believes it can finish in the top four of team scoring at the WPIAL championship meet and qualify as a team for the state meet.
The junior showed no signs of slowing down this year after last season winning the WPIAL Class 1A crown and then running to a fifth-place finish at the state meet in Hershey.
“It’s probably what’s pushing me through this season because I know I have to live up to last year winning WPIAL and everything,” Medvit said, adding she’s hoping to go top five or better at the state meet this year.
Not only does Shenango boast enough runners this year to score as a competitive team, but the girls are close and driven despite the lack of upperclassmen, according to Medvit.
“I don’t know why, but I feel like it makes a big difference that we don’t have any seniors,” Medvit said. “I’m the oldest one on the team technically and I’m the leader, if you want to call it that, but we don’t have a set leader on our team. Pretty much all of us have a say in everything that goes on. I like that there’s not just one girl in charge of our team. It’s all of us.”
Olcott finished 18th at the WPIAL meet as a freshman. That served as a confidence-booster for the daughter of Douglas and Barbara Olcott, which has held over to this season as she’s running in the lead pack of athletes.
“It definitely has helped with my confidence over anything,” Olcott said. “Last year, I was really questioning it and worried I wasn’t going to place. I placed 18th and was like, ‘I made it.’”
Olcott said she believes the team has the potential to qualify for Hershey, where she’s shooting to finish in the top 25 and earn a medal.
“If everyone has a good day and everyone is healthy and in the right mindset, I think we can achieve it,” Olcott said. “Our girls are all really determined and we all have the right mindset.”
Bruce, meanwhile, doesn’t mince words in describing her first year of varsity running.
“I had a horrible year last season,” Bruce said.
She said better offseason training helped, as did making some additions to her diet — like enough food and water. Bruce passed out at one meet late last season.
“Eating and drinking made a huge difference. It seems silly,” Bruce said. “My mom, actually, she gave me the pep talk. She was like, ‘Riley, you can’t run anymore if you’re not going to do these things.’ And I said, ‘OK.’”
Saturday’s performance at the MAC has given Bruce — the daughter of Tricia and Jonathan Bruce — confidence going into the championship portion of the season and that she is looking for consistency in the coming weeks’ contests. Shenango runs at a big meet next Thursday at California University of Pennsylvania then the WPIAL meet on the same course the next week followed possibly by the state meet on Nov. 2.
“I think (MAC championships) shows us that we have a shot to do some really awesome things, not that we didn’t know before,” Bruce said.
Thompson said he’s been telling his girls they have the potential to qualify for the state meet as a team.
“I put them on notice and said, ‘You are one of the best teams,’ and they’re running like it right now,” Thompson said. “Hopefully when we get to the WPIAL, they’ll come out and show it.”
Shenango, perhaps, last year ran a bit below the radar coming into the WPIAL meet before Medvit raced to a runaway individual championship. Now as two-time defending section champions — the only two in school history — the Lady Wildcats are no longer an unknown.
“They’ve made a name for themselves,” Thompson said, “so hopefully they go to WPIALs and make a name for themselves down there.”