Powerful packs on the rise
com Area cross country teams hit the course this week as they begin their push for both individual and team success.
A loaded Suburban One League Continental Conference includes state-caliber runners like Pennridge’s Marissa Sheva and Central Bucks West’s Maddie Villalba while perennial power North Penn toes the starting line with strong packs on both the boys and girls side.
“We have high expectations for the regular season and postseason,” Bucks coach Kiki Bell said, “so the girls are putting in the work and miles to get there.”
Souderton Area has a big group to build around as the Indians aim for continued improvement and a solid showing in the postseason.
“There will be no breaks once the team begins its regular season in the super competitive Continental Conference,” Big Red girls coach Jim O’Neill said. “There is some experience on this team and hopefully the large team size will create some healthy competition, which pushes everyone forward. There should be a great deal of improvement throughout the season.”
Several teams, like Methacton, hit the course hoping to find that new No. 1 runner.
“This is year one of R.W.O.K.A. - running without Kara Steinke,” Warriors coach Steve Mahan said. “This team has to learn how to race without Kara at the top spot. We have kiddingly said, ‘We are small in number but mighty in spirit.’
“They are learning how to step out of their crosscountry comfort zone. They are learning how to run with a small team - there are 15 healthy runners on this season’s squad.”
Following is a team-byteam look at the area.
Coach: Greg Wetzel (fifth season)
Last year’s record: 2-5; fourth at SOL Continental Conference meet
Key performers lost: Ben Aunins
Key returners: Rock Fortna Jr.; Brian Iatarola, Jr.; Ian Davies, Sr.; Matt Bowen, Sr.; Brian Mass, So.; Declan McDonald, Jr.; Trevor Belding, Sr.
Others to watch: Ben Smullen, So.; Andrew Baker, Sr.; Beckett Wilson, Sr.; Logan Mazullo, Jr.; Carter Zerweck, Jr.; Alec Hofer, So.; Teagan Fortna, So.; Mark McClenahan, So.
Coach Wetzel says: “This year will be extremely competitive, as it is every year in the SOL Continental. Our athletes have put in the work and are excited to show what they can do. If we can run as a team, we will be as good as anyone.”
Home course: Lake Galena at Peace Valley Park
Opening meet: ArchbishopWood Invite
Coach: Tom Sexton (49th season) Last year’s record: 5-4 Key returners: Marley Marc, Sr.; Aaron Ngo, Jr.; Andy Rutkowski, So.; William Ford, Sr.; Charles Griffith, So.; Wolfgang Schanbacher, Jr.; C.J. Young, Jr.; Hunter Landon, Sr.; Will Christensen, So.; Sean Monahan, So.; Emmett Deitcher, So.
Others to watch: Will Griffen, So.; Liam Brown, Fr.; Tom Sullivan, Sr.; Rob Wilman, Jr.
Coach Sexton says: “Even though we are young, I think we could be very good this year. I am excited about coaching this year’s team as they are a very competitive group. If we stay healthy and continue to develop, we could do very well. It should be fun.”
Opening meet: Sept. 17th against PW and Upper Merion
Coach: Justin (fifth season)
Last year’s record: 7-5 overall, 6-2 in the Bicentennial Athletic League; second in BAL Constitution Division; third in District One Class 2A
Key performers lost: Jonathan Capps; Donald Roessler
Key returners: Michael Gunden, Jr.; Joseph Thompson, Jr.; Kevin Wang, Jr.; Tim Kennel, Fr.; Ian Anderson, Fr.; Isaiha Denlinger, Fr.
Coach Wikerd says: “This is a very hard-working and determined group of runners.”
Home Course: Christopher Dock High School
Wikerd stalled 3-5 alignment.
“It’s pretty much the same thing as last year,” Lee said, “but now I’m more responsible for containment, for turning plays back inside.”
Like Thompson, Lee pointed to leadership as a key to the year’s success.
“We have the players and we have the skill to be good,” Lee said. “But we need people to show us the way.”
Lee said he’s upped his efforts at leadership this year. “I’m not a vocal leader,” he said. “I’ve tried to lead by example. But this year I’ve tried to step it up vocally.” ••• Of course it’s difficult to talk about Upper Dublin football without looking ahead to the team’s trip to Florida to play its season opener.
The Cardinals will depart at 4 a.m. Aug. 28 and will play Florida-based Coconut Creek on the evening of Aug. 29 at the Disney Sports Complex in Orlando.
“We’re really looking forward to the trip,” Thompson said, “and we’re excited playing against a good team.”
“They’re good and they’re fast,” Stover said of Coconut Creek, “but that’s not a surprise.”
Football, naturally, isn’t the only part of the trip the Cards are looking forward to.
“We get a couple of days in the park,” Thompson said, referring to the Disney World facility.
And are the requests for “Frozen” souvenirs rolling in yet?
“Not yet,” Lee said. “My family’s been to Disney World a few times, so I’m hoping to spend my money on me.” ••• As for the varsity scrimmage, the teams only played one half, and Methacton scored the game’s lone touchdown, on the final play, with quarterback Conner Derrickson lofting a perfect pass to AkeemWalcott, who made a juggling catch in the back of the left corner of the end zone.
The drive was set up by an end-zone interception by Louis Cotteta after Upper Dublin had driven inside the Warriors 10-yard line. ••• While Methacton head coach Paul Lepre isn’t thrilled with the Warriors’ roster size, which numbers in the low 40’s, he said Methacton isn’t alone among Pioneer Athletic Conference schools staring at disappointing turnouts for football.
“From what I’ve heard there are a few schools hurting for kids,” Lepre said. “I’ve heard Phoenixville, Upper Perkiomen, Pope John Paul and even Owen J. Roberts did not get the number of kids they were hoping for.”
One of those schools not hurting for numbers is Perkiomen Valley, a program that lost a ton of quality seniors after last year’s incredible postseason run.
But Lepre said not to shed any tears for the Warriors’ Battle Axe foes.
“I saw them scrimmage Springfield Delco and they looked good,” Lepre said. “If anything, it looks like their linemen are bigger than they were last year, so they’ve added some size to go along with that speed.” ••• By now, area football fans have long been aware of Methacton’s frustrating attempts to install lights at the location of the school’s football field, attempts that have thus far been squelched by area residents.
While there is no good news on that front, it is said the school is examining the possibility of installing turf on its gridiron, turning the field into a multi-purpose facility.
Upper Dublin’s turf field is presently under construction and is expected to be ready for the Cardinals football team’s Sept. 19 home opener vs. Cheltenham.
North Penn’s Ali Valenti, center, along with teammates and Pennridge competitors launch for a 800 meter event during their meet at Pennridge High School.