PJP teams win AA team titles; Boyertown’s McComb places third in boys’ 3A
LOWER SAUCON >> “How about a new dynasty?”
Head coach Lisa Cagliola posed that challenge to the Pope John Paul II girls after they ran their race Friday. It was a challenge answered by both the program’s teams at the District 1 Championship Meet.
The Golden Panther boys and girls both finished as champs in the district’s Class AA field. While the girls were a first-ever titlist and statemeet qualifier at the team level, the boys defended their 1-AA crown at Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium complex.
In the boys’ AAA competition, Boyertown’s Christian McComb followed last week’s championship run in the Pioneer Athletic Conference meet with a third at Lehigh. The Bear junior ran a 15:36.8 behind race winner Cole Walker of Unionville (15:34.5) and runner-up Payton Sewall of Downingtown West (15:36).
“I’m happy with it,” he said. “I imagined winning, and I wanted to win ... I put it in my head to go out and win.”
McComb’s bid for a gold medal was thwarted when he got cut off at the course’s hill. But his clocking was a personal best by 11 seconds.
“My goal is a top five at Hershey,” he said. “My goal is to win, but there are great kids from across the state running.”
Perkiomen Valley’s Tyler Clifford turned in a Top 10 effort, the junior going ninth in 15:49. Owen J. Roberts’ Linus Blatz (22nd, 15:59.60) and Phoenixville’s Gabe Puleo (25th, 16:01.9) were followed by PAC competitors like Spring-Ford’s John Zawislak (27th), Methacton’s Matt Varghese (36th) and OJR’s Thomas Damiani (40th),
Roberts qualified for states as a team, finishing sixth with 265 points. Its other high district finishers were Vincent Fennell (54th), Quinten Sherwood (71st) and David Brunton (78th).
In the AAA girls’ competition, Pottsgrove’s Naomi Hillen was the PAC’s top finisher. The Falcon sophomore, winner of the PAC race, placed 24th in 18:59.50 to rank as the conference’s lone Top 25 runner.
“I was hoping to be in the Top 20,” she said, “but there were some who ran faster than expected. Mu goal was to break 19, and I did that.
“It (AAA) was more dramatic, with more people on the line. We were AA last year.”
Behind Hillen, SpringFord’s Emily Smith was 28th, Perkiomen Valley’s Delaney O’Sullivan 41st, and OJR’s Hannah Kopec 47th and Mackenzie Kurtz 51st.
The PJP girls outran Villa Joseph Marie, 5660, led by the Top 10 finishes of Kayla Croiger and Gianna Cagliola. Croiger placed fourth in 20:04 while Cagiola was eighth in 20;13.8.
The Panthers were bolstered by Top 20 efforts from Kathryn Todd (11th), Julia Costello (15th) and Natalie Florig (20th). They will all head to Hershey for next weekend’s PIAA Championship Meet, joined by fellow varsity runners Claudia Dolan (28th) and Sarah Abruzzo (32nd).
“We’ve been flying under the radar,” Cagliola noted. “Villa Maria has been tough for four years.”
Croiger edged out Gwynedd Mercy’s Kelly Murray for the fourth spot by 6/10ths of a second. The PJP freshman started her move from the middle of the pack before mounting a surge with about 150 meters left.
“I gave it everything I have,” she said. “I slowly increased the pace. At the end, it was pretty close.”
Cagliola had a solid seven-second lead on VJM’s Brianna Kling at the finish. Another of PJP’s freshmen — Todd is another ninth-grader — Cagliola was confident of the team’s ability to score a team championship.
“I figured we had a pretty good chance of doing it,” she said. “With our 3-4-5 runners together, I felt we could pull it off.”
Coach Cagliola’s stated perception “It’s easier to win a championship than to defend one” notwithstanding, the Pope John Paul boys handily finished as district champion even while being contested by second-place Pottsgrove.
The Panthers placed five runners in the Top 10, led by the 2-3 finish of Jack Brosius and Jack Phillips. Brosius was a very close second to race winner Shane Cohen of Lower Moreland, crossing the line 6/10ths of a second back (16:29.6) after leading the pack for a good portion of the race.
Phillips clocked a 16:41.7 ahead of Pottsgrove’s Laree Hills (16:57.6), who was followed in turn by PJP’s Kaden Buchler (17:02) and Jack Flynn (17:13.2). John Schiele was ninth (17:23.6), trailing the Falcons’ Simon Keen (17:20.1) but beating out Bryce Hampton (10th, 17;26.6) and Brandon Henriksen (11th, 17:37).
Jason DiMarco (13th) and Luke McCarthy (18th) will round out the Panthers’ Hershey contingent. Pottsgrove will have a trio ot state qualifiers in Hills, Keen and Hampton. NOTES >> The boys’ Class A competition saw Jenkintown sweep the top five spots on the way to the team championship. Jack and Luke Miller went 1-2 in the finishing order . ...