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CRUISING-Delone Catholic’s Julia O’Brien, left, and Becky Hernandez, right compete at the District 3 Cross Country Championships, while coach R.J Zinn looks on.

There is something to be said for consistency. Expectations and proper preparation are best handled when things are reliably steady. That was the theme for area runners as they competed in the girls’ District III Cross Country Championships held at Big Spring High School on Saturday.

Gettysburg’s running program has gotten better each of the last five years under the tutelage of coach Michael Beegle. On Saturday, the Warriors qualified two individuals for the PIAA state meet next weekend in Hershey. Senior Kelty Oaster and junior Marrin Crist both finished in the top 20 in the Class AA race to continue their season. Both are first-time qualifiers, and both have learned a lot under Beegle’s system.

Delone Catholic’s program has been the standard for the Times area for years under coach R.J. Zinn. Junior harrier Julia O’Brien placed seventh in the Class A race to qualify for states for the second year in a row. It was something that has had in the back of her mind all season as she prepared for the day.

“I really wanted to make it to states two years in a row,” O’Brien said. “I wasn’t going to go out really fast, so that I had something left at the end. The end is the hardest with that last hill and everybody is trying to pass as many people as they can.”

O’Brien and teammate Becky Hernandez got out well, and were in the Top 10 at the mile (6:30). Fairfield’s Morgan Dennison was lurking not far behind. Erin Moriarty of Kutztown and Braetan Peters of Annville-Cleona had separated themselves from the rest of the field at that point, but the following pack was large.

Coming down the big water tower hill after the two-mile mark, Moriarty had built an insurmountable 14-second lead over a group that included two Annville girls and three Camp Hill runners. O’Brien had gotten into a zone running by herself in seventh, while Hernandez had fallen back to 10th.

With 600 meters to go, O’Brien was a solid qualifier, but Fairfield’s Dennison was locked in a battle with York Catholic’s Gabbie Tully. The pair ran stride for stride for 300 meters and then made the left turn for the final 300. With 40 meters to go, Tully pulled ahead as Dennison tried desperately to keep pace. Tully placed eighth (21:18.2), with Dennison ninth (21:19.8). Tully ended up being the final state qualifier.

Moriarty won the race in 19:25.4 for the 5,000 meter (3.1 miles) course, 12 seconds clear of Peters. O’Brien finished seventh (21:07.9). Camp Hill won the team title easily with 33 points and all five scorers in before second-place Annville’s third runner. The Squirettes place fourth.

“We have such a close running community at Delone,” said coach Zinn before the race. “We have the best support from parents, teachers, students, and alumni. We have only had two cross country coaches ever at Delone, and I think that consistency really helps our program.”

O’Brien still has a lot to learn about running, but one thing she knows is how to push herself. She plans to run indoor track this winter to help her towards her goal to be the best she can possibly be. The desire is there.

“It is so exciting,” said O’Brien. “I was just running as hard as I possibly could. I felt like I could do it at about the two-mile mark, because that is usually where I am dead tired and out of energy, but today I felt really good there. I was able to give it all I’ve got at the end and felt mentally prepared and strong for the finish.”

The day’s competitions included 446 runners and 56 school teams vying for the chance to compete at the state meet in Hershey. One single A team qualified, three AA teams, and four AAA teams. Of individuals not on one of those qualifying teams, five single A runners advanced, 15 AA runners, and 20 AAA runners.

The Class AA race was the fastest race of the day. National-class runners Marlee Starliper of Northern and Greencastle-Antrim’s Taryn Parks have had some epic battles over the last couple of years on the track. Starliper, who has committed to run at North Carolina State next year, did not run at the Mid-Penn Conference meet two weeks ago. Parks literally ran away with that race, winning by nearly a minute. But Starliper got out hard at districts and never looked back, running 17:21.3. Parks was second in 17:40.4, but it was all Marlee. The pair are two of the best high school runners in the country.

Northern dominated the team competition to win with 44 points. Boiling Springs, ninth last year, improved to second (110), with Donegal third (129). Those three teams will run at AA states next week.

Last year Gettysburg’s Anne Bair ran a gutsy race after losing a shoe and somehow managed to qualify for states as a freshman. This year, Bair has had Oaster and Crist pushing her all season as the Warriors repeated as YAIAA-II champions. The Warriors finished fifth on Saturday (189 points), which is more than respectable, and may be the best finish for a Gettysburg squad ever. It has been a five-year rebuild under Beegle, but don’t think the Warriors are done yet.

Oaster and Bair got out in the top 20 on Saturday and looked good. Crist was just behind them at the mile as the pack headed out to the hills in the woods. As the runners came over the tower hill, Oaster and Crist were close together, but Bair was nowhere to be seen. The race just did not go according to plan for Bair, as she finished 38th in 21:32.4, missing a second trip to states.

But Oaster, the Gettysburg school record holder and state qualifier in the 800, was setting herself up for a great finish. She dashed up the final hill to the finish as an 800 runner would, and placed 15th in 20:39.9. With the top 15 runners going to states, she was in.

“It feels good to run this well at districts,” Oaster said. “I missed states by six seconds last year, so it felt so good this year to really be in this one. It takes a long time to learn this sport, and to make the transition from track to cross country. I’ll still be learning for the next four years. We have been training and looking towards this race for a long time. We were hoping for third as a team, but we still did well, and I am proud of everyone.”

With the loss of three seniors last year, the reins were handed over to Oaster, the only senior on the team. She leads by example with her work ethic and team attitude.

“I said to Kelty last spring when she qualified for states in the 800,” Beegle said, “this is great, but now you have to do it in cross country, so here we are with a district medal and she’s making the trip. She is so mentally strong and really just gets it done. She’s the best captain I’ve ever had, and she deserves all the praise and credit she can get.”

For Crist, it might have seemed unlikely that she would be able to qualify for states. The first medal she had ever earned in cross country was just 10 days ago at the YAIAA meet. It may have seemed like an improbable task to many, but not to her coach, her parents, and herself. Crist hung on for dear life in the final 800, and finished strong for a 19th place finish (20:50.1) and a district medal. She was the 13th of 15 individual qualifiers, after placing 63rd last year.

“Marrin has been running great here at the end of the season and getting better every time,” said Beegle. ‘My confidence in her is very high. She practices with Anne and Kelty and runs hard, so I knew she was ready for a big day. And her confidence is at an all-time high right now.”

Crist ran like a veteran who knew what she was doing, and having Oaster just in front of her to pull her along was key.

“I think my confidence has grown a lot this year” Crist said. “I tried to stay close to Anne and Kelty, and then I started passing other girls. When I passed two girls at the end, I knew that put me in the top twenty. We’re going to see how it goes next week. We won’t have to focus on how we do as a team, so we can run for ourselves and figure it out and do our best.”

Also in AA, Abigail Riedel had one of her best races of the season for Littlestown, placing 73rd in 22:43.8. Rebecca Durbin was the lone runner from Bermudian Springs, and finished 129th in 25:10.3.

In AAA competition, Sophia Toti of Carlisle led her team to a narrow win over Mechanicsburg. Toti looks pained when she runs, but she never stops motoring and won in 18:00.8, six seconds ahead of Cedar Crest’s Gwyneth Young. Margaret Carroll, the YAIAA individual champion from Northeastern, placed third in18:27.3. Carlisle, Mechanicsburg, Dallastown, and Hershey earned the team slots for states. The top five AAA teams had a spread of just 21 points from first to fifth.

South Western’s Paige Watson led all area runners in the AAA race with a 57th place time of 20:20.4. Sarah Pfisterer, New Oxford’s lone entrant, was 92nd in 21:02.5.

The state meet will be held next Saturday on the Parkview Course in Hershey, adjacent to the Giant Center. O’Brien will compete in the Class A race at 9:30 am, while Oaster and Crist will compete in the AA race at 10:15 am. For full results of all district races, go to http://results.tfmeetpro.com/MACFAT_LLC/2019_PIAA_District_3_Cross_Country_Championships/

A Girls

Team Results (8 scoring teams – top team to states): 1.Camp Hill 33, 2.Annville-Cleona 68, 3.Kutztown 96, 4.Delone Catholic 108, 5.York Catholic 110, 6.Covenant Christian 159, 7.Susquenita 163, 8.Linden Hall 167.

Individual Results

(65 runners – top 10 plus Times Area runners)

1.Erika Moriarty (Kutz) 19:25.4, 2.Braeton Peters (AC) 19:37.6, 3.Laura Sakol (CH) 20:24.2, 4.Grace Shartle (CH) 20:33.2, 5.Cassie Clemson (AC) 20:37.0, 6.Janelyn Vorkapich CH 20:53.6, 7.Julia O’Brien (DC) 21:07.9, 8.Gabbie Tully (YC) 21:18.2, 9.Morgan Dennison (Fair) 21:19.8, 10.Anna Long(CH) 21:37.7…15.Becky Hernandez (DC) 21:43.7, 28.Annabelle Biggins (DC) 23:05.8, 35.Maddie Kay (Fair) 23:40.2, 37.Maggie Lawrence (DC) 23:45.2, 41.Zoey Kline (Fair) 24:12.8, 47.Emma Goddard (DC) 24:38.0, 48.Jessica Crawford (DC) 24:40.7, 57.Brenna Yingling (DC) 26:15.8.

AA Girls

Team Results (16 scoring teams – top three to states): 1.Northern 44, 2.Boiling Springs 110, 3.Donegal 129, 4.York Suburban 142, 5.Gettysburg 189, 6.Wyomissing 190, 7.Conrad Weiser 191, 8.Berks Catholic 199, 9.Oley Valley 214, 10.Greencastle-Antrim 222.

Individual Results

(144 runners – top 10 plus Times Area runners)

1.Marlee Starliper (North) 17:21.3, 2.Taryn Parks (G-A) 17:40.4, 3.Peyton Ellis (BoS) 18:56.0, 4.Katie Anthony (North) 19:57.6, 5.Isabella Weaver (G-A) 20:01.5, 6.Sydney Werner (CW) 20:06.0, 7.Allie Engle (North) 20:07.8, 8.Grace Kuhn (Wyo) 20:08.9, 9.Madison Saltsburg (North) 20:09.6, 10.Gabrielle Reifsnyder (BigS) 20:17.9… 15.Kelty Oaster (Get) 20:39.9, 19.Marrin Crist (Get) 22:50.1, 38.Anne Bair (Get) 21:32.4, 55.Megan Hurst (Get) 21:58.3, 73.Abigail Riedel (Lit) 22:43.8, 94.Katherine Wagner (Gett) 23.:29.3, 119.Carolyn Scheungrab (Get) 24:43.0, 121.Sonya Yingling (Lit) 24:43.6, 129.Rebecca Durbin (BermSp) 25:10.3, 143.Alyssa Meyers (Lit) 27:42.6.

AAA Girls

Team Results (32 scoring teams – top four to states): 1.Carlisle 152, 2.Mechanicsburg 157, 3.Dallastown 163, 4.Hershey 168, 5.Chambersburg 173, 6.Wilson 190, 7.Northeastern 241, 8.Exeter 249, 9.Cumberland Valley 254, 10.Cedar Crest 269…25.South Western 807.

Individual Results

(237 runners – top 10 plus Times Area runners)

1.Sophia Toti (Car) 18:00.8, 2.Gwyneth Young (CedCr) 18:06.6, 3.Margaret Carroll (NE) 18:27.3, 4.Karen Rippy (Wil) 18:36.0, 5.Hope McKenney (Mech) 18:41.1, 6.Summer Hogan (Dover) 18:46.0, 7.Emily Schuler (Dal) 18:49.8, 8.Katie Locker (Etown) 18:52.4, 9.Camryn Kiser (Chamb) 18:52.8, 10.Anna Martin (Warwick) 19:01.2…57.Paige Watson (SW) 20:20.4, 92.Sarah Pfisterer (NOx) 21:02.5, 137.Alyssa Bentzel (SW) 21:58.2, 171.Grace Dirienzo (SW) 22:39.3, 187.Emily Frock (SW) 23:02.5, 189.Lindsey Watson (SW) 23:04.8, 207.Brooke Ridenour (SW) 23:53.0, 217.Katerina Lucabaugh (SW) 24:23.4.

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