It’s been said that good things happen in threes. That adage was true on Saturday at Big Spring High School in the boys’ District III Cross Country Championships. Seniors Andrew Hirneisen of Gettysburg and John Whitcomb of Fairfield each qualified for the PIAA state championships for the third year in a row. Joining the seniors at states will be youngsters Drew Cole, sophomore from Gettysburg, and Shernel Singh, freshman from South Western.
On an overcast and cool day, perfect for running, on an immaculate course designed specifically for cross country racing, 579 runners and 76 teams competed for the chance to qualify for the state meet to be held on Saturday in Hershey. And for even the most casual sports fan, it was an exhilarating mecca for running.
Hirneisen led a much-improved Gettysburg squad to its best district finish in years. Having moved back up to Class AAA last year after 6 years in AA, the Warriors did not lose a step, having their best AAA finish in over two decades.
In the AAA race, Hirneisen ran a different strategy than his race at the YAIAA Championships 10 days ago. In that race, he ran to win the race, and he ran out of gas in the final 800 meters. On Saturday, he went out much more conservatively and it paid off. Running in 24th place halfway through the 5,000 meter (3.1 miles) layout, Hirneisen looked smooth and in control. As he moved up Kill Hill to the two-mile mark he started to move.
Passing runner after runner, Hirneisen found himself in eighth place with about 600 meters to go, in sight of a pack of four athletes running in second to fifth place. When he went to put on the afterburners for a fabulous finish, there wasn’t much left in the tank.
“I’m a little tired, but at least I made it,” Hirneisen said. “I felt I could have done a little more since I went out more conservative today. But I’m just glad I made it to states. It’s a very big confidence booster to go out easier and then to pass people throughout the race. I was in good position near the end, but I just couldn’t push in all the way to the finish.”
Hirneisen ran his fastest time at Big Spring on the way to his 15th place finish (16:24.4) and automatic qualifying spot (top 20).
While Hirneisen knew right away that he had qualified for the third time, Cole had a little bit of a different experience than his teammate. Running in the middle of a huge pack, Cole was pulled along at a frenetic pace. As the runners approached the final 800, Cole was battling it out with South Western’s Singh and two runners from Northern and Chambersburg. Giving his all on the final stretch, Cole got just past Singh, but could not quite catch the other two. His time of 16:43.1 was 72 seconds faster than he ran last year and placed him 30th, one ahead of Singh. Then the waiting began.
In AAA, the top four teams qualify for states as a team, and then for individuals, it is the top 20 runners who are not on the top four teams. Cole had to wait about 30 minutes before the results were made final – he and Singh were the final two qualifiers.
“Waiting to find out if I made it was the hardest part, but overall I’m really happy,” Cole said. “I was confident that I could make it. I knew the kind of time I would have to run to qualify, and I was confident that I could push myself enough to run that. I have no clue what to expect next week, but I’m just going to try to run as fast as I can, and use that experience as a base for next year.”
Gettysburg coach Brian Mount could not make the meet because his daughter was getting married in Philadelphia. Cole had texted him and he reported how proud he was of his team. The Warriors placed ninth as a team with 287 points. Cedar Crest won the team title with 119. The last team qualifier, Cumberland Valley, scored 210.
“We’re all really happy with how we ran, it’s just that we are disappointed that we won’t all get to run together again, with a couple of guys going off to college,” Cole mused. “It’s bittersweet. It’s a great time that we’ve had together, but it’s sad that it has to end.”
Also in AAA, New Oxford’s Lukas Raullerson ran a strong race to place 43rd in 16:52.9.
Last year, Fairfield won its first-ever district crown in Class A, and was led by stalwart Whitcomb. On Saturday, the Knights could not get by Kutztown, who had its five scorers all place in the top 20. Kutztown scored 49 points, and Fairfield finished second with 61. That was the same as the Knights’ winning score a year ago. Once again, Whitcomb led the way, placing sixth in 17:16.5. In Class A, the top team goes to states and the next five individuals. With Kutztown’s Mitchell Brett repeating as champion (16:28.6), Whitcomb was the last individual qualifier.
“I felt like I didn’t really earn it this time, because the top five were automatically going, and I got sixth,” Whitcomb said. “My plan coming in was to run a personal best, which is 17:10. I didn’t get that but I ran my fastest on this course. I wanted to get out and see what the top runners were going to do. The first Kutztown kid went out, and when the second one came up on me, I knew I had to go.”
Two places behind Whitcomb was teammate Gabe Schubring (8th, 17:44.7). The sophomore speedster has had quite a year, and it is remarkable that he could even run Saturday, much less nearly make it to states. When he was feeling extremely poorly back in the spring track season, Fairfield coach Marcia Roan insisted that Schubring go to the emergency room. The doctors performed many tests and determined that he had mononucleosis, Lyme disease, bronchitis, and allergies to seven different things. It was the perfect storm of misery, and Schubring spent most of the summer on his back. His first day back running was the first day of practice when school started.
Whitcomb is ready for states, and will use his experience to run his best race so far. Having fought nervousness when he ran districts his sophomore year, he seems ready to go. And he obviously knows the state course well.
“Before, I used my nervousness to my advantage,” Whitcomb said. “Everything was new and I didn’t know what was going to happen, so I was running scared. I think having run here on this course and made it to states before made me be not nervous. So today I had my teammates pour water over my head before I started, and that jolted me to run hard.”
For Coach Roan, a great run is coming to an end. Roan will retire from coaching after states, and she will get a well-deserved rest. She has built the Knight running program up from ashes, and has gotten the runners to believe in themselves.
“Back when I started, I had one boy, and a girls’ team full of soccer players, and I knew nothing,” Roan said. “We qualified for states last year and won the division this year, both firsts for Fairfield. I am just incredibly proud of them. And I am thrilled for John to get back to Hershey. These kids have learned to believe that anything is possible. That’s why we coach. The medals are nice, but belief in yourself is nicer.”
Senior Easton Biggins led the Delone Catholic runners in the A race, finishing 28th (19:03.4).
In AA competition, York Suburban dominated once again. The YAIAA meet champions, the Trojans were led by sophomore Cole Adams’s third place finish (15:54.3), over a minute and a half faster than he ran last year. Adams also won the YAIAA individual crown this year. Suburban placed four runners in the top 20. Wyomissing’s Ben Kuhn repeated his district title (15:46.5). Suburban will go to AA states along with Kennard-Dale and Susquehannock. Bermudian’s top runner, Blaine Black, placed 98h in 18:51.8. Zach Eader paced Littlestown (119th, 18:56.9), and Kalani Crum represented Biglerville, placing 103rd in 18:54.2.
States will be run on Saturday on the Parkview course in Hershey, adjacent to the Giant Center. Whitcomb will compete in the Class A boys’ race at 11:45 am, while Hirneisen, Cole, and Singh will compete in the AAA race at 1:15 pm. For full results of all district races, go to http://results.tfmeetpro.com/MACFAT_LLC/2019_PIAA_District_3_Cross_Country_Championships/
Team Results (8 scoring teams – top team to states): 1.Kutztown 49, 2.Fairfield 61, 3.York Catholic 84, 4.Camp Hill 103, 5.Tulpehocken 107, 6.Trinity 117, 7.Delone Catholic 144, 8.Newport 255.
(72 runners – top 10 plus Times Area runners)
1.Mitchell Brett (Kutz) 16:28.6, 2.Jacob Mavretic (Millers) 16:39.0, 3.Matt Gurgiolo (CH) 17:09.4, 4.Joseph Rizzuto (YC) 17:09.8, 5.Jasper Burd (Trin) 17:12.0, 6.John Whitcomb (Fair) 17:16.5, 7.Ryan Morstatt (Kutz) 17:21.4, 8.Gabe Schubring, (Fair) 17:44.7, 9.Mosley Driscoll (YC) 18:02.0, 10.Connor Pushart (Trin) 18:08.7…12.Levi Davis (Fair) 18:13.0, 18.Andrew Glover (Fair) 18:28.4, 24.Chris Shaffer (Fair) 18:37.0, 28.Easton Biggins (DC) 19:03.4, 29.Kyle Davis (Fair) 19:06.0, 30.Camryn Wiles (Fair) 19:09.4, 32.Colby Seeley (DC) 19:14.7, 34.Sam Long (DC) 19:19.4, 35.Aden Davis (DC) 19:20.6, 43.Ryan Murphy (DC) 19:40.4, 51.Nathan Hall (DC) 20:12.7, 57.Joey Caitlin (DC) 20:47.5.
Team Results (31 scoring teams – top three to states): 1.York Suburban 61, 2.Kennard-Dale 125, 3.Susquehannock 152, 4.Wyomissing 188, 5.Oley Valley 191, 6.Conrad Weiser 211, 7.Donegal 239, 8.Boiling Springs 240, 9.ELCO 314, 10.Annville-Cleona 346…27.Bermudian Springs 691, 29.Littlestown 750.
(207 runners – top 10 plus Times Area runners)
1.Ben Kuhn (Wyo) 15:46.5, 2.Weber Long (GA) 15:49.0, 3.Cole Adams (YS) 15:54.3, 4.Gage Krall (NoLeb) 16:12.3, 5.Thomas Foster (Wyo) 16:23.6, 6.Grant Kern (YS) 16:25.8, 7.Jordan Ohl (YS) 16:32.1, 8.Collin Wolf (KD) 16:34.5, 9.Dan Gibney (KD) 16:35.5, 10.Luke Seymour (SchVal) 16:37.0…98.Blaine Black (BermS) 18:51.8, 103.Kalani Crum (Big) 18:54.2, 110.Zachary Eader (Lit) 18:56.9, 129.Dante Aguilar (Big) 19:15.8, 136.Alexander Lehigh (Lit) 19:21.4, 139.Trevor Wiley (BermS) 19:29.0, 145.Ryan Durbin (BermS) 16:33.9, 149.Anthony Riedel (Lit) 19:39.4, 158.Isaac Talkington (BermS) 19:48.9, 159.Nathan Taylor (BermS) 19:50.0, 168.Connor Shaw (BermS) 20:04.4, 172.Colin Cotello (Lit) 20:12.4, 182.Jacob Simpson (BermS) 20:27.0, 193.Michael Justice (Lit) 21:09.2, 196.Michael Reiner (Lit) 21:21.1.
Team Results (37 scoring teams – top four to states): 1.Cedar Crest 119, 2.Hershey 180, 3.Twin Valley 201, 4.Cumberland Valley 210, 5.Carlisle 231, 6.Shippensburg 261, 7.Hempfield 262, 8.Chambersburg 275, 9.Gettysburg 287, 10.Warwick 312…15.South Western 468.
(300 runners – top 10 plus Times Area runners)
1.Jonathan Thrush (Muhl) 15:52.4, 2.Graham Thomas (PenMan) 16:01.2, 3.Timothy Roden (CDauph) 16:10.1, 4.Hayden Hunt (Ship) 16:12.0, 5.Elias Spence (Ship) 16:13.8, 6.Jack Mieszkalski (Hemp) 16:14.1, 7.Evan Peachey (Car) 16:14.3, 8.Brendan Shea (Her) 16:16.1, 9.Brayden Boyd (Chamb) 16:17.7, 10.Evan Eshleman (Hemp) 16:19.0…15.Andrew Hirneisen (Get) 16:24.4, 30.Drew Cole (Get) 16:43.1, 31.Shernel Singh (SW) 16:44.6, 35.Shernan Singh (SW) 16:47.3, 43.Lukas Raullerson (NOx) 16:52.9, 46.Jacob Bordatto (Get) 16:55.1, 51.Evan Friel (SW) 16:59.7, 99.Blake Sutherland (Get) 17:30.6, 110.Ethan Turner (Get) 17:36.0, 132.Tim Shoul (SW) 17:47.5, 136.Dustin Fluke (Get) 17:50.1, 159.Sam Douds (Get) 18:00.3, 173.Owen Kreeger (NOx) 18:06.2, 236.Braden McNeal (SW) 18:49.0, 237.Vance Hagarman (NOx) 18:49.7, 246.Ben Bouselli (SW) 18:56.0, 265.Michael Mummert (SW) 19:19.9.