MONROEVILLE — The Punxsy girls cross country team traveled to Monroeville on Saturday to take part in the 23rd annual Gateway Invitational, held at Boyce Park.
Hot and humid weather conditions and a difficult course made for slower race times, but overall the team came away with some satisfying results.
"This was a fairly typical first meet, with many of the girls racing more conservatively than usual because of the extreme humidity and a pretty hilly layout," Punxsy head coach George Wehrle said. "It was good competition and I feel confident they will improve significantly in their next competition."
Leading the way for Punxsy over the 3.1 mile course was junior Alexis Young, who medaled by placing 11th out of 88 runners in the varsity race. Her time was 23:15.
"Alexis looked like the most aggressive of our varsity girls, especially over the last two miles," Wehrle said. "She picked off a lot of runners during that time and had an excellent finish against some of the best runners in the WPIAL."
Freshman Ala Small and sophomore Juliann Boddorf were Punxsy's next two runners to cross the line, placing 42nd and 44th with times of 25:02 and 25:08, respectively.
"Ala and Juliann worked together for much of the race," Wehrle said. "Both of them did well to finish in the top half of a very competitive field."
Sophomore Tamera Anthony placed 68th with a time of 27:40, while freshman Elissa Hill was one place and 18 seconds behind her teammate.
"Tamera and Elissa are two of the most dedicated girls on the team, and for them to finish as our fourth and fifth runners is a nice reward for all their hard work over the summer," Wehrle said.
Rounding out the varsity on Saturday were senior Kirsten Dean, who placed 72nd in 28:37, and freshman Kaston Mohney, who ran 29:12 to place 76th.
"Kirsten is a veteran runner who comes on gradually throughout the season, so her result was a good starting point," Wehrle said. "Kaston has a lot of potential and I look for her to continue to be one of our top runners."
As a team, Punxsy placed 10th out of 12 complete teams.
"It certainly doesn't look like we did all that well, but considering the size of the schools we were up against we actually held our own pretty well," Wehrle said.
In the junior varsity race, a total of 72 runners finished the race.
Punxsy placed 6th of 7 complete teams in the junior varsity team standings.
Freshamn Logan Brooks came across the line in 29:12, good for 26th place.
She was followed by sophomore Kayla Carpenter in 29:46, good for 29th place.
"Logan showed she is capable of being up there with our varsity runners, and Kayla hung in there and ran well despite not feeling her best," Wehrle said. "The conditions were just brutal and really wore down all the runners."
Heidi Rodgers placed 31st and Cheyenne Poole 32nd with times of 30:23 and 30:48, respectively.
"Heidi is working her way into shape and moved up nicely throughout her race," Wherle said. "Cheyenne showed some good potential and finished strongly in her first race."
Freshman Marissa Greenblatt placed 48th in 32:00, and sophomore Jenna Knox placed 72nd in 54:30.
"Marissa was strong throughout and looks like she will just get better and better with more race experience," Wehrle said. "Jenna struggled a bit but hung in there and was determined to finish.
"I give her a lot of credit for not giving up during the race. All of the girls showed some toughness today."
Punxsy's next competition is today when it travels to Saint Marys to take on Elk County Catholic.
"Elk County has a strong team, led by three time state silver medalist Kennedy Weisner," Wehrle said. "I look for our girls to run much faster times, and hopefully, they can match up well with Elk County, traditionally one of the better AA teams in the state."