RIDGWAY — Despite taking only fourth place out of nine complete teams, the Punxsutawney girls' cross country team took a big step forward Saturday at the Ridgway Invitational as it was just five points behind District IX opponent DuBois and only two in back of perennial favorite Bradford.
Elk County Catholic won the meet with 81 points with DuBois, Bradford and Punxsy all close on their heels.
“The girls had their best showing of the year, without a doubt, and at least they showed that districts should be competitive," Punxsy head coach George Wehrle said. "I still believe we have several girls who can do better than they showed today, so that’s also encouraging.”
Elk County’s star sophomore Kennedy Weisner won the overall race with a time of 19:14, nearly a minute ahead of DuBois senior Catherine Sheffo.
Punxsy’s Alexis Young placed seventh overall, recording a nice time of 21:14 on the five-kilometer course.
“Alexis has the ability to run up with Sheffo, but she didn’t have her best race today, for whatever reason," Wehrle said. "I look for her to be closer to 20:30 or better at districts if conditions are decent.”
DuBois’ second finisher was freshman Kayla Brennan, followed closely by Punxsy’s Ala Small, also a freshman. Small ran a seasonal best time of 21:38 to place 14th overall.
“Ala had her best run of the season, placing ahead of all the Bradford runners and just five seconds behind Brennan of DuBois," Wehrle said. "Ala will be a key to our success as we head into the championship part of our season.”
Sophomore Juliann Boddorf was Punxsy’s third runner in, placing 26th with a time of 22:27. “Juliann is easily a minute to 90 seonds better than her result from today suggests, so I feel good about our chances against these teams when she performs up to her capabilities. I have a lot of faith in her dedication to this team, and I look for her to return to form shortly.”
Senior Kirsten Dean had her strongest performance of the year, placing 34th overall with a seasonal best time of 23:06.
“Kirsten was closing on Bradford’s fourth runner and was ahead of DuBois’ fourth, so that’s a very good sign for our team," Wehrle said. "With Kirsten, you get a consistent performance every race, which is something you love to have as a coach.”
Punxsy freshman Logan Brooks placed 46th overall in 23:52, followed closely by Kaston Mohney just two seconds and one place later.
Both girls recorded seasonal bests by over 30 seconds.
“Logan and Kaston really came through for the team today," Wehrle said. "Logan has been really consistent in recent weeks, and this is the kind of running we need from Kaston.
"Both girls were ahead of Bradford’s seventh finisher and were within 10 seconds of both the fourth and fifth runners from DuBois, and I see no reason why they both (Logan and Kaston) won’t run quite a bit faster in the next few weeks. They are very dedicated runners.”
Freshman Marissa Greenblatt had a nice showing as she ran 24:22 to place 55th overall.
Sophomore Tamara Anthony was two seconds behind her teammate in 56th place.
“I thought Marissa had a very good race, just 10 seconds off her seasonal best on what was a harder course today for sure," Wehrle said. "I am always impressed with the effort Tamera puts into her races. She is a strong, consistent runner and can certainly run even better than her result from Ridgway.”
Fast-closing Heidi Rodgers placed 59th overall with a time of 24:36, which was a seasonal best by over a minute.
“Heidi was really moving the last half of the race and came from way back at the mile to post a nice time on this course,” Wehrle said.
Sophomore Kayla Carpenter sliced her seasonal best by 17 seconds as she placed 66th overall in 25:02.
Freshman Elissa Hill came across the line 19 seconds later in 69th place.
“Kayla had a good effort that was a step in the right direction for her, and Elissa was hindered by a side stitch but hung in there and did pretty well, all things considered," Wehrle said.
Sophomore Hannah Rummel improved her time from this meet a year ago by over a minute, while Jenna Knox notched another seasonal best with a time of 35:19.
“Hannah and Jenna are improving gradually, and they still have three meets left to hopefully post even better results,” Wehrle said.
Punxsy hosts its last meet of the season Tuesday when DuBois comes to town for Punxsy's Senior Recognition Day.
“If the Ridgway Invitational had been scored a dual meet, DuBois would have won 26-29," Wehrle said. "If we want to send our seniors out with a win, it will take a strong performance on our part against a good team.”