RIDGWAY — The Punxsy girls cross country staged a valiant effort under miserable conditions Saturday at the District 9 Championships in Ridgway, falling just six points short of an upset as they placed second overall to team champion Bradford.
Punxsy finished with 38 points behind Bradford’s 32 but well ahead of DuBois’ total of 67. Clearfield placed fourth with 83 points.
“Our girls ran a great race but so did Bradford," Lady Chucks head coach George Wehrle said. "Both teams came ready to run, regardless of the weather and course conditions. DuBois and Clearfield struggled a bit, for whatever reason.”
Despite being unable to win the team championship, Punxsy did manage to send three of the five individual qualifiers from District 9 to next week’s PIAA State Cross Country Championships in Hershey.
Juliann Boddorf will compete at states for the second time, Alexis Young will make her third consecutive trip, and freshman Ala Small will compete against the best runners the state has to offer for the first time.
“While it was certainly disappointing to be denied the team berth at states, it will be gratifying to send three deserving girls to Hershey next week," Wehrle said. "Juliann, Alexis and Ala ran very well today and certainly earned their trip to states.”
With temperatures in the mid-30’s and snow falling, the five kilometer-course quickly deteriorated after the first race of the day, the AA girls championship. Punxsy ran the second race, encountering a muddy, slick course throughout the entire layout.
“Snow was falling as the girls ran, but the most difficult obstacle for the runners was the mud," Wehrle said. "They had to expend a lot more energy with each foot strike just to move forward and not slip.”
Punxsy got out well and had a nominal lead at the mile, but Bradford was able to stay close and gradually moved into the team lead during the second mile.
“We were up by a few points at the mile, unofficially, but Bradford did a nice job to reel us in a bit during the middle part of the race," Wehrle said. "It was a two-team race at that point and was really too close to call.”
Punxsy’s Young and Boddorf gradually pulled away from teammate Small in the final mile and were locked in a close battle with Kacy Huston of Bradford. Both girls were able to hold off Huston in a furious sprint finish to give Punxsy the third and fourth place finishers.
“Alexis and Juliann both showed a lot of desire to hold off the Bradford girl in the final strides of the race," Wehrle said.
Ala Small stayed strong over the final minutes of the race to take sisth place overall with a time of 22:43, ahead of two Bradford girls.
“Ala did what she needed to do-she went out with Alexis and hung on for dear life, and it paid off with a trip to states," Wehrle said.
Despite placing three runners in the top six, Punxsy was unable to hold off Bradford’s depth as the Owls took places seven, eight and 10 to pull away and earn their second consecutive team championship.
“Our first three girls did a wonderful job as we had three girls in while Bradford had two and DuBois just one," Wehrle said. "Unfortunately, Bradford took three of the next four places clinch the win. They were very deserving.”
Kirsten Dean came through with a great effort to place 11th overall in 23:19, while Logan Brooks finished in 14th place as Punxsy’s fifth runner.
“I can’t say enough about the job Kirsten did for us, although I’m not surprised because she always comes through when we need her," Wehrle said. "Logan had a great race today, beating quite a few runners who had finished ahead of her during the dual meet season. She has a ton of potential and showed some of that today.”
Freshman Kaston Mohney placed 21st overall in 25:09, with Tamera Anthony placing 24th in 26:03.
“Kaston had a great freshman season and will only improve. She wasn’t quite at her best today but still performed admirably, finishing ahead of four DuBois runners," Wehrle said. "Tamera toughed it out as she usually does and did the best she could to help out the team. She is one of our best workers and sets a great example for everyone.”
DuBois’ Catherine Sheffo led wire-to-wire to claim her first district championship, with teammate Brittany Bogacki placing ninth to claim the final trip to Hershey.
“All in all, I couldn’t be any more pleased with how our team performed," Wehrle said. "It was a difficult day to race and the girls responded with their best effort of the season. It was an exciting and memorable competition between two fine teams.”
In the varsity extra competition, a total of 16 girls competed on the treacherous course in the final race of the day. Freshman Elissa Hill came across the line in third place with a time of 25:24.
“Elissa was only 30 seconds out of first place," Wehrle said. "She is a dedicated runner and did a fantastic job on an absolutely brutal course.”
Heidi Rodgers placed 11 seconds and one spot behind Hill.
“Heidi has been running very well lately and ended her cross country career in fine fashion with a strong race today," Wehrle said.
Marissa Greenblatt placed seventh overall in 26:11.
“Marissa had a strong showing again in the mud, just as she did last Thursday in similar conditions," Wehrle said. "She ran a very determined race.”
Sophomore Kayla Carpenter completed the course in 26:37 to place 10th.
“Kayla came through again with a nice performance," Wehrle said. "She ran well for the team in the last few weeks, especially.”
Hannah Rummel ran 32:10 to take 16th.
“Hannah improved a great deal in her second season of cross country," Wehrle said. "She is really starting to race well on a consistent basis.”
Boddorf, Young and Small will compete for the final time this season next Saturday at the Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey.
“I want to thank all the girls for their hard work and dedication this year," Wehrle said. "We lose two good runners in Kirsten and Heidi, but the potential of the returning girls is an exciting prospect for next year and beyond.”