PUNXSUTAWNEY — Being the pre-race favorite is a challenging place to be, but the Punxsy Lady Chucks cross country team will look to fulfill the hype. The Lady Chucks are favored to capture their first District IX crown since 2009 this Saturday morning in Ridgway.
The Punxsy girls head into the 2012 district championship meet with the inside track to gold based on their previous season results against the other three AA teams competing in the district — Bradford, Clearfield and Saint Marys.
“We’ve beaten all the other district teams during the course of the season, so it stands to reason we are the team to beat heading into Saturday's race,” said Lady Chucks head coach George Wehrle. “Just about anything can happen, but if the girls run well, they will be tough to beat.”
The race will be held in Ridgway on the same course where the girls won the Ridgway Invitational just three weeks ago.
“Not every team was at full strength at that invitational, but all our girls ran well on the course, so there is no reason to expect anything less on Saturday," added Wehrle. "For once, the weather looks terrific, so that won’t be a factor as it has been in the past. Last year we had three inches of snow and mud.”
Punxsy must win the team title to advance to the state meet in Hershey on Saturday, Nov. 3.
“With this year being the first year for three classifications, whoever makes it to states from our district will have a decent chance of doing well at states," points out the Punxsy leader. "In the past, with only two classifications, we were going against the largest schools in the state. Right now, we are ranked 20th out of 160 AA schools, so if we get to states, we know we can be competitive.”
Last year, Punxsy was runner-up, falling just short of champion Bradford by the score of 32-38.
In 2010, the Lady Chucks again saw the Lady Owls take the title when the teams tied, 30-30, but Bradford won on the tiebreaker.
“Bradford is usually the best team in the district, and we have been trying to reach their level for some time now," explained Wehrle. "They have had some injury issues but are starting to come around, and I expect them to give us everything we can handle. Clearfield also has three excellent runners leading the way, but I think our depth should give us the advantage against them.“
Saint Marys’ Adair Gennocro is the prohibitive favorite to win the district individual crown. She is currently ranked second in the state in the AA division.
“Gennocro is a terrific runner, a multiple state medalist in both cross country and track and field. She should win rather easily on Saturday. She’s that good,” Wehrle said.
After Gennocro, Punxsy’s Juliann Boddorf and Alexis Young are looking to be the next two runners to cross the finish line.
“The way Juliann and Alexis are running, I will be surprised if anyone other than Gennocro is ahead of them at districts," said Wehrle. "I’m hoping they give us a solid 2-3 finish.”
Young has finished seventh, second and fourth the past three years at districts, while Boddorf finished ninth as a freshman and third last year.
“Alexis and Juliann always run well at districts, and I expect them to lead us once again,” added the Punxsy coach.
Ala Small and Korinne Young are also important performers to the Punxsy team's title hopes, and both girls are running well at just the right time.
“Ala had a slight injury within the past two weeks, but I expect her to be at full strength in Ridgway," noted Wehrle. "Korinne is capable of running right up near Ala, and I can see both girls placing right up near the top 10 if they run well. Bradford and Clearfield both have several runners who have posted similar times to Ala and Korinne, so that’s where the district race could be decided.”
Kaston Mohney and Marissa Greenblatt figure to be the next two girls across the line for the Punxsy squad, hopefully well ahead of any other team's fifth runner.
“Kaston and Marissa give us two strong performers at the fifth and sixth positions, so their role is critical to the team," added Wehrle. "Having all five of your runners in before anyone else is pretty important, and the sixth runner can help by inflating other scores if they get ahead of the fifth runner from the other schools. In the past we’ve been a bit shaky at the fifth runner position, but this year I feel as if that has been one of our strengths because of the fine running of Kaston and Marissa."
Logan Brooks was normally the seventh runner in for Punxsy most every meet this season, but unfortunately she will be unable to compete due to injury.
“Logan has been a solid performer for us all season, and to lose her is certainly a big blow to the team. However, I feel confident Elissa Hill will step up and try to fill in for Logan as best as she can," explained Wehrle.
Hill ran her fastest time ever last Thursday at Slippery Rock and has been doing some of her best running over the past month.
“Elissa deserves a chance to show what she can do in the varsity race, and I expect her to run her best race of the season," said the Lady Chucks coach.
Also running for Punxsy in the varsity extra race on Saturday will be Kayla Carpenter, Tamera Anthony and Beth Barnett. Kara Kunselman is also sidelined with an injury and will be unable to run.
“I would feel good about any one of these girls running in the varsity race. They would be competitive in the varsity race, and I am looking forward to seeing them get the opportunity to show what they can do on Saturday," added Wehrle.
The Punxsy girls hope to bring home the team trophy and accompanying trip to states, but the season has been a successful one regardless of the outcome at districts.
“The girls have a good chance of winning, but the other teams have some good runners as well. It should be an exciting race, and hopefully we can be the team that comes out on top,” concluded the hopeful Punxsy coach.