HERSHEY — Though the Punxsy girls' cross country team was unable to win its third-straight District IX Class AAA title last Saturday in Ridgway, the Lady Chucks will still send four runners to Saturday's state meet in Hershey.
Punxsy is led by two-time individual district champion and senior Milea Schall. Also to compete Saturday will be senior Shannon Byerly, sophomore Alexis Young and freshman Juliann Boddorf.
Schall claimed Punxsy's fourth individual district crown in a row, following in Kelsey Acre's footsteps as a two-time winner. Acre won the title in 2007 and 2008.
This will be Schall's third trip to states, and Punxsy head coach George Wehrle feels as if she is capable of getting very close to medaling this weekend.
The last two years, it has taken close to 19:40 to medal, which is finishing in the top 25. Schall ran 20:20 last year, and Wehrle said she is certainly a better runner this year than last.
"It's hard to say how much better, but comparing times on similar courses over the past two years, she is about 30-45 seconds faster than a year ago," Wehrle said. "There are 285 runners in the AAA race, which makes for a pretty crowded field of talented runners, but if Milea runs well, she is certainly capable of being in the hunt for one of the medals.
"She looked really good in practice this week, and I know she'll give it her all in the last cross country race of her high school career," Wehrle said.
Along with Schall, Byerly will be competing in the final high school race of her career.
She finished in 170th place with a time of 21:16 last year.
"I can see her moving up significantly based on her race performances this year," Wehrle said. "(The time of) 20:45 was the 100th place last year, and Shannon can run at least that fast if conditions are decent."
Young reached states as a freshman in 2009, placing 163rd.
"I look for Alexis to move up ... hopefully into the top 100 at least," Wehrle said. "She is capable of running something in the neighborhood of 20:15-20:30, which last year, would have placed in the 50-75 place range."
Wehrle said that experience is valuable at states, but at the same time, it isn't everything. Last year's champion, after all, was a freshman.
That leads to Punxsy's fourth competitor Saturday — Boddorf.
Wehrle said that if all goes well, Boddorf should be able to run a time of around 21:30. That would place her near the top 100 runners.
"(That) would be an excellent result for her first state meet. She should be confident in her ability, because she is running up near Alexis and Shannon in practice," Wehrle said. "Juliann did a great job to qualify out of a competitive district race, and I know she'll give her best effort Saturday."
The Lady Chucks may not be competing as a team Saturday, but that won't affect the way they run. Punxsy's girls are always running against the course and clock.
"I want our girls to run their best possible race at states, regardless of whether they are running as a team, or, in this case, as four individuals," Wehrle said. "All of our girls should perform well, simply because they are in great shape and take a lot of pride in what they do."