Running with the best of the state

HERSHEY — The conditions were nearly perfect Saturday when the Punxsy cross country teams traveled to Hershey for the PIAA Class AAA championship.

"I was happy the course was in good shape, and the weather was optimal since the district race was the complete opposite," Lady Chucks head coach George Wehrle said. "At least the girls were able to run their final race of the season with the chance of posting a decent time."

During the girls' race, Alexis Young was the first to cross the finish line for Punxsy. She completed the 3.1-mile course in 21:22 for 184th overall out of 285 runners.

"Alexis ran a good race, recording her second-fastest time of the season," Wehrle said. "This was her third time at states, and every year, she performs well, something not all runners are able to do."

Freshman Ala Small followed closely behind Young, finishing 196th overall in 21:28.

"Ala ran her fastest race of the season at the state championships, which is great to see," Wehrle said. "She was very consistent all year and was at her best when it counted most. ... She has a bright future as a distance runner."

The final runner for Punxsy, Juliann Boddorf, also ran her best time of the season, placing 210th overall in 21:41.

"Once again, this meet just shows how tough it is to compete in the AAA classification," Wehrle said. "Hopefully, all the girls on our team want to get back here next year and do even better."

On the boys' side, Punxsy had just two racers — Bo Dinger and Dane Baker.

"They had their work cut out for them from the start," boys' head coach John Smith said.

More than 280 racers competed in the boys' Class AAA race.

"Dane Baker had no choice but to go out extra fast," Smith said. "He did, and his start was great, but holding on proved difficult."

Baker placed 228th overall, completing the course in 18:20.

Freshman Dinger had a more successful race than his senior counterpart. Dinger finished the course in 18:11 for 209th place overall.

"Bo Dinger was sucked to the back of the pack at the start but somehow worked his way up," Smith said.

Although neither placed in the top-200, Smith said he was proud of both of his runners at states.

"Their efforts were exceptional all season long," Smith said. "Dane's contribution to this program and team went way beyond any single performance. His presence will be missed next year."

Although Smith knew coming into states that the competition was going to be steep, he said it is always a good experience for the runners.

"It's extremely tough to compete with all those big schools, but the kids really enjoy it," Smith said. "They are true competitors."