Team places second, two Chucks move on

RIDGWAY — The Punxsutawney boys' cross country was upset by St. Marys Saturday at the District IX Cross Country Championships in Ridgway. Punxsy attempted to challenge for the district title, but it ended up taking the runner-up position after falling to the Flying Dutch.

The AAA boys had to deal with seriously muddy conditions as they were the final runners on the Ridgway course at Francis S. Grandinetti Elementary School.

"The course was extremely muddy, which could make it difficult to run good times and hard to hold onto good finish places in our AAA boys' race," Punxsy head coach John Smith said.

Despite the running conditions, two of Punxsy's individuals racers finished with times good enough to advance them to the PIAA Cross Country Championships next Saturday in Hershey.

Senior Dane Baker finished third overall in 18:42; he was close behind Gideon Woelfel of St. Marys and Bradford's Aziz Yousif, who took first place. Smith said he thought the competition was very tough for the gold medal.

"Any one of those three could have been the district champ," he said.

The other runner that will be representing Punxsy at the state championships is Bo Dinger.

"Dinger ran like a man on a mission," Smith said. Dinger placed fifth overall, crossing the finish line in 18:53; he was just seconds behind St. Marys' Alex Foster, who came in fourth.

Nate Ward was the third place runner for the Chucks; Smith said he was expected to finish within the top-five racers, but he fell on the course and could not recover after falling behind three runners. Ward finished the course in 19:20, placing ninth overall.

Punxsy also took 14th place overall when freshman Seth Burkett finished in 19:55, and Luke Fugate took 21st overall for the Chucks after running in 21:23.

"Bradford was the spoiler for our team score by placing four runners in positions 15, 16, 17 and 18," Smith said.

Seniors Shane John (21:37, 23rd overall) and Derik Kelly (22:47, 29th overall) rounded out the runners for Punxsutawney.

After finishing on a positive note, Smith said he felt good about the season overall.

"This was a good season, with the boys going 8-3 and finishing up as district runner-up, and two qualified for states," Smith said. "I think the kids know they were better than the results showed, and we are proud of them. The district meet was a lot closer than the score indicates."

Smith also took the time to give his appreciation to those that have supported the boys' cross country team throughout the season.

"We wish to thank all of the parents and supporters of the season as well as assistant coach Doug Craft for his tireless effort," Smith said.

Baker and Dinger will travel to Hershey next Saturday to compete at the state competition.