The District 3 and PIAA cross-country championships were contested in unseasonably warm weather to cap off the 2022 season, and several runners from Diocesan high schools found themselves in the heat of the battle.
In the District 3 championships at Big Spring High School on October 29, York Catholic’s girls were atop the podium in 1A competition with 28 points. The Irish placed four runners in the girls’ top seven, including first-place overall finisher Madeline Murphy, a sophomore, who paced the field with a time of 20:10.80, nearly 37 seconds ahead of her nearest competition. Joining Murphy on the top-ten podium were teammates Shelia Driscoll, Madelyn McKee and Reagan Cheramie.
In the girls’ 2A district finals, the Lady Crusaders of Bishop McDevitt finished second with their overall performance in a field of 17 teams. And in a repeat of last year’s bronze endeavor, Trinity’s Lila Shore ran to a third-place finish.
A week later, cross-country runners were back in action, facing stark challenges at Hershey’s Parkview course, with tight turns, steep hills and stark competition throughout the 5K run. Adding to the challenge was the unseasonably warm temperatures well into the mid-70s – 40 degrees higher than last year’s state finals. It’s not the type of weather Madeline Murphy or Lila Shore prefer to run in, but it didn’t sour their performances, either.
Murphy, a sophomore, finished seventh among 276 runners in the 1A girls’ finals with a time of 20:14. Teammate Shelia Driscoll, a freshman, joined her on the medals stand with a 16th-place finish.
After the race, Murphy told reporters she was happy with her performance, a “big step up from last year,” when she finished 35th in her freshman season. York Catholic’s girls’ team finished third in 1A team standings at states, with 141 points.
“From start to finish, this team has been amazing,” York Catholic coach Jeff Alloway said of the boys’ and girls’ teams. “At the start of the season, I didn’t know what we’d have because we had some new people come in this year. It was a little bit of a rough start, but then it just all came together, starting with wins at the Diocesan meet. From that point on, we’ve just been rolling.”
Taking the start gun just moments before Murphy and Driscoll received their medals, Trinity’s Shore battled the heat as well, maneuvering the course as she hit all her marks along the way to finish 19th out of 244 runners.
“Having a quick start and getting to the outside so I wouldn’t get stuck was important for me in the beginning. I also wanted to get a quick first mile, and in the second mile it was about going hard on the uphills and then using the downhills to relax a little bit. The last mile, it was all about staying with it and gearing up for a strong finish. I would say my plan went pretty well,” a smiling Shore said as she cooled off behind her team’s tent.
“It’s been a great year for us. I had a great group to work with, and everyone wanted to work together, they wanted to work hard,” Trinity’s coach Bob Gruschow said after Shore’s run. “The team support and morale has been great all year, and I’ve had a good group of kids.”
Shore echoed her coach’s sentiments about team support: I definitely couldn’t do this without them. Whenever I get nervous, I start to get a little worked up, but them being here with me really helped me through. I don’t think I would be here right now without them. They keep me motivated when I’m not motivated myself,” she said.
Beyond teammate support, cross-country runners are frequently boosted by fellow competitors and teams, and the camaraderie throughout the sport was on display, especially among Diocesan schools at the district and state finals.
“At the end of the day, it’s about people who are running their best,” Delone Catholic’s head coach Richard Zinn said at the district finals. “Really, it’s about self-improvement. Whether you’re a 17-minute runner or a 30-minute runner, if you’re better than your run a couple days ago or a couple weeks ago, then we’re reaching our goals.”
“We’re so blessed that we get to do this sport, because it’s like a family,” Delone’s assistant coach Shawn Coleman said after congratulating York Catholic’s girls’ team on the District 3 title. “We get to pray for all the kids, support them, and really wish them the best of luck, no matter which team they’re on. We all cheer for each other, regardless of where they are on the course because we really want everyone to do well. We want our team to be successful, but it’s nice when we see our kids coming together with others. We’re just so lucky we can be right alongside everyone and encouraging everyone along the way.”
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness