SHARON - Anthony Amroski and Devin VanGuilder. Devin VanGuilder and Anthony Amroski.
The Eisenhower High School cross country teammates have been pushing each other all season. Amroski finished seventh at last week's Region 4 Meet, one second ahead of VanGuilder. On Saturday, VanGuilder finished 10 seconds ahead of Amroski at the District 10 Class A Cross Country Championships at a muddy, messy Buhl Park in Sharon.
Both qualified for the PIAA Cross Country Championships this weekend in Hershey.
Photo by Sally Pondel
"We push each other the whole time," says VanGuilder.
VanGuilder pulled a few seconds ahead at the two-mile mark and finished the wet course in seventh place out of 130 runners (nearly 20 Class A schools) in 17:53. Amroski was 11th in 18:03.
Runners from the top three scoring teams automatically advanced to states, as well as the top 15 runners not on those teams. VanGuilder and Amroski had about 30 seconds to spare.
"Districts normally is really muddy," said Amroski. "Based off last year, Devin and I knew we had a chance to make it to states; my goal was to stick with Devin."
A good plan, considering both qualified for states last year. But, in a different storyline, Amroski has been banged up this year, and took a few days off this week to rest.
"I was going to run no matter what," he said. "I didn't want to end my running career that way."
Amroski is in his senior season; VanGuilder is a junior. But they are "great friends," said Amroski, and depend on one another.
"We had our coaches and teammates yelling out (times and places)," said Amroski. "I knew we were okay if we stayed where we were."
Competing with and against each other works well. Do they want to beat each other?
"Oh, yeah," said Amroski, who finished 65th at states last year and whose goal is top 30 this time. "It helps a lot; we get to have a race inside a race. He normally has a really good beginning and middle, so that pushes me to stay up, and I normally have a good finish, so that pushes him."
Ike coach Darlene Beach agrees, "They do rely on each other. I was pleased for both of them, and certainly Devin has worked hard and he was so determined to make it last year, and he's gotten faster and a lot taller, too. With Anthony, all those years running, it was great to see him make it his senior year.
"We were a little off last week at regions," said Beach, "and finished behind some teams we had beaten during the year. But I felt this week, they all did well."
Also for Eisenhower's boys, which ended seventh as a team, dual-sport athlete Ben Perkins was 40th in 19:08; Ben Morrison 51st in 19:19; Matt Jewell 76th in 20:01; Derek Lasecki 82nd in 20:16, and; Jacob McCool, also a two-sport athlete, 105th in 21:13.
Aaron Hoover paced Youngsville in 71st place in 19:52; Zach Ishman 96th in 20:54; Bobby Bower 100th in 20:59; Andy Lalwani 112th in 21:41; Chester Ciukaj 113th in 21:43; Gregg Yost 118th in 22:26, and; Ben Stover 122nd in 22:48.
Saegertown, West Middlesex and Mercyhurst Prep finished 1-2-3 for the boys teams. Maplewood juniors Jeremy and Jake Parsons finished 1-2 for the individuals in 17:27 and 17:37, respectively.
"We're a young team with one senior and so we're learning how to race," said Youngsville coach Ray Bennett, "learning how to work harder, and learning how to believe in ourselves. It's events like this which mold the character of a cross country runner. At a young age, knowing you can be hopeful that every race out will be a better effort than your last race enables you to run well, to learn well, and practice that much harder. These boys continue to run with hope - that's something I really admire and expect will produce great results - just like they have for VanGuilder and Amroski.
Youngsville finished sixth out of 15 teams in the girls Class A race.
"I've coached around 70 girls varsity races since starting with YHS in 2007," said Bennett. "Today, I saw our varsity girls run like I've never seen a team run before them. Every girl ran with an indescribable amount of heart and guts. They were not intimidated by the course or the competition. All seven girls stayed 'in the race' mentally from gun to finish. It was, as a coach, perhaps the proudest single moment I've experienced. It was the beautiful execution of what every good coach tries to describe for their runners: use your mind to get everything you can out of your body in this race. And they did.
"When you've got two girls in the top 20 (or the top 10), it's unusual to have five within a narrow time gap, yet our top five girls were in within a 1:11 window - it was the tightest girls team time in the whole race," he said.
Kellie Lindstrom was 24th in 22:50; Kaitlyn Maille 27th in 22:55; Abbie Swartzbaugh 37th in 23:15; Mallory Eastman 48th in 23:45; Piper Olsen 52nd in 24:01; Lydia Swartzbaugh 57th in 24:26, and; Hannah Morris 73rd in 25:29.
Eisenhower's Julia Bauer was 23rd overall in 22:36, and the sophomore was only a handful of places from qualifying for states. "She is close to making it," said Beach, adding that despite not being able to score as a team, this group of four girls "is a team." Kate Daugharthy was 49th in 23:48; Lacey Stanko 62nd in 24:35, and; Grace Thompson 83rd in 26:38.
Warren sophomore Anna Falvo was very close to advancing to states for the second straight year. This year, in the Class AA race, runners from the top two teams automatically qualify and then the next 10 runners.
Falvo was 21st overall in 21:36, and just one place and one second out of the final qualifying spot.
"Falvo is a machine," said Warren coach Jen Madril. "She was a minute faster that at the Sharpsville Invitational a month ago that was in perfect conditions. And times were a minute slow in this race. The harder the challenge, the better she is.
"As a whole, they only had the five of them all season, and they came in second at regions and eighth (out of 19) at districts. I think they did amazing against the teams they competed against. The two rookies (freshmen Deanna Hahn and Alyssa Cumberland) had to not just run, but race all season."
In order to score in a race, none of the five could miss a race, and they didn't.
Senior teammate Ellis Beardsley was 31st out of 108 in 22:18; Amanda Castagnino 45th in 23:24; Cumberland 72nd in 24:48, and; Hahn 75th in 24:51.
Madril said seniors Beardsley and Castagnino have run for six and five years, respectively, in cross and "I believe they ran the best races they have run (at districts)," she said. "Ellis did not miss a meet in six years - those teammates are irreplaceable."
In the boys Class AA race, Seth Johnson was 58th for Warren in 20:09; Christian Olsen 59th in 20:10; Max Pierson 61st in 20:11; Mark Reiff 71st in 20:37; Eric Zavinski 82nd in 21:34, and; Dan Pierson 93rd in 22:47.
"The boys were the youngest team there out of all 39 teams that raced," said Madril. "You can't get an award for most improved, but they were learning how to race as a team and to fear no one. They are going to be legit."
Complete results posted at runhigh.com.