BROOKVILLE — A different feel to this year’s District 9 Class 1A Cross Country Championships started in the backyard of first-year host Brookville last Saturday at the high school campus.
Due to Ridgway passing on hosting as it had for the last several years, Brookville took over this year’s event and by all accounts, things went well as the Class 2A races were held in a morning session with Class 1A in the afternoon. Less traffic and less waiting around made for a good experience in sunny and cool conditions.
Drying out from a week’s worth of rain, nearly two inches, the course still ran faster than expected. And in a year with trimmed down qualifier lists, the hosts managed to get a runner to this Saturday’s PIAA Championships in Hershey.
Raiders junior Calvin Doolittle ran to a seventh-place overall finish in 18:12, securing his first-ever trip to states. It was harder this year. Only the first place team and the top six runners outside of the champion earned a berth. He’ll run Saturday as opposed to the original plan that had Class 1A boys and girls running at Hershey’s Parkview Cross Country Course on Friday.
Instead, it’ll be a wave setup where District 9 runners will start their race at 10:45 a.m. Results will be merged to determine order of finish later in the day.
Cranberry rolled to a 68-85 win over Elk County Catholic and put three runners in the top six places. That meant the rest of the field had to place in the top nine to qualify and Doolittle beat the 10th-place finisher by eight seconds.
Last year, the top two teams qualified and then the fastest 10 runners outside of those two teams advanced. Doolittle missed the final spot by 2.2 seconds, placing 16th overall.
“That was a huge goal of his for the last 365 days when he came two seconds away from making last year that was a pretty tough pill to swallow and then all the uncertainty this year but he did everything he was supposed to do with the assumption that the season was going to happen,” Brookville head coach Doug Roseman said. “That’s a heck of a distraction and with only one team and six individuals, instead of two teams and 10, that made it that much harder and you really got to hand it to Calvin. He just put all that stuff out of his mind and he got the job done.”
Doolittle was outkicked for the final spot by Clarion-Limestone’s Braden Rankin a year ago, so indeed, it was an offseason of preparing for maybe … nothing with the uncertainly of COVID’s effect on the season.
“Especially with track season canceled, I wasn’t even sure if you’re going to have a season, let alone meets like districts or invitationals, but the important thing was to keep training and be ready for it if it did happen,” Doolittle said. “And then we figured out we were going to have one but then the number of states spots got cut to six from 10, so that threw another wrench in the plan.”
Doolittle’s plan was aided by running on his own course, knowing what was ahead with the brutal climbs on the hills.
“I knew I had to get out fast and get into a top-six position and establish my spot,” Doolittle said. “I was starting to feel it, but I got myself out to an early enough of a lead that I was able to hold on.”
Elk County Catholic senior Joe Wolfe won the race in 17:00, 21 seconds ahead of Cranberry’s Matt Woolcock. Coudersport’s Kevin Sherry (17:34) was third and Clarion’s Gavin Hoover (17:55) finished fourth with Cranberry’s Colin Zerbe and Christian Miller finishing fifth and sixth at 18:03 and 18:07.
“It played out almost exactly the way we thought and hoped that it would,” Roseman said. “You knew those top three were not touchable. We figured he was going to have to go 8:15 or better, but to do that on a wet course, I thought was a sub-18 effort. He did exactly what we wanted. We wanted him going out and top four or five individuals to leave a little margin for error to where he wasn’t trying to out-kick somebody in the final 100 and he got into position early and he just did exactly what he’s supposed to and just held on to it.”
Doolittle’s other sports also have a state qualifying goal with swimming and track and field next spring, so he’s off to a 1-for-1 start.
“It feels really great to be able to check off one of the boxes and after this weekend we can hopefully move on to the next one and check off some more boxes,” Doolittle said.
Two of the Raiders’ original starting seven for Saturday missed the meet due to COVID-19 concerns and quarantining. They wound up fourth overall as freshman Jack Gill (34th, 20:02), senior Hayden Kramer (44th, 20:32), and freshmen Alec Geer (45th, 20:33) and Nick Shaffer (51st, 20:43) made up the scoring lineup with junior Bay Harper (64th, 21:36) also running.
“We couldn’t have been happier with the boys,” Roseman said. “To have a team that young and be two men down and finishing fourth, I thought that was huge. It was a great experience and they’re going to get nothing but stronger and they’re going to be a factor for a couple of years to come.”
Complete results can be found on runhigh.com.
LADY RAIDERS THIRD — The Brookville girls scored 78 points and finished third in the team standings behind North Clarion (38) and Moniteau (69).
“I was very happy with the girls team and their attitude,” Roseman said. “We finished third. I think second was a realistic possibility, but we knew this year it was winner takes all. We told them to be extra-aggressive, got to take a shot at winning and if you drop back a little bit because of that that’s just fine, so I was very impressed with that third-place finish. They gave us all they had.”
Like the boys, the top team and the six fastest times outside of runners from the winning team qualified for states. While the boys went to ninth overall to reach its qualifying list, the girls only went to seventh as Rachel Bauer’s fourth-place finish was the only North Clarion runner in the top seven.
Smethport junior Jenna Gregory won the race in 20:22, 14 seconds ahead of Northern Potter’s Courtney Martin. Oswayo Valley’s Cheyenne Mehl was in third with the only other sub-21. North Clarion’s Bauer was fourth in 21:07 while the next three finishers, fifth through seventh overall, captured the last three non-team qualifying spots — Moniteau’s Hannah Burgoon (21:27) and Jenna Blauser (21:31) and Elk County Catholic’s Sophia Bille (21:36).
The Lady Raiders wound up with sophomore Amber McAninch and senior returning two-time qualifier Emma Fiscus finishing 12th and 18th overall in 22:14 and 23:06. In the old top two teams and top 10 non-team qualifying runners system, both Lady Raiders would’ve punched a ticket to states with Fiscus claiming the 10th and final spot.
“Any time you get two individuals who would’ve been in the top 10, that’s pretty significant,” Roseman said.
Rounding out the Lady Raiders’ scoring lineup were juniors Sadie Shofestall (23:41) and Emma Afton (24:04), and freshman Ella Fiscus (24:26). Also running were juniors Emily Martz (25:12) and Chloe Smith (25:18).