ST. MARYS — The Elk County Catholic track and field program is coming off an impressive 2018 campaign, one in which the boys and girls placed first and second, respectively, in the team races at the District 9 Class AA Championships while sending a combined 15 athletes in 12 different events to states.
That effort was led a strong 19-member senior class (13 girls, 6 boys), the graduation of which has left both teams with small overall numbers for 2019.
Gone are the likes of state qualifiers Matthew Dippold, Logan Hoffman, Hannah Lenze, Abby Bonfardin, Alicia Fritz, McKayla Wilson and Mandy Geci among others. Dippold and Hoffman helped lead the boys 4x800 relay squad to a fifth-place medal at states after winning gold at districts.
The ECC squads will have to rely on quality over quantity for success this season, and head coach W.J. Fernan welcomes back the right mix of athletes who have the potential to make that happen. Eight of the 15 girls on the roster are returning letterwinners, while 10 if the 18 boys are.
“Last year we had a large group of seniors — 13 girls and 6 boys,” said Fernan. “They were leaders who found a way to do their best, to contribute, and to bring out the best in others. They made sure we improved all season long and reached our best at the district and state championships. We will not be able to replace them or their enthusiasm.
“Fortunately, we have a group this year who seems interested in the same thing last year’s seniors were — doing their best, contributing, and bringing out the best in others.
“With the departure of those 19 seniors, we have a small group this year, but the first few weeks have indicated that we are big on heart, desire, and determination. Our returning athletes seem determined to improve on their performances from last year.”
That returning group is headlined by a handful of returning state medalists in senior Jacob Carnovale and juniors Taylor Newton, Ben Hoffman, Jacob Koss and John Wittman.
Newton will lead the girls squad after being the lone Lady Crusader to land on the podium at Shippensburg University last year. She tied for fourth in the high jump.
She was one of six jumpers to go over 5-4 (second-best height at states), but after the tiebreakers were sorted out, shared fourth with Beaver Area’s Emma Pavalak. That performance came on the heels of Newton tying the District 9 Meet record of 5-6, set buy former Lady Crusader Laura Lynch back in 1978 — in winning gold the previous weekend.
As for Carnovale and Ben Hoffman, they were the other half of the state-medal winning 4x800 relay squad. Hoffman also made states as the D-9 champ in the 3,200 run.
Koss and Wittman made states as part of the D-9 runner-up 4x400 relay that also featured Dippold and Logan Hoffman.
Newton is joined in the girls’ side by a trio of returning state qualifiers in senior Maddie Kear and juniors Chelsea Hunt and Olivia Sorg.
Kear and Hunt were part of the D-9 winning 4x800 relay squad along with the departed Lenze and Bonfardin. Sorg made states in two events last year — winning gold in the 100 dash and silver in the 200 as a sophomore. She is believed to be the first Lady Crusader to win gold in the 100 since at least 1997.
Newton and Kear also formed half of the Lady Crusader 4x400 relay squad, along with the departed Wilson and Geci, that reached states with a runner-up finish a year ago. Hunt was fifth in the 3,200 at districts as a sophomore.
Kear is one of just four seniors on the girls team this year along with Shannon Clancy, Ellie Flynn and Sami Geci. Emily Wolfe joins Hunt, Newton and Sorg as the only juniors, while sophomores Gina Carnovale and Kara VanEerden both lettered last year.
A new five-member freshmen class will help fill in some holes created by graduation for the Lady Crusaders this season.
As for the boys’ team, Jacob Carnovale and Ben Sherry are the lone seniors. Nearly half the team is comprised by an eight-member junior class that features six returning lettermen in Ben Hoffman, Stephen Bobby, Jared Emmert, Jacob Koss, John Wittman and Regis Wortman.
Fernan also welcomes back two lettermen (Raivis Bobby, Joe Wolfe) among his five sophomores. The boys also welcome three freshmen to the squad.
Carnovale (1,600) and Koss (100) just missed individual trips to states in those events last year with third-place finishes at districts, while Raivis Bobby was fourth in the javelin.
“We have had a very good first few weeks, and, although we wish a few more people were making the journey with us, we are extremely glad to be working with those who decided to take this rewarding journey,” said Fernan. “We look forward to seeing where our efforts take us.”
Elk County opened its season Saturday, with both teams having a strong showing at the 43rd Annual Igloo Invitational at Altoona’s Mansion Park. The girls finished sixth in the team standings (40 points) and the boys were seventh (46 points).
The Lady Crusaders crowned one champ in Newton in the high jump (5-2). She added a seventh in the long jump.
Kear was third in both the long jump (16-8 3/4) and 400 (1:04.46), while Sorg was fourth in the 200 dash (28.01) and sixth in the 100 (13.37). The Lady Crusader 4x800 relay was fourth (12:03.02), while the 4x100 squad was sixth (54.62).
The boys also crowned a champion in Wittman, who won gold in the 300 hurdles (42.03), while Koss won silver in the 200 (23.73) and was fourth in the 100 (11.74).
Ben Hoffman (4:42.32) and Jacob Carnovale (4:46.85) were third and fourth, respectively, in the 1,600 run. Joe Wolfe was ninth in the that event and missed a medall by one spot. Regis Wortman added a fourth in the high jump (6-0), while Raivis Bobby was eight in the javelin (140-7).
The Crusaders’ 4x800 relay team won silver with a time of 8:36.31. No names were available for any of the relay teams.
Elk County is back in action Tuesday at DuBois.
Seniors: Jacob Carnovale, Ben Sherry. Juniors: Stephen Bobby, Jared Emmert, Ben Hoffman, Gabe Kear, Jacob Koss, John Wittman, Regis Wortman, Isaac Wortman. Sophomores: Theo Aiello, Raivis Bobby, Alex Smith, Luke Sorg, Joe Wolfe. Freshmen: Tom Dippold, Alex Miller, Tanner Pasi.
Seniors: Shannon Clancy, Ellie Flynn, Sami Geci, Maddie Kear. Juniors: Chelsea Hunt, Taylor Newton, Olivia Sorg, Emily Wolfe. Sophomores: Gina Carnovale, Kara VanEerden. Freshmen: Jaci Aiello, Lani Cerroni, Tami Geci, Abby Hasselman, Kirsten Roberts.