DuBois — DuBois Central Catholic hasn’t garnered much attention in cross country in recent years, but that is mainly due to the fact that the team usually consists of about a half dozen runners.
However, with the encouragement of coach Tom Shade that trend has changed.
In fact, for the third straight year the roster has more than doubled as the Cardinals will have a total of 18 runners between the boys and girls teams. Central has 12 girls and six boys competing this fall, which has coach Shade excited.
“Our number one goal is to get more kids involved in cross country, and it’s hard not to feel uplifted with this steady, positive response from the student body,” said Shade. “When you consider the limited number of students and all of the activities available to them, it says something good about them that they chose this particular sport.”
For the first time in 11 years the Cardinals will field full girls and boys teams, including a Lady Cardinal squad that may be the largest in DCC’s history.
Leading the Lady Cards will be senior Meghan Graeca, who holds DCC’s all-time dual meet wins record and a contender to be the first girl’s state qualifier since Missy Roseman in 1987. Another post-season hopeful is veteran Emily Williams, who was a consistent place-winner in 2016.
“Meghan and Emily look strong again this season, but we have lots of new-comers who show promise and will be jockeying positions all season to make the district team,” Shade said. “Beth Williams, Liz Gankowski, Madison Gill, Madison Miscavish, Maia Cogley and Hannah Miller will be competing for the top five positions.
“But, don’t count out the potential found in Michaela Armanini, Mercedes Raab and Rachael and Madison Miller because these girls are already closing the gap since practice began. All the girls have had successful experiences in athletics.”
The first boys full team since 2011 sees the return of veterans Grant Norman, Jon Ritsick and John Swalligan, all with big meet experience. J.P. Piccirillo, Len Swisher, and Shane Paisely join the cross country ranks for their first season.
“Swalligan, Ritsick, and Norman lead the boys by experience, but J.P., Lenny and Shane have already proven themselves as top contenders in August practices,” Shade added. “It’s hard to make predictions at this point until we get a few meets in, but we are looking to get dual meet wins and some post-season recognition.
“The last boy to reach the state championships was in 1999 with Matt Gabler’s outstanding run at districts, and I know at least one of these teammates can repeat it.”
The Cardinals have a lot to be excited about this year, and if coach Shade can continue this trend of increased participation, DCC has reason for excitement for years to come.
“We have had a positive pre-season, and I will predict many pleasant surprises ahead. We are excited,” Shade said.
Central Catholic opens its season Tuesday at Elk County Catholic.
Seniors: John Swalligan, Liz Gankowski, Meghan Graeca, Hannah Miller. Juniors: Grant Norman, Emily Williams, Mercedes Raab. Sophmores: Maia Cogley, Madison Miller, Rachael Miller, Jon Ritsick, Shane Paisely, Madison Miscavish. Freshman: Michaela Armanini, Madison Gill, Beth Williams, J.P. Picirrillo, Len Swisher.