HERSHEY — The Tri-County Area sent two dozen runners, including full teams for the St. Marys girls and Clarion boys teams, to the 2019 PIAA Cross Country Championships, but only a pair of competitors came back from Hershey with a state medal around their necks.
And that duo — St. Marys junior Samantha Hayes and Elk County Catholic senior Ben Hoffman — are no strangers to the state meet as both now have multiple state cross country medals on their resumes. The top 25 runners in each classification earns a medal.
Hayes, in just her second year competing in the sport, finished as the District 9 Class 2A runner-up a week ago while helping lead the Lady Dutch to their fifth straight team crown.
On Saturday, she collected her second PIAA medal in as many trips with a strong run on a Parkvue Course that had to be modified similar to last year after inclement weather moved trough the area Friday evening.
Hayes ran 20:02 to finish 23rd. That time was actually 20 seconds faster than her time a year ago that earned her a 16th place finish and her first state medal.
Her medal run came a day after competing in the PIAA Tennis Championships in the Class 2A singles tournament in Hershey. Hayes lost her first round match against South Park’s Nicole Kempton, 6-1, 6-1. Hayes is the three-time reigning D-9 singles champion.
The Lady Dutch finished eight (211 points) out of 17 schools in the team race Saturday, getting two other Top 100 finishes from senior Megan Quesenberry (20:59, 76th) and junior Kyla Johnson (21:10.1, 89th).
St. Marys’ team scoring was rounded out by senior Tessa Grotzinger (21:42.3, 130th) and senior Lucy Anthony (21:55.3, 137th). Also competing for the Lady Dutch were senior Summer Herring (22:09.2, 150th) and junior Brianna Grotzinger (22:15.8, 156th).
As for Hoffman, he ended his high school cross country career on a high note with the third PIAA medal.
The Crusader fought his way through last week’s D-9 Class A boys race despite facing some late difficulties. He finished ninth place in Ridgway but came back strong Saturday and ran a 17:09 — crossing the line in 25th place, the final medal spot, two seconds ahead of Jenkintown’s Carter Geer.
Hoffman ran a 17:11 a year ago while placing 12th. He was eighth as a sophomore.
Hoffman’ performance was the best by a D-9 runner in the Class A race, with junior teammate Joe Wolfe just missing out on a medal with his 27th-place finish. Wolfe was just three seconds behind Hoffman. Wolfe. who was third last week at districts, placed 40th in Hershey in 2018.
District 9 Class A champ Nathaniel Lerch, a senior from Clarion, placed 34th Saturday with a time of 17:28. DuBois Central Catholic senior Johnny Ritsick was 51st (17:47), while Clarion-Limestone junior Braden Rankin was 135th (18:45).
Lerch helped Clarion to a 16th place finish as a team with 332 points. Winchester-Thurston won the team title with a 113.
Also scoring for the Bobcats were sophomores Gavin Hoover (18:20, 99th) and Kaegan Phillips (18:41, 129th), senior Nick Frederick (18:53, 147th) and junior Donnie Cunningham (19:19, 173rd).
Nate Datko (19:22. 175th) and Alex Cussins (23:01. 216th) also competed for Clarion.
Six other area runners also competed Saturday — four from DuBois Area.
On the girls’ side, Lady Beaver freshman Julia Wirths finished 129th in the Class 3A girls race with a time of 20:43 in her first trip to states.
DuBois had a trio of runners in the boys Class 2A event — a group led by junior McKellan Jaramillo, who placed 84th with a time of 17:39.2.
Sophomore teammates Joey Foradora (18:06) and AC Deemer (18:38.6) finished 123rd and 168th, respectively.
The Tri-County Area also had a pair of runners in the Class A girls race in Brookville junior Emma Fiscus and ECC senior Chelsea Hunt.
The two finished close together, with Fiscus crossing the line 130th with a time of 22:44.3 and Hunt 134th at 22:48.8.
Outside of the two local medal winners, District 9 had just two other medalists in Punxsutawney’s Olivia Roberts, who was 15th and Oswayo Valley’s Cheyenne Mehl, who was 22nd.