Girls take third at state XC
Chris Stitzel gathered his team, much like he does before every race.
But this time was different.
The Northwestern cross country coach knew what was on the line. Coming off Colonial League and District 11 titles, Stitzel was well aware the Tigers entered Saturday’s PIAA Cross Country Championships with a realistic opportunity to contend in the Class 2A field.
“I told them right before we raced that I knew we had a shot,” Stitzel said of a potential top-two finish in the team standings. “Everybody here has a shot. That’s why they’re here, and that’s why they run the race.
“I told them I was proud of them no matter what happens. It was a great year. You’re leaving as district champions, league champions. You’re leaving here as a champion. This would just be icing on the cake. I just wanted them to promise me when they crossed the finish line, that they gave it their all, and that’s all I ask.”
And they did what the longtime coach asked
The Northwestern girls narrowly missed reaching the podium in the Class 2A team standings, placing third with 116 points and improving on last year’s sixth-place result. Central Cambria (92) and Danville (105) were first and second, respectively.
“We were 11 points out of second place,” said Stitzel. “As a school, we never had state medals here. This was a really good shot. Overall, it was a great year for us. The girls got along real well.
“They were nice and relaxed for the race, and there was no pressure on them. I just wanted them to go out and run. I told them that whatever happens, happens. I’m proud of them, and we ended up having a great year for our seniors. We knew this was it, that this would be the last time this group would be together.”
Alyssa Zack was the top finisher for Northwestern, placing 35th with a time of 21:02. Madeline Consuelos (21:04) and Kailyn Jones (21:07) earned top-50 finishes, placing 39th and 45th.
“We really worked hard this season, because we knew that we had competition this year,” said Jones, a sophomore. “And that hard work really paid off.”
Saturday marked the last time Zack and Consuelos, the team’s captains, would run for Northwestern.
They know the program is in good hands.
“I think this is just the beginning, though,” said Consuelos. “For years to come, we’re going to be in the same position we were in this year.”
“I hope that this is not the best team that ever comes through this program,” added Zack. “I think that very shortly there’s going to be a team that will medal here, and I’m so happy for that.”
Molly McGorry (58th, 21:29), Sara Supplee (75th, 21:43), Alison Costa (144th, 22:37) and Roselyn Bernhard (162nd 23:00) rounded out the Tigers’ contingent.
“For them, it would have been great to bring home a trophy and medals,” said Stitzel. “But saying that we’ve come the furthest of any (cross country) team in the school, that’s something to be proud of, too.
“Coming from New Tripoli, third in the state is nothing to sneeze at. I’m just glad that we made it here, and it was a great year for us. I’m happy.”
TEAM SCORES (TOP FIVE)
1. Central Cambria 92, 2. Danville 105, 3. Northwestern Lehigh 116, 4. South Fayette 149, 5. Warrior Run 153.
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS (TOP-5 PLUS LOCALS)
1. Marlee Starliper (Northern York) 17:53, 2. Taryn Parks (Greencastle-Antrim) 18:49, 3. Gianna Labbiento (Sharon) 19:05, 4. Maddison Hayes (Fairview) 19:21, 5. Olivia Haas (Blue Mountain) 19:23, 35. Alyssa Zack (Northwestern Lehigh) 21:02, 39. Madeline Consuelos (Northwestern Lehigh) 21:04, 45. Kailyn Jones (Northwestern Lehigh) 21:07, 58. Molly McGorry (Northwestern Lehigh) 21:29, 75. Sara Supplee (Northwestern Lehigh) 21:43, 144. Alison Costa (Northwestern Lehigh) 22:37, 162. Roselyn Bernhard (Northwestern Lehigh) 23:00.