WEST MIDDLESEX – Of all of Mercer County’s proud programs, none is greater than Grove City cross country.
In recent years the perennial power has not competed too often in the West Middlesex Big Red Invitational, but the Eagles ended as champions in Saturday’s 33-team boys’ race. Led by individual titlist Toby Jones, Grove City garnered a 56-65 win over North East.
Jones and teammate Gabe Nichols ended 1-2 for the Eagles in 16:01.9 and 16:21.65. Reynolds’ Troy Hart – winner of last week’s Hickory Hornet Harrier Invite – placed 3rd in 16:33.03.
Last year Jones battled bronchitis at the PIAA Championships, and had a slight reoccurrence this year; however, he looked strong at Big Reds Stadium in the 29th annual event.
“We are really excited for states. We all have put in a lot of work (summer-time weekly mileage of 40 to 50), especially our top five – we’re all returnees. So we’re excited,” Jones related.
For the second time in as many weeks Wilmington girls won. Led by 4th-place finisher Grace Mason (19:57.13) the Lady Greyhounds harvested the crown in a 29-team field. Wilmington outlasted Lakeview, 133-163.
Sharon’s Gianna Labbiento was the top individual female finisher, ending as runner-up to Shenango’s Carmen Medbit, 19:00.59 to 19:01.85.
“Humbly, Jones related, “It feels really great to be at the top right now. Our coaches are dedicated to us, making sure we’re always putting in the work. It’s really good to see.”
Observed veteran Grove City Coach Mike Sample, “We talked all week long about just gettin’ back on that bike and ridin’ again. We tried to go at it at a hard pace, get a good run in, and get a good feel for competition again.
“We knew we had a couple top dogs, and we wanted to kind’ve let ‘em loose (Satur)day, see what they’ve got. I think they got a good feel for where they’re at in their conditioning. We’re nowhere near close to where we want to be at the end of the year,” Sample assessed, admitting,
“I had some reservations about how far apart our top five would be, but I think they bunched it up nice (Satur)day. I’d like to get ‘em a little bit closer, and the only way to do that is to get my five, six, seven, eight (runners) movin’ up towards number one (Jones), who did a great job.
“Last year it was either bronchitis or allergies, or some sort’ve combination of the two,” Sample recalled, referencing Jones, who is a senior. “He’s a state medalist, and we know he can medal. He just fell down three times before the (2018) finish, and that kind’ve sunk us as a team. You need seven guys runnin’, and we only had six.
“I’ll tell you what,” an admiring Sample said regarding the courage of Jones and all harriers – everywhere. “There’s no other sport where, you can’t take a break, you can’t substitute in, you can’t call a time-out. It’s all heart.
“(Satur)day he looked very smooth, very poised. He’s been doing it all summer long, all through training. (Jones) and Gabe ... and Joe-Joe Somora is right here with them, too,” Sample praised, relating. “They’re been training at a different level – we train them differently.
“They needed to show that they were capable of running at the level they’ve been training at, and what we expect of them and what they expect of themselves. They’ve been doing that, and they showed up (Satur)day and proved that they’re ready to go for the season,” Sample summarized.
“You (as a coach) train them to do what you want them to do, but they have to respond to your coaching. And they have to be able to realize their potential, and you, as a coach, have to get them to understand that,” Sample said, adding in regard to Grove City’s program, “Over the years, we’ve done a pretty good job of making sure the kids know what we expect of them, and what they should expect of themselves. And we get results when we do that.”
Note: Labbiento was joined by Lady Tigers’ teammates Abby Douglas and Natalie Ostheimer (5th and 6th in 20:00.69 and 20:09.58, respectively). West Middlesex’s Lia Bartholomew (20:15.05), Slippery Rock’s Harley Pflugh (20:23.99) and Reynolds’ Hannah Wagner (20:26.48) also ended in the top 10, as did Hickory’s Cole Frazier (17:02.77) and Matthew Jordan (17:06.14), 8th and 9th, respectively. ... For additional results on the meet, visit Wolf Creek Race Management, and co-owner Andrew Mascio at email@example.com.
In other fall sports:
• Mercyhurst Prep 4, Hickory 0 – At Hornet Stadium, Jarrett Harry fired in a pair of goals and had an assist to lead the Lakers past Hickory.
Connor Coughlin also scored twice for Mercyhurst Prep and John Kerner had 2 assists. Mark DiPietro earned the shutout in goal.
• Grove City 6, Franklin 0 – At Forker Field, Edwin Dadzaa and Jacob Irani had 2 goals each to lift the Eagles past the Knights.
John Hake also scored for Grove City.
• Slippery Rock 1, Fairview 0 – At Slippery Rock, Kayla Daugherty scored the match’s lone goal in the Rockets’ win.
Amanda Lewis assisted on the goal. Ava Daugherty made 1 save in goal to earn the win.
Big Red Invitational
Team standings and key: Wilmington (Wwil) 133; Lakeview (Lv) 163; Shenango (Shen) 180; North East (NE) 186; Hickory (H) 220; Reynolds (R) 243; North Clarion (NC) 264; New Castle (NeCaHi) 297; Jefferson 302.
Individual results: 1. Carmen Medvit (Shen) 19:00.59; 2. Gianna Labbiento (Sh) 19:01.85; 3. Maera Shannon (CASH) 19:23.61; 4. Grace Mason (Wil) 19:57.13; 5. Abby Douglas (Sh) 20:00.69; 6. Natalie Ostheimer (Sh) 20:09.58; 7. Emily Olcott (Shen) 20:11; 8. Lia Bartholomew (WM) 20:15.05; 9. Harley Pflugh (SR) 20:23.99; 10. Hannah Wagner (R) 20:26.48; 11. Cassie Carr (Gir) 20:29.22; 12. Claire Oliver (Lv) 20:39.62; 13. Madison Hartner (NE) 20:54.53; 14. Elizabeth Kline (Spa) 20:58.81; 15. Allie Wintz (Jeff) 21:03.22; 16. Lauren Mehler (Sv) 21:04.93; 17. Logan Davis (H) 21:11.61; 18. Kalynne Ziegler (Cran) 21:19.04; 19. Olivia Mumford (OC) 21: 33.13; 20. Bethany Litwiler (R) 21:39.73; 21. Emma Mason (Wil) 21:43.14; 22. Aubrey Hogue (Lv) 21:44.51; 23. Bella Scott (Clar) 21:44.80; 24. Maddie Hammond (NE) 21:46.21; 25. Emma Pringle (WM) 21:54.02.
Team standings and key: Grove City (GC) 56; North East (NE) 65; Cranberry (Cran) 140; Cambridge Springs (Spa) 152; West Middlesex (WM) 173; Cochranton (Coch) 178; Rocky Grove (RG) 184; Hickory (H) 199; Jefferson 277; Clarion Area (Clar) 357.
Individual results: 1. Toby Jones (GC) 16:01.98; 2. Gabe Nichols (GC) 16:21.65; 3. Troy Hart (R) 16:33.03; 4. Noah Bernarding (Coch) 16:34.16; 5. Zane Courtwright (NE) 16:38.42; 6. Colby Belczyk (Riv) 17:00.88; 7. Matt Woolcock (Cran) 17:01.62; 8. Cole Frazier (H) 17:02.77; 9. Matthew Jordan (H) 17:06.14; 10. Brock Pennington (NE) 17:08.64; 11. Joseph Somora (GC) 17:13.77; 12. Magnum Vincent (RG) 17:17.26; 13. Thomas Presnar (Shen) 17:20.23; 14. Lucas Boyd (NE) 17:22.35; 15. Luke Mantzell (WM) 17:29.28; 16. Luke Robinson (Jeff) 17:31.73; 17. Daniel Fisher (Cran) 17:34.34; 18. Tanner Kloss (NE) 17:39.55; 19. Franklin Morris (Coch) 17:43.45; 20. Cael McEwen (GC) 17:52.28; 21. Hunter Spaid (Spa) 17:56.57; 22. Anthony Haskins (NE) 17:57; 23. Thomas Hunyadi (H) 17:57.77; 24. Alec Bidwell (Spa) 17:59.70; 25. Chad Helmininack (GC) 18:00.66.