Claire Paci on pace as newest Greencastle-Antrim running standout
Just two races into her high school career, it might seem way too early to compare Greencastle-Antrim freshman Claire Paci to former Blue Devils superstar Taryn Parks.
But those comparisons began a while ago.
“It’s awesome to be compared to her,” Paci said after her convincing victory Tuesday in a double-dual meet with West Perry and host Waynesboro. “I definitely want to do what she did. She won states as a freshman, so that’d be pretty awesome.”
Parks, who now runs for the North Carolina Tar Heels, graduated from Greencastle last spring as a six-time Pennsylvania state champion (track and cross country) and a four-time Foot Locker cross country national finalist. In 2019, Parks was the national champ in the indoor mile.
As an eighth-grader last fall, Paci capped her undefeated middle school cross country season by winning the age 13-14 girls title at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional in New York.
“One leaves and another comes in,” Greencastle coach Rich Secrest said.
Paci was more than ready for high school. At a scrimmage meet two weeks ago with Chambersburg on the Blue Devils’ 3.1-mile course, Paci prevailed by nearly a minute in 18:55.
“Taryn never broke 19:00 on the home course, so Claire has the course record … from a scrimmage,” Secrest said.
In her first official high school race last Saturday at the PIAA Foundation Invitational — held on the challenging 3.1-mile state championship course at Hershey — Paci finished fifth out of 117 girls in the Class AAA field in 19:32. Moon’s Mia Cochran, the reigning state champ, won in 18:16.
While Secrest said, “We don’t want to put that pressure on her,” with the Parks comparisons and such high expectations, he also noted that there are differences between the two.
“She’s got strengths that Taryn didn’t have and vice versa,” Secrest said. “They’re both on either end of the spectrum as far as turnover and strength. Claire might have more strength and a better sense of pace over 5K and the longer distances.
“Taryn was a miler and liked the 800, and Claire likes doing that monotonous-type work with repeats and mileage.”
On Tuesday in the rain, Paci shot to the early lead and was never challenged.
Paci crossed the finish line in 20:34. Waynesboro’s Cora Helman finished second in 22:14.
“This was definitely a harder course, but I really liked it,” Paci said. “The rain, I liked it too.”
Long distance star
While Paci has just started building her high school resume, Greencastle junior Weber Long is looking to add to his after his breakout postseason last fall.
As a sophomore, Long placed second at both the Mid-Penn Conference and District 3 Class AA championships and then took third at states.
“I’m trying to improve on that, trying to get first in Mid-Penn, first at districts and the best at states that I can get,” he said.
Long dominated Tuesday, winning the boys race in 16:27. Waynesboro’s Isaac Moats was the runner-up in 18:18.
“I’m happy with that,” Long said. “I felt pretty good. The rain helped. I like this weather.”
In Saturday’s season opener at the PIAA Foundation Invitational, Long was the Class AA champ in 16:43, winning by 20 seconds.
“He’s strong, very impressive,” Secrest said. “He’s grown up so much over the last year and a half.
“Last cross country season was such a breakthrough for him. Freshman year, he kind of questioned certain things. But as he stayed with it for 12 months out of the year, things just took off and his confidence just grew and grew. You almost have to hold him back now with training and everything. He’s ready, setting his own goals. He’s not afraid.”
Waynesboro had the top teams Tuesday, winning both the boys and girls races in their season opener.
“It’s nice to get a meet in and actually see what they can do when they’re racing and see who lines up where,” Waynesboro coach Jen Atkinson said.
In the boys race, the Indians topped Greencastle 24-37, taking seven of the top nine places, while West Perry was incomplete with less than five runners.
For Waynesboro, Moats placed second, Paytin Moore took fourth (18:59), Joel Weber finished fifth (19:26), Dylan Weller was sixth (19:50) and Mason Gochenour was seventh (20:02).
Greencastle’s Caden Hudson was third (18:52).
“I have some strong leaders on the boys team,” Atkinson said. “They’ve had people running since track season ended and especially since June 1. They’re very committed and committed to pulling the younger guys along. We have nine ninth-graders.”
In the girls race, Waynesboro was an 18-45 winner over West Perry, while Greencastle was incomplete.
For Waynesboro, Helman took second, Maddie Shefler placed fourth (23:41), Kylie Bere was sixth (24:36), Bella Ruefle was seventh (25:27) and Carys Cox finished eighth (26:24).
“The girls ran strongly too,” Atkinson said. “We had some girls running their first hard run of the season.Greencastle’s Katherine Board placed third (23:36) and West Perry’s Cassy Lanza was fifth (24:13).