Greencastle's Weber Long, Claire Paci win Mid-Penn cross country championships
At the always-competitive Mid-Penn cross country championships Saturday at Big Spring High School, the meet’s top performers, most notably, had the same two letters on the front of their uniforms — GA.
When it comes to speed and endurance, Greencastle-Antrim’s Weber Long and Claire Paci both seem to possess the perfect combination.
Long, a junior, won the Class AA-A boys race by more than a minute in 15:48.4 on the challenging 3.1-mile course to start the morning.
Paci, a freshman, capped the afternoon by winning the Class AAA girls race in 18:22.6.
Both Blue Devils turned in the fastest times of the day for their respective genders.
“It’s great,” Greencastle coach Rich Secrest said. “We hoped for that and we planned for that, but you never know until you get out here.
“Weber wanted to get out and get a good first two miles in because he knows districts and states are going to be a whole ’nother bird when it comes to getting out and staying with some of those guys.
“And Claire, she did a great job. She was like 5:50 at the mile and then ran a 6:10 second mile and a 5:52 final. She did well, she’s strong, she has her paces dialed in.”
Paci has taken the torch from former Blue Devils superstar Taryn Parks, who graduated from Greencastle last spring as a six-time Pennsylvania state champion (track and cross country) and a one-time national champ in the indoor mile.
Parks won her first of three Mid-Penn cross country titles as a freshman in 2016 in 18:36.4 on the same Big Spring course.
Paci won her first conference title Saturday by dropping the competition in the second half of the race. State College’s Jordan Reed finished more than 15 seconds behind her in second in 18:38.1. No other girl broke 19:00 on the day.
“It was a good race. I felt great,” Paci said. “I knew there was going to be some competition, and I was super excited for this. I knew I had to keep an even pace and really work that second half in the woods. I had to keep on pushing and not back off.”
“She competes, she really does,” Secrest said. “That’s something you can’t coach, but you can definitely work with something like that.”
Due to the pandemic, Saturday’s championships were split into small-school (AA-A) races in the morning and large-school (AAA) in the afternoon, instead of being run all together.
Unlike Paci, Long had to do his racing in the morning, where it was only a competition between him and the clock.
“I’m definitely happy with the time,” said Long, who was the Mid-Penn runner-up last year in 16:13.5 on the same course. “But I wish triple-A was with us because that would have given me more incentive to run faster.”
State College’s Brady Bigger won the AAA boys race in 15:49.2 — a fraction of a second slower than Long.
“(Long) has been consistently running faster all season,” Secrest said. “He just needs to get somebody at at least the same level, if not faster, and ‘Let’s go, let’s hurt together.’”
For the first time, the Mid-Penn meet served a qualifier for this week’s PIAA District 3 championships, also at Big Spring.
Somewhat shockingly, the Chambersburg girls failed to advance as a team, finishing fifth (with 144 points) in the Class AAA race after being a favorite to win both the Mid-Penn and District 3 titles.
State College — which lost to Chambersburg in a dual meet this season — won with 61 points, followed by Mechanicsburg (69), Hershey (96) and Carlisle (133).
Although State College didn’t factor into the District 3 qualifying because it’s in District 6, Chambersburg still needed a top-two finish among the other teams to move on.
“It’s hard to explain,” Chambersburg coach Chris Monheim said. “To see them work out and then to see them race today, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Clearly something was missing there. Maybe they all ate the wrong thing last night. Maybe they were dehydrated. Maybe the training I had for them didn’t work out. But to have them all off? Every single one of them was off.”
The Chambersburg girls had two individual qualifiers — Camryn Kiser (ninth, 19:35.4) and Olivia Rieck (16th, 20:10.1).
The Chambersburg boys, who finished fourth in the AAA team standings, also had two individual qualifiers — Nick Monheim (13th, 16:54.9) and Brayden Boyd (18th, 17:07.6).
Shippensburg’s Elias Spence — the son of 1992 Olympic marathoner Steve Spence — placed seventh (16:30.3).
Qualifiers from the AA-A races included Caden Hudson (eighth, 17:39.1) for the Greencastle boys, and Hailey Embree (11th, 22:33.1) and Sydney Fleming (14th, 23:18.3) for the James Buchanan girls.