Runners drop back, work as team to take second in state; Smith takes fourth overall
By Dave Conard, Correspondent, UnionvilleTimes.com
HERSHEY — It’s hard to believe that Unionville cross country coach Mark Lacianca is not a huge NASCAR fan or has never watched a race from Talladega Motor Speedway, where drafting is the paramount strategy used to propel fall of fames like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt to victory lane.
In a bold strategic move, the Indians chose to drop back behind the field of more than 350 runners as the gun sounded, running together as a pack rather than battling their way through the masses individually on a course wrought with hairpin turns and monstrous hills that would make a mountain goat whimper.
Unionville sophomore Courtney Smith, who led the race at the one-mile mark and finished with a time of 18:44, was the only Indian runner to get shuffled forward as the field sprinted to the chute that hangs a hard right turn just 300 meter into the circuit.
“I went out pretty fast,” said Smith. “I was really just trying not to get run over, I was boxed in pretty good at the 800 mark and just wanted to get out of that mess. Once I got beyond the first couple of hills I was able to stay there with the leaders and our team did a great job working together, this is amazing.”
The Indians used the strength of the pack to work their way through traffic, climbing into second place as a team by the two mile marker behind eventual winner Pennsbury as the final stages of the race loomed.
“Actually I don’t really watch racing much,” said Lacianca. “It’s the way we race, our girls love to work together and it has been working, we came into the season with the goal of just getting into districts and states, the finish second in the state, I could not be prouder of the effort they gave.”
The Parkview course in Chocolatetown, USA was occupied by some well know friends that Unionville got to spend some more quality time with as they quested for the holy grail of Pennsylvania cross-country running.
West Chester Henderson, who they defeated for the class AAA District One title last weekend on a much flatter Lehigh University course, along with their Ches-Mont league companions from Downingtown East and fellow District One power North Penn provided more than ample motivation for the Indians as they surpassed all by one to claim the silver medal as 2011 State runner up falling only to the Falcons by a score of 42-129, defeating the Warriors by a 129-148 margin.
“We have improved all year and done what we set out to,” added Lacianca. “When the season started we only beat East in out league match. Last week we were able to beat Henderson and today we improved on that. It just shows that we are ready to reestablish our selves as the team to beat in the Ches-Mont. I am so happy for these girls, they work so hard all year round and don’t get enough credit for that.”
“This has been an amazing end the season,’ added Smith, who claimed the individual fourth place state medal. “to win the District lat week and finish second at states is more than could have ever imagined when the season started, we were able to fly under the radar all year, but next year people will know what to expect, from us.”
PIAA team standings
1 Pennsbury (1) 42
2 Unionville (1) 129
3 WC Henderson (1) 148
4 Downingtown East (1) 153
5 North Hills (7) 160
6 North Penn (1) 184
7 Dallas (2) 212
3 4 Courtney Smith 18:44
23 53 Anne Birkmaier 19:49
28 60 Emily Fisher 19:55
31 71 Olivia Young 20:04
44 95 Sam Collins 20:17
53 113 Gretchen Mills 20:31
103 194 Melissa Talley 21:27