Knudsen to states; MC teams finish 3rd

WILMORE – Off in the distance from the Forest Hills Middle School, the site of the District 6 cross country meets on Saturday, a row of wind mills could be seen. Needless to say, they were getting a workout on Saturday afternoon.

With the meet being held in the midst of the Cresson Mountain, it not only was windy, but rather cold too.

But, despite those weather conditions, the runners put on a good performance as the 3.1 mile course was mostly flat except for one hilly stretch.

For Mifflin County, the defending Class AAA boys champions, it was not a repeat performance.

Only one runner for the Huskies qualified for the PIAA Championship Nov. 2 in Hershey as Darien Knudsen, a junior, finished fifth in the boys race.

For Knudsen it will mark his second trip to Hershey as he was one of the Huskies’ top runners last year as a sophomore and went as a member of the district championship team.

“Darien (Knudsen) ran a real nice race today,” said Greg Loht, the Mifflin County cross country coach, “Our coaching staff is very pleased that he is going to states.”

As a team, Mifflin County was third with 69 points. Winning the meet was the favorite State College, but it got a real surprise from Altoona. The Little Lions had 30 points, while Altoona was close behind with 31.

Winning the individual boys AAA championship was Altoona’s Dominic Stroh with a 15:54. Second was State College’s Will Cather, who posted a 16:09.

Knudsen, who stayed with the leaders most of the race, finished with a 16:21. He was the only runner in the top 10 who wasn’t from State College or Altoona.

Mifflin County’s next runner was Keenan Walker, another junior, who was 13th with a 17:42.

Rounding out the top five for the Huskies were 15th-place Joshua Aultz, 17:48; 16th-place Chris Falkner, 17:52 and 20th-place Andrew Kline, 17:59. Both Aultz and Kline are juniors, while Falkner is a senior.

Mifflin County’s other finishers were Josh Velez, a senior, at 18:27 good for 24th place and Trent Yoder, a sophomore, at 28th with a time of 18:46.

“As a team, we finished where I expected us to,” Loht said, “We knew coming in that State College and Altoona were going to be real strong. Altoona really gets up for this meet.”

“We had a couple of runners (Velez and Yoder) not feeling their best, but they never quit,” Loht noted, “I thought Keenan (Walker) ran an excellent race for us.”

In the girls run, Mifflin County just missed sending two runners to the state meet. Jessica Miller and Amanda Hassinger were 12th and 13th, respectively, and were the sixth and seventh individual girls. The top five runners outside of the number one team go to the state meet.

State College ran away and hid from the competition on Saturday. The Little Lions had the top three finishers and six of the top seven.

The team race was not even close as State College had a near-perfect score of 17 points (15 is perfect), while Altoona had 69 and Mifflin County was third with 85.

Miller, a senior, ran a 20:59, while Hassinger finished just a second behind in an even 21:00.

Maggie Wilson was the third female Husky to cross the finish line with a 21:37 and a 17th-place finish. Rounding out the top five for Mifflin County were 21st-place Makenna Pollock, 22:44 and 22nd-place Madison Elsesser was next in line with a time of 22:48.

Kaitlyn Yearick was 28th with a time of 23:43 and Anna Taptich was 32nd with a 25:01.

Winning the race was State College’s Emma Cousins, who traveled around middle school in 19:19 as she won by 12 seconds over her teammate, Larissa Burka.

“Jessica ran a PR today and was a minute faster than her best time,” Loht said, “The future for our girls looks bright as we only had two seniors running today, Miller and Taptich. We miss both of them as they brought leadership to the team.”

“We haven’t had a good day to run all year,” Loht continued, “This was a fast course, but we had to fight a wind storm all day. This was a flat course with only one hill.”

Winning the girls A race was Penn Cambria’s Arlee Simendinger with a time of 19:27. Central Cambria won the team title with 34 points. In the AA run, the winning girl was Hannah Dorian (19:04) from Westmont Hilltop and the top team was Somerset with 42 points.

In the boys A race, the winning team was Central Cambria with 42 points and the top runner was Bryce England from Williamsburg with a 16:44. Bill Kachman of Bedford won the AA race with a time of 16:18 and the winning team was Somerset with 41 points.

Notes: In the junior varsity race, Jay Ciccolini was Mifflin County’s top finisher and the girls top finisher was Shayla Milligan…..The five returning female underclassmen runners for Mifflin County are Hassinger, Wilson, sophomores and juniors, Pollock, Elsesser and Yearick. … Wind speeds were an average of 21 mph Saturday in the Johnston area with some gusts as high as 32 mph, according to the Weather Channel.