Milestone year for Invitational

Sentinel photo by ARTHUR DOWELL
Guest speaker Sam Bray talks about the upcoming Big Valley Invitational at the Rotary Club meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Lewistown Community Center.

LEWISTOWN — This Saturday marks the 45th annual Big Valley Invitational taking place at Indian Valley Elementary School.

It’s an event that first started with a handful of schools showing up and even had older people running in the event on a blacktop course, and has since turned into the region’s largest cross country meet.

The event has four races at the varsity and junior varsity level for both boys and girls. It recently added a junior high race that combines both boys and girls to give it five races in a day that starts at 9 a.m.

The idea Bill Solova had when starting the event was to get now defunct Kish High School to race against state level competition without having to travel all around to find it.

Invitational director Sam Bray said he had a discussion with Solova Monday where he stated to Bray “If I started this and got good competition, they would come to us.”

Safe to say that plan has worked as it now has anywhere between 600 and 700 runners show up for the annual competition.

“We have teams (come to compete) from near Indiana County and teams from near Philadelphia,” Bray said. “We talk about football and all types of sports that we love and enjoy, but this is the closest thing to a state meet that we have in Mifflin County.”

The race is so big they even split team and individual results based on PIAA classifications. Thankfully for the hosts, technology had also advanced along with the races timeline, giving all participants a chip so when crossing the finish line, it lists finishers in order for both boys and girls in terms of schools and classifications.

Bray spoke in front of the Rotary Club — one of the events largest annual donors — about the growth of the function and to give thanks for all the support members lend.

The club donates $1,100 to help fund the awards — given to the top 20 finishers in all levels of racing — and other things needed to make the day happen. Some also volunteer their time to making sure it’s smooth sailing for all in attendance by directing traffic and parking cars.

“Cross country is typically not a spectator sport, but the BVI rebutted that,” Bray said. “We have 1,000 people show up. You park cars there, so you know how many people we get. I think it’s true that it can be not only a sporting event, but a community event. There are a lot of people.”

The opening season race draws interest from both Mifflin County and Juniata teams.

The Huskies finished second on the boys side a year ago and will have their top three finishers — Brayden Harris (3), Chase Sheaffer (12) and Chayce Macknair (13) — returning for this go around. Noah Bowers (68) will also be a returning runner.

Last year’s Invitational was Juniata’s first race in program history and it too brings back experience including runner-up Garrett Baublitz along with Clay Yeager (43), Albert Heister (46) and Brody Powell (94). All four represented the Indians in the final score.

On the girls side, Mifflin County, again, has experience on its side. The Huskies return Lauren Kuykendall (14), Joy Galbraith (15), Grace Parks (58), Madelyn Chilcote (59) and Julia Montgomery (63).

The Indians will have Carli Walters (38) racing for the second straight year, but even they’ve seen a growing number of runners come out for the team this year.

Penns Valley won the event on the boys side a year ago while State College took first place on the girls side.

The day will again be fun packed and great for all involved.

“It may be one of the largest cross country events in the state in terms of spectators,” Bray said. “It’s the first run of the year and it typically has nice weather. The course is really nice. Fans can see a lot of the race from one spot. Typically, you see the kids start the race and wait to see them finish, and inbetween you can play pinochle. But that’s not true out there because you can see the course, making it a great spectator sport.”

Scholastic sports


Huntingdon 318, Mount Union 423

HUNTINGDON — Trey Heffelfinger again shot for par with a 71, but it wasn’t enough as Mount Union fell to rival Huntingdon in a non-conference golf match Tuesday afternoon.

Heffelfinger went shot-for-shot with Huntingdon’s Luke Thompson who also finished with a 71.

Despite the tie, Fiscus is most pleased with what could be in store.

“It was good to see him come out and shoot well against another great golfer in this area,” he said. “He’s hit par for the second time and that’s good because he’ll need that as we get closer to the playoffs.”

Nick Pearce (107), Griffin Scott (117) and Matt Secrest (128) rounded out the rest of the Trojans’ scoring.

Mount Union (1-2) hosts Bellwood-Antis Sept. 4.

Mount Union 423

Trey Heffelfinger 71, Nick Pearce 107, Griffin Scott 117, Matt Secrest 128