DIMOCK – There are no magic performances to conjure up on race day in cross country.
The special achievements of the Abington Heights girls Halloween Day in the District 2 Cross Country Championships at Elk Lake High School evolved from deep roots.
The Class AA title-winning effort was inspired both by bitter past disappointment and lofty future hopes.
The Lady Comets established themselves as contenders at Saturday’s Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Championships at the Hershey Parkview Course when they finished 21 points ahead of the next-best team in a loaded field.
Abington Heights coach Mike Ludka said the team had high expectations going into the meet, but the result was “even better than expected, which is nice when it works out that way.”
The Lady Comets put five runners in the top 13 while beating a field that was strong by any measure with: two unbeaten regular-season championship teams; two teams that finished in the top five in the state last season; a 2013 state championship team; a 2014 state individual champion and three other state medalists.
Katie Dammer finished third while Alex Scheuermann, Claire Traweek and Carly Danoski all joined her as medalists.
Abington Heights had lost three times during the regular season but it was ready at the district meet on a day when the eight teams chasing the Lady Comets came in with combined records of 112-24.
“We know that there’s good teams out there,” Ludka said. “I’m just thrilled with the girls.”
Ludka acknowledged that beating such a field makes a team a state contender, but that was something he was already trying to convince his girls of early this year, before even before track and field season started in March.
“We had a little meeting in the middle of the winter and I showed them what state championship teams look like and what times they run on different courses,” Ludka said after the district meet. “And, I showed them what we do and how similar we are and that we just needed to take another step to be considered in that mix.
“Today was a step in that direction”
The first steps were taken by the girls in their earlier responses – to missing a state berth by just two points to eventual fifth-place finisher Dallas at last year’s district meet and to Ludka’s words.
“They put the time in,” he said. “They put the work in. That’s what cross country is. There’s no magic trick on this day to do something special. It’s about everything they did for the last six months.
“After last year’s meet where they lost out on states by two points, they circled this date. It was a focus, even through track season. It was on their minds.”
All five of the girls who figured into the team score actually finished high enough that they could have qualified for the state meet as individuals.
The top two teams and the next five individuals advance.
Abington Heights beat out Dallas, 45-66, for the team title.
Defending champion Scranton Prep, which was a state runner-up last season and unbeaten Lackawanna League champion this season, had to settle for third with 81 points.
The Classics advanced state medalist Erin Feeney and freshman Adiya Golden to Hershey with second and 16th place finishes.
Feeney returned from a month out of the lineup with an illness to run 18:58 on the 3.1-mile course and finish behind only defending state champion Ally Rome from Dallas.
The Abington Heights boys finished third in Class AAA. Their top two runners, Kyle Burke and Jack Malone, finished eighth and ninth but were two seconds behind the last of the state qualifiers.
The District 2-4 Class AAA Subregional only advances one team and five individuals to Hershey because it has fewer teams than in District 2 Class AA.
Scranton Prep, which was among the 16 teams in Class AA, and Lackawanna Trail, which was among 12 teams in Class A, each finished fourth in boys team standings.
Pat Cosgrove qualified for the state meet by leading Prep with an 11th-place finish.
Matt Kinback, who was fourth, and Bobby Titus, who was 14th, both reached the state meet for Lackawanna Trail.
The Lackawanna Trail girls were fifth out of eight teams.
Ashleigh Clarke qualified to run in Hershey by placing 13th. Amanda Kinback missed by two spots, finishing 20th.
Reach the Abington Journal newsroom at 570-587-1148 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.