End of an era for local cross-country
Saturday's medal haul marked the end of an era for local cross-country fans.
Five years ago only one local boy or girl earned a medal down at Hershey. On Saturday 11 local runners earned individual medals between boys and girls while Northeast Bradford dominated its way to a team title.
And this class of out going seniors has been at the forefront of the renaissance.
On the boy's side six runners have brought in a combined 14 medals over a three years period.
They are led by Northeast Bradford duo Sam Williams and Curt Jewett.
Both are 3-time state medalists with Williams being in the top 10 at states three of the four years he's run there. He's also won major races like the PIAA Foundation Race and the PTXC Invitational.
This year was Jewett's first time in the top 10 but last season he was leading the state race late before he fell back. He's also been a 2-time District IV Champion. Jewett was the 2011 NTL Runner of the Year while sharing the distinction with Williams in 2012.
The two of them have been a part of three District IV team titles while also leading them to the Panther's first ever PIAA team title on Saturday.
But they've been pushed at the top by several other local runners in their class.
Towanda's Aaron Valoroso is a 3-time state qualifier and two time medalist. After being 100th on the dot his sophomore year at states he's had two top 10 finishes.
Valoroso also scored his first ever district title this season and led the Black Knights back to states as a team for the first time in five years.
Sullivan County's Kelby Mullen has the rare distinction of being a 4-time individual state qualifier along with being a 3-time medalist, both firsts for his school. He was also a key cog on a Griffin team that won a HAC-II Division title in 2009.
Wellsboro's Jordan Jackson ended his career as a 2-time state medalist with a top 10 finish in 2011 after being the last one out at districts his sophomore year. He also helped the Green Hornets to a District IV title in 2011.
Canton's Emmett Watson was a state medalist for the first time in his career this past Saturday. However, he has been a fixture at states helping the Warriors there in back to back seasons as a sophomore and junior. Watson was also a key cog in the Warrior team that won the NTL in 2011, Canton's first since 1976.
And while these six runners may have stood out at the top, this class was as deep as it was strong.
Athens' Matt Millard was a 3-time state qualifier, Wellsboro's Bobby Hill qualified for states this season while also being a top five runner for Wellsboro last year when they won the District IV title and Canton's Brooks Gleckner and Darren Killian have been important pieces of Canton's strong teams from 2010 to now.
While the girl's side may not have had quite the same sized impact, they've still seen a big bump from their outgoing seniors.
Troy's Casey Norton ends her career as a 2-time state medalist, including a top 10 finish this season, along with being a District IV champion. She's also been a 4-time state qualifier and has done well in invitationals, including a win at McQuaid earlier this season.
Wyalusing's Erika Huffman came to the sport late but performed like a natural. In just two years she's collected two NTL Runner of the Year trophies, a District IV title in 2011, a top 10 finish at states this past Saturday and won the PIAA Foundation White race earlier this season.
Towanda's Destiny Foster slowly came on the scene, qualifying for states in 2010 and 2011 before earning a top 10 finish this past Saturday. She, along with fellow senior teammate Danielle Zatkos, also helped the Black Knights to the 2012 NTL title.
Much like the boy's, there was also depth with the girl's.
Sayre's Katie Hurley was a 2-time state qualifier while teammate Molly O'Hara qualified this season. Both were on the 2010 Redskins team that won the NTL title and earned a state berth.
While she was plagued by an injury this season, Athens' Paige Bennett finishes her career as a 3-time state qualifier. Out West, Wellsboro's Randi Grim was a key cog for the Hornet's 2009 NTL title and 2012 District IV title teams while also being an individual state qualifier back in '09.
This class helped shape the area's running culture. Things went from seeing if the area would get any medals to what the haul would be and how high can they get.
"Our league has stepped it up quite a bit," Jewett explained. "We are medal contenders every year. Almost all of our NTL runners medaled."
His teammate notices it when they look around up at the medal stand.
"You stand up on that medal stand your like 'I raced you at leagues, I raced you at leagues, I raced you at leagues," Williams explained. "It's just the coolest thing."
Williams believes this resurgence has been statewide.
"It's so great," Williams said about this class. "And this class has just been tearing it up. You look at the single, double and triple-A, this is definitely the fastest year possibly ever."
One things for sure, the landscape will look a little different next season without them.