Knight Valoroso takes race Class AA title, Towanda second; Three locals qualify individually
BLOOMSBURG - It was a strange but ultimately uplifting day for the Towanda boy's cross-country team.
Black Knight Aaron Valoroso easily won the Class AA District IV title but the team standings were in flux who the whole race.
Lewisburg won the race with 88 points while the Black Knights (89) took second but getting there wasn't easy.
At the 1.8 mile mark Lewisburg, Danville, Mt. Carmel and Towanda were within one point of each other.
When the dust cleared the standings had Lewisburg winning with Danville and Towanda tied for second at 89 points. The Ironmen took second on tie-breakers but the results had an error, with Danville's top runner a spot too high.
Once that was adjusted Danville dropped down to 90 points and out of states while the Black Knights move into second and the final slot.
"It's bittersweet," Towanda coach Leo Harris said. "I'm thrilled for my guys but at the same time incredibly sad for my brother-in-law who's the coach of the Danville team."
It was a roller coaster day for Harris and his team, who first thought his team wasn't going to states to finding out just before the awards that they were in.
"You talk about a 180 degrees of emotions," Harris exclaimed.
"I'm happy to have the team going," Valoroso added. "Hopefully there will be a little more stress relief."
Going as a group is what they wanted all along.
"They made it a lot more suspenseful," Towanda's second runner Simon Smith said. "But it's going to be a lot more fun."
The correction occurred when Sayre coach Randy Felt realized that they had his top runner Nick Sweet one spot back of where he finished.
"I've got to thank Randy Felt," Harris remarked. "Randy Felt clearly saw his runner in front and if it wasn't for that we would be on our bus going to eat dinner. They looked at and that case it was clear."
Harris wonders in a race this tight if there may have been any other errors.
"Each team has five runners," he began. "They only had film on the first to fourth and fifth runners. Who's to say there wasn't a left foot, right foot there wasn't another chip or another place difference somewhere else down the line."
Regardless, Harris is going to enjoy the opportunity with his kids.
"I'm thrilled for kids," he said. "At least we know that place is right. We're going to take advantage of it and do what we need to do but my heart goes out to those Danville kids who were told they were second."
First, second or third, Harris was pleased with his team's effort.
"I'm really proud of our team," he said.
Mt. Carmel ultimately fell to fourth with 111 points.
Other local teams include Sayre (181) in sixth, Troy (255) in 10th, Athens (268) in 11th and Cowanesque Valley (399) in 15th.
Valoroso won the race in 16:05, leading the entire time.
"It's a different feeling," the Black Knight senior said about being district champion. "It's fun. I wish I could have run with the other guys (Curt Jewett and Sam Williams) like I said before but stuff happens."
Valoroso wanted to dictate the pace early.
"I wanted to get out and stay out," he explained. "Try and stay there and I think my nerves worked more into it."
That was the plan according to his coach.
"He was to go out and take charge of the race," Harris said. "By him doing that, showing that kind of leadership and work ethic, its incredibly what he's done."
Valoroso is excited to be going back to states.
"The state course is really challenging," he remarked. "It puts your skill level to an ultimately high and it's an all out kind of sprint. It should be fun."
Valoroso is going to miss running with Northeast Bradford's top two, who will be running in Class A.
"The only reason why I wish they didn't split is because I know the guys and know their capability and who to run with," he explained. "But now it's all mixed up because the guys racing at our level are more South. It's going to be like going in blindfolded basically."
His teammate Simon Smith (16:45) was sixth followed by Kevin Blackman (17:26) in 20th, Schuyler Smith (17:38) in 26th and Derrick Cole (18:11) in 39th to round out the Black Knight top five.
"It feels good," Simon Smith said about going to states.
Simon Smith was running third, fourth most of the way but faded towards the end.
"The hills killed me," he said. "The hills were tough."
The sophomore was looking stick close to Valoroso at the start. He will now be going to states for the first time.
"It really hasn't sunk in yet," Simon Smith said. "It's definitely going to feel good, the extra time to run. It's going to be fun."
"I'm just so proud of him," Harris said about Simon. "Last year as we finished the district race, I remember looking at him and saying 'do you realize your time would have tied for the top AAA time?' Next year when you come back it's not if you go to states, it's how high you want to go? He's elevated his running ability to the point where he's started doing the number of workouts Aaron's doing. What he's done is phenomenal."
Sweet was fourth overall for the Redskins in 16:33 to easily qualify for states.
"It was the perfect weather," he said. "I think last year it was sleeting so it was definitely better than last year."
Sweet jumped out early and hung in that third, fourth position.
"I wanted to start off a little bit slower," he said. "I could have went off a little bit slower but I tried to dial it back mid way so that I could have a lot left at the end."
A larger race than the Class A boys, many of the positions were in flux throughout.
"If anybody passed me I wanted to follow right behind them," Sweet said. "Just copy their foot steps so you can pace right off them and pass them right off the chance."
The sophomore had his teammates around the course helping him keep track of his position.
The biggest surprise of the day was Troy's Ethan Calkins (17:01), who obliterated his personal best to take 10th overall and qualify for states.
Nobody was more stunned about his finish than Calkins.
"I didn't even think I was going to be number one on our team," he remarked. "I'm really surprised."
Calkins had a strategy to get out early.
"I wanted to get out in front right off the bat," he explained. "I didn't want to get caught behind all the rest of the pack."
As the race unfolded Calkins held his spot around the top 10.
"At the second mile they said that I was like ninth or 10th," he said. "I knew then that I had a shot to really do something."
Holding that spot to the finish thrilled the junior.
"I was so happy," Calkins said. "I had no idea. I just do it to keep in shape for wrestling, I never thought I would actually get some where with it."
Athens' Matt Millard (17:10) took 13th, the next last to last spot to qualify. It was a nervous day for the three time state qualifier.
"I was just watching to see what the top two teams were to see how many they could get in front of me," Millard explained. "It's not like the girl's race where the two teams were stacked. I knew I just had to give it all that I got and just listen as everyone shouted out what place where I was. I was just listening and going over that in my mind."
The senior went through the first mile in a fast 4:58 and we wanted to slow down but couldn't afford to lose any spots.
"Where my place was where I needed to finish," Millard explained. "I was just trying to think was the pack was going to slow down to compensate for that first mile. There was a lot of thoughts just going through my head."
Late in the race Millard began to feel the pace catch up with him.
"I heard them say I was 13th," he said. "I still had a little bit left but I felt like I should be finishing now. I couldn't give it anymore. I told myself to keep going, this could be my last race ever."
The Wildcat believed a 17:30 would get in but the field proved faster than that with 17:12 the final spot.
"Everyone ran a great race today," he said. "Just great competition."
Being able to extend the season elated Millard.
"This season went by so much faster than all three of them combined," he explained. "I can remember my sophomore year when I made it to states my first time like it was yesterday. This year went by so far, every meet was just like the next day."
Other runners in the top 10 include Lewisburg's Sean Walker (16:23) in second, Jersey Shore's Cody Allen (16:31) in third, Danville's Tyler Vella (16:33) in fifth, Mt. Carmel's Justin Skavery (16:52) and Tommy Moser (16:53) in seventh and eight and Lewisburg's Nate Martin (17:00) in ninth.
Going forward Harris has a plan for his team.
"We have a game plan," he said. "Our stuff is already set up for next week. I think we can reasonably expect to do certain things and to do well. Now we try to take it to the next step. We had a goal of being a top 10 team in the state, so to go from a half ago of saying we weren't going to states to we now have a chance to achieve that goal it's awesome."