The future is now for Northeast Bradford's younger runners
BLOOMSBURG - After losing their top two from last year Northeast Bradford knew they could still be competitive at the state level but that this might also be a transition year of sorts.
Now it looks like the transition is over.
Northeast has returned to their Panther pack ways thanks to two freshman, a sophomore and junior stepping up late this season.
Garret Smith has moved himself into the role of third place runner, getting to within 10 seconds of Senior Brandon Devonshire and Sophomore Levi Upham.
"It's awesome," Smith said about getting close to those two. "For a freshman, I'm like the underdog for everybody, it's pretty cool to be up with them."
Senn-Bishop had one of his strongest races of the season, moving into the four slot at districts. He started out the year in the sixth and seventh slots but has worked his way up.
"I felt it coming," he remarked. "I felt really good today. I tried to carry it into tonight. I tried to rest myself up the past weekend so I would run good."
Sophomore Sam Beers was fifth on the team while Ben Horton wasn't far behind in sixth.
The competition between those two and Senn-Bishop has helped push them further towards the front.
"It's hard because me, Austin and Ben are all really close," Beers said. "We just keep trying to fight each other to get in the gap there. It's good we have that competition between each other."
"It's really good having them there," added Horton. "They motivate the rest of us, they're pretty fast and keep the rest of us going."
When Allabaugh went down midway through the season things looked grim for the Panther's title hopes.
He had been in their top three when healthy but also just as important, that left Upham and Devonshire has the only two returning scorers from last.
But the other four runners have responded.
"It feels really good," Beers remarked about their improvement at districts. "It gives us a lot more confidence going into states. And we just hope we can have that at states, too."
They also know they need to help each other out to move the pack up but also cut their compression time down.
"It's going to be important because it's going to be really close at states," Smith said. "We need everybody next to each other in the pack."
"That is really important," added Horton. "Especially if we can move it up a little faster. That's what will get us to win."
Last year Northeast rolled to the state title but this year Masterman and Saegartown will give them everything they've got.
"I definitely think the team's really good this year, it was really good last year," Senn-Bishop said. "I think they're both about the same but team's are getting a lot, lot better. The competition level is definitely coming up."
But Northeast's future is bright, too. They only lose one runner next year and have a handful of eighth graders hungry to step in.
"It gives you a feel for what's come up the following years," Horton said. "Brandon leaving, that's going to be hard on us, we'll miss him. But the rest of the people coming up from eighth grade to night, they're a bunch of good runners, too."
After two big wins at districts the past two seasons Northeast believes they should compete for the title every season.
"I like that our team has the mentality that every year were going to hopefully be district champs," Upham said. "That's how we like to keep it."
These underclassmen also know being a part of something this special is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"I came in a part of something that's really phenomenal," Senn-Bishop remarked. "I'm definitely happy to be a part of it."