Towanda's Simon Smith captures District IV, Class AA title
BLOOMSBURG - For the second year in a row a Towanda runner captured the gold.
Black Knight Simon Smith led the whole way, pulling away the last mile to take the District IV, Class AA boys' Cross-country title Thursday.
"It feels good," Simon said. "I was confident coming in I could win."
He won the race in 16:50, 10 seconds ahead of second place finisher Tyler Vella of Danville. Last year Aaron Valoroso won the individual title for Towanda.
It was a windy day up on Bloomsburg's University's Upper Campus but that didn't deter Smith's plan.
"I knew the smart race would be to tuck in behind someone but I always go out fast so what's what I try to do," Simon explained.
During the middle portion of the race Vella and Mifflinburg's Quincy Amabile pulled close to Simon but he eventually pulled away for the comfortable win the last mile.
"I thought the wind would play into my advantage and play into my team's advantage," he remarked.
His team didn't fare quite as well in the hotly contested team competition.
The Black Knights had their top four in before everybody else's but it takes five to win a district title. Eventually champions Mt. Carmel and second place Danville were able to get their fifth's in before Towanda's to take the two team spots.
The Red Tornadoes had three in the top 10 with Nate Bartos (17:10) taking sixth, Tommy Moser (17:18) taking seventh and Cory Hoffman (17:19) taking ninth. Their fourth was 23rd while their fifth took 30th.
After Vella's second place finish Danville took the 14th, 16th, 26th and 27th spots.
Towanda's second Schuyler Smith was also in the top 10, taking ninth in 17:24 while Kevin Blackman (17:50) and Derrick Cole (18:02) were 17th and 21st respectively.
Their fifth was 67th, though, too much of a gap to make up.
Mt. Carmel finished with 72 points, Danville had 81 while Towanda scored 112 to take third.
Schuyler Smith's finish did push him on to states where he will join his brother.
"That is pretty cool," Schuyler said about joing his brother at states. "I'm not sure how many guys can say they're going with their brother to states. That's definitely a cool feeling, he's a great runner and he deserves it."
Simon was excited to see his brother finish in the top 10 as well.
"I know during the summer he trained for it," he remarked. "We expected it coming into the season."
It was a difficult race for Schuyler, who ran in different packs throughout the contest.
"It's definitely a tough race," he remarked. "There is a lot of competition out there, both Danville and Mt. Carmel are very good teams. There is a lot of good individual runners so it was a very competitive race."
He too felt the strong winds on the course.
"The wind was definitely a factor," Schuyler explained. "It kind of lightened up around the time our race came around. It definitely got a little warmer but you definitely just had to tuck in behind guys when you could and try to power up hills."
Despite making it to states it was a bitter sweet moment for Schuyler.
"It would have been to nice to have the team go but you can't let it affect you," he remarked.
Regardless, it was a good haul for both Towanda cross-country teams as Katelin Purdy won the Class A girls' race.
"That's impressive," Simon said. "Putting ourselves third to second for the team and second last year and of course taking first in the girls' race."
The other local runner that earned a state berth was Sayre's Nick Sweet.
Sweet was 12th overall in 17:39.
"I feel good about it but I didn't really feel by best today," he admitted. "It was a cold day and I just really didn't feel right."
Sweet ran up front early but faded as the race went on.
"It was tough but I kept going on," he said. "I felt good at the beginning of the race but at the 2-mile mark I hit like a wall and I started fading back."
He, too, felt the sting of the wind on the wide open course.
"The wind was tough," explained Sweet. "The wind kind of almost stopped you in your place sometimes, it was strong. At other times it would just fade away and it would be fine."
This will be Sweet's second trip to Hershey after making it there last year.
"I just want to try to get my position early in the race," he said about his plan going in. "States is a big race, a lot of people there. It's important to get your position early in the race."
Blackman was the first runner out, missing states by less than a second. Other notable locals include Athens' Gabe Herbst in 31st at 18:25 and Sayre's Andy Platt in 36th at 18:40.
The top Troy runner was Jordan Grimes in 44th in 18:58 while CV's Nathan Bonham was 45th in 18:59.
The Wildcats were 10th as a team with 311 places followed by Troy (327) in 11th, Sayre (338) in 13th and CV (346) in 14th.
The PIAA Championships are Saturday, November 2 at the Hershey Course.