Coach Tom Moul could barely contain his excitement when reliving the highlights of the 2017 PIAA Girls’ Cross Country Championships held Saturday, November 4, in Hershey, Pennsylvania. And, with good reason.
For the first time in the 39-year history of the program, the girl’s team won it all. They not only came home with a sweet gold medal for the school’s showcase, but also with the satisfaction of knowing that what they had dreamed about and worked so hard for in the past years had actually come to pass.
“These girls have been unbelievably focused, starting with summer practices that began last June right after school ended,” says Coach Moul. “They have been a special group since they were freshmen and have always been self-driven to set and reach their goals.”
Under a partly sunny sky and a perfect temperature for running, the Foxes group collectively outpaced a total field of 212 runners. Junior Sarena Seeger crossed the finish line first for the team in 11th place overall with a time of 19:09. Junior Annika Urban was the second finisher for the Foxes, senior Caelan Miller was third for the team, and sophomore Grace Sisson was fourth. Sophomore Brooke Krally finished in the team’s fifth place slot, and junior Anna Folkerts and sophomore Isabelle Doerr followed her to contribute to the win.
While none of the girls finished individually in the top-10, it was a testament to their strength and balance as a team that won them the gold medal with 104 points, 19 points better than Manheim Township High School and local rival Oakland Catholic, who tied for second place.
The win was especially satisfying because the team had battled Manheim all season for the state’s top ranking, and had been disappointed with their second-place finish behind Oakland Catholic at the WPIAL championships in October. After that race, Annika said being the runner-up only served to motivate them even more. “We knew we could win it,” she said.
But Coach Moul had to check his iPhone several times to make sure he was reading the results on runhigh.com correctly. “I was refreshing the race site and saw that we were leading at the one-mile and then two-mile marks, but kept looking when the race was over just to make sure the final results were right.”
It was a moment that he won’t forget, nor what led up to that monumental day.
“I remember when Serena and Annika were freshmen and they were the only two girls on the team that qualified for states that season,” says the coach. “They really set the pace for the team at that point, and since then, they’ve been joined by some really great other runners who also want to do well and have never considered that they wouldn’t.”
Of Serena he says, “She just seems to own the course in Hershey. The runners all say it’s the toughest course they face all year because of the really steep hills and curves, but Sarena loves it. Last year as a sophomore, she was 17th and was 27th in her freshman year.”
“I really like that course, probably because I’ve done so well on it,” says Sarena. “I think one of the reasons I do well is because I don’t hold back on the downhills; I really let go.”
It also helps that Sarena has a great pace on the uphills and a very strong kick at the end, but her thoughts while she’s running have a tremendous influence on her performance too.
“The whole time I just kept thinking about how well I wanted to do, and how much we wanted to win, and how hard we’ve worked as a team,” she continued. “We had such a great season and when we actually won, it was amazing. All of us were crying because we were so happy.”
Coach Moul adds, “Caelan is usually first for our team and the fact that she fought through some rough patches to finish third for us was instrumental in our first-place team finish. Other less experienced runners may have fallen back once they realized they weren’t where they usually are, but she did not let that happen. It shows tremendous toughness.”
That toughness also has impressed college coaches. Caelan just committed to sign early and run cross country and track for the University of Pittsburgh.
Besides Caelan, almost all of the girls will lace up their running shoes again in a few weeks, only this time for indoor track, and then again for the 2018 outdoor season. You can be sure their lingering gold medal enthusiasm will fuel their resolve to achieve even bigger things in other areas.
So, while running through the countryside may have come to a close, one thing is for certain – it’s definitely not the last time we’ll be hearing about this group of gold medalists.
For more information: See the team talking about their championship