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Pennsbury girls taking their game to the next level

FAIRLESS HILLS – It’s been a season to believe in for the Pennsbury girls cross country team. Not only did the current class win their second straight PIAA championship the first Saturday in November, the team recently announced the athletic commitment of four of its star athletes.

PIAA championship winner Olivia Sargent will follow in her sister’s footsteps and will run at the University of Virginia. Meridith Twomey is headed to St. Joseph’s, the school in which her parents both attended and competed.

Bailey Balmer is going back to Texas where she was born and will attend the University of Texas at Arlington.

Classmate Maddie Sauer will follow her brother Alek (’14) – a former middle-distance runner for the Falcons who runs track at Colombia – to the Big Apple. Sauer wants to be in New York City this time next fall.

“I fell in love with the city while visiting my brother; it’s so alive and filled with so much energy,” said Sauer.

Maddie got her wish; she’s going to Manhattan College, alma mater to head coach Greg Sargent.

“The girls have worked really hard,” said Coach Sargent. “They give 100 percent in everything that they do every day, both athletically and in the classroom. You’ve got four great student-athletes.”

Meanwhile, track & field standout Dasia Pressley will sprint her way to Syracuse University and lacrosse defenseman Isabel Glace will go to Wagner College.

For Balmer, picking a college in Texas was a bit of a homecoming.

“I was born in Texas and all my family lives there so Texas is home,” she says.

While classmate Olivia Sargent is going to Virginia, she swears it has nothing to do with the fact that her sister Sara competes for the Cavaliers.

“I asked myself, ‘If Sara isn’t there, do you still want to go there?’ The answer was ‘yes.’”

“Ultimately, deep down, I love Virginia and that’s the place the place I want to be.”

Olivia chose Virginia over Vanderbilt and Georgia.

After narrowing her college choice down to two schools – Richmond and St. Joe’s, Twomey decided she wanted to fly with the Hawks.

In the end, Meridith wanted to be closer to home. She also preferred the urban campus at St. Joseph’s.

“I really like the atmosphere and the team,” said Twomey. “I just fell in love with the school.”

Though she swears the fact that her parents Kelly (Class of ‘89) and Vince (’86) were Hawk runners, she likes the idea of attending mom and dad’s alma mater.

“I really liked both schools a lot but I felt more at home (at St. Joe’s).”

While she just missed the medal cut this year, Twomey finished 16th in the 2014 PIAA cross country race and has medaled twice in the state event. Along with Sauer, sophomore Lizzie Kirk and graduate Erin O’Connell (’15, Pittsburgh), she was also part of a 4×800 spring track relay team that medaled in states earlier this year.

Twomey feels the time she put in at Pennsbury was spent wisely and she’s not done yet. Meridith wants another trip to Nike Nationals in cross country (the team went in 2012 and ‘13) and she’d also like to medal again in both indoor and outdoor states.

To get back to nationals, the team must perform well in the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional Nov. 28 at Bowdoin Falls in Wappinger Falls, New York. Last time out, running as Lower Bucks XC, the team finished sixth while their archrivals Unionville RC won the event.

“We didn’t have our best performance so we’re looking for redemption this year,” said Twomey.

Olivia says the team is more focused this time around.

“Knowing how we felt last year has really reset our minds. We have really been focusing again.

“We’re really looking forward to it; it’s our last chance to do something really big and we definitely want to make it back there.”

Last time around, Olivia took first place in the regional race with a time of 18:18.20.

“It was bittersweet for me. I won individually but we didn’t get to go (to nationals) as a team,” said Olivia.

Balmer says she’s ready.

“I just wanna kill it with the rest of my team and get back up there; that’s the goal,” said Bailey. “We’re really excited about it.”

“I think we have a good chance; we just can’t let our guard down. We have to run there and just kill it – just do it.”

Two years ago at the 2013 Nike Northeast Regionals, Molloy finished sixth in 18:44.5 and Sargent was seventh in 18:49.7 while Erica Gray (’14, James Madison) took 15th in 19:14.2.

In 2012, Sauer finished in sixth place with a time of 18:51.5, and then senior Sara Sargent finished in 18:59.2. Meanwhile, Molloy and Olivia Sargent finished just four seconds apart to capture 11th and 12th place.

It all sounds like the makings of a dynasty. Indeed, the Pennsbury girls have been good for quite a while now, winning states five of the past six seasons.

“The girls who went before us were amazing. My sister and (Ann) Herman (Cornell) and Morgan Perry and all the girls that went before us,” said Olivia.

“They set the tone and we have carried it on.”

“The way that we’ve performed and what we’ve won over the past four years, I think that’s really helped us get to this point.”

In case you didn’t already know, this group recently captured another PIAA trophy, its third in four campaigns. In the PIAA cross country championship held Nov. 7 in Hershey, Olivia won the individual gold medal with a time of 18:01. Classmate Hannah Molloy (18:37) and junior Mary Webb (18:44) also claimed individual medals with sixth- and ninth-place finishes. All five scorers broke the 20-minute mark, propelling the state champions to a 25-point win over runner-up Unionville.

Of course, a win or a runner-up finish at the Northeast Regional will earn the team a berth at the Nike Nationals Dec. 5 in Portland, Oregon.

Contact the author at ssherman@buckslocalnews.com, @BucksLocalSport on Twitter

PENNSBURY FALL 2015 COMMITS

Bailey Balmer – University of Texas at Arlington (Cross Country/Track)

Meridith Twomey – St. Joseph’s University (Cross Country/Track)

Dasia Pressley – Syracuse University (Track&Field)

Isabel Glace – Wagner College (Lacrosse)

Olivia Sargent – University of Virginia (Cross Country/Track)

Maddie Sauer – Manhattan College (Cross Country/Track)

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