WARWICK >> After trying a different sport last fall, Gillian Kasitz is back with the Boyertown girls cross country team this year.
She’s been validating the decision in the early weeks of the 2016 season. The latest validation came Wednesday, when the Bears raced Owen J. Roberts in a Pioneer Athletic Conference (Liberty Division) meet at Warwick County Park.
Kasitz won for the second time in three league outings, the bright spot in a girls meet that saw Owen J. literally run away with a 22-39 victory. On the boys’ side, Boyertown answered Liam Conway’s individual first for Roberts by packing in a 25-31 win.
Kasitz, who played soccer for Boyertown her junior year, realized she had to focus on one sport for the future. Cross country became her choice, and thus far she’s been proving it to be the right choice.
“I just had to stay focused on one sport,” she said after her 20-second victory on the “Battlecreek Course” Owen J. calls home. “I’m going to run in college, so I decided to stay with the one I had.”
Kasitz covered the hilly Warwick layout in 19:34, heading Roberts’ Ally Brunton. Behind them, Roberts (2-1 league) took seven of the remaining eight spots in the Top 10, the run interrupted only by Maddie Hunsberger getting fifth for Boyertown in 20:35.
The ‘Cats added 11th place to their string, which was followed by the Bears’ Paige Akins, Amanda Murray and Grace DeMenno going 12-13-14. Mary Bernotas and Autumn Sands were a solid 3-4 for Roberts with respective finishes of 20:12 and 20:14.
“I knew she was behind me,” Kasitz said of Brunton. “I could hear her. She was pushing me to stay ahead of her.”
Kasitz noted her biggest opportunity for separation from the field came on a part of the course many runners dislike.
“I think it was at the hills,” she said. “I like running hills. That’s my strong suit. Some people get a negative perspective about them, but I don’t.”
The boys’ race saw Conway breeze along his home course to finish with a 16:48 that proved to be the event’s lone sub-17 minute finish. It was close to a 15-second win for the Roberts junior, with Dominic DeRafelo and Josh Endy going 2-3 for the Bears at 17:02 and 17:04, respectively.
“Our duals have been relaxed for us,” Conway noted. “When we go out feeling relaxed, it gives me a lot of confidence.”
Like Kasitz, Conway pulled away from the pack on the course’s hilly stretch. Though he admitted giving thought to making a run at Conway, Boyertown’s Dominic DeRafelo opted instead to focus on maintaining the integrity of Boyertown’s pack.
“I started to go after him in the middle,” DeRafelo said, “but I didn’t want to mess up our pack. I can go after him later in the year.”
Boyertown went on to claim six of the top 10 spots. It got Justin Smyth (fifth, 17;23) and Christian McComb (sixth, 17:27) behind OJR’s Conor Murray, who was fourth in 17:15. Todd Barton (ninth, 17:46) and Kollin Miller (10th, 17:49) followed Roberts’ Andrew and Kyle Malmstrom, a respective seventh and eighth in 17:29 and 17:33.
“That’s been our plan,” DeRafelo said. “We’ve been working all summer on it. We want to peak at the PACs (meet).”
Conway noted Owen J. has a different training plan it’s undertaking this year.
“We’re focusing on mileage, then we’ll be getting in speed workouts,” he said. “By the end of the season, we should make huge improvements.”
The Roberts girls’ pack behind Brunton, Bernotas and Sands had Alex Glasier (20:52), Emma Torak (21:11), Emily Hansell (21:11), Katelyn Bernotas (21:23) and Charley Lustig (21:42) making up the second five of the Top 10.
NOTES >> DeRafelo, on the PAC’s new divisional alignment which will result in Boyertown running league meets only against its other big schools: “I’m going to miss running against my buddies at Pottsgrove,” he said. “But I like running against the bigger schools. That will show us what the top of the PAC will be like.”