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O’Toole, Gardizy help North Penn boys, girls race past Pennridge

TOWAMENCIN >> It was their last home meet of the season, with rival Pennridge coming on strong.

The Knights weren’t about to tread lightly.

“Matt has a lot of foot speed so I wanted to increase the gap with about a thousand (meters) left,” said North Penn’s Brendan O’Toole, who conquered the home course in impressive time, 16 minutes and 48 seconds. “Luckily it worked out. I didn’t know where (Matt) so I was going. I was movin.’”

Bob Raines--Digital First Media North Penn's Ariana Gardizy finishes first in the cross country meet with visiting Pennridge Sept. 21, 2016.

North Penn’s Ariana Gardizy finishes first in the Knights’ cross country meet with visiting Pennridge on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

O’Toole pulled away and so did the Knights, fending off a strong effort by the Rams and earning a solid 23-32 victory over Pennridge on a warm, sunny afternoon at NP.

The North Penn girls followed up in stellar fashion, led by Ariana Gardizy. Gardizy set a demanding pace of 19:04 and her team followed, tightening up the front of the pack and earning a 21-37 win over the Rams.

“I just wanted to run the first mile kind of fast, and I could hear people behind me, see them behind the corners,” Gardizy said. “Once we hit the two-mile, that’s when I kind of thought ‘go for it.’”

Gardizy had nothing but trees and grass around her for that final stretch, all by herself in winning by 40 seconds. What was also impressive was how the rest of the pack came on, shaving the gap from one to five down to 1:41.

“Might be the best we’ve had so far,” said coach Jim Crawford Jr., whose team raised its Suburban One League Continental Conference record to 2-1. “Ariana’s really good — she’s a returning state medalist, and Dyer (who notched third place in 19:59) made states last year and she ran a pretty good time today. It was a good, competitive race.

“We’re still behind CB East (who topped NP last week), but hopefully we’ll get better.”

Monika Brill ran hard for the Rams, crossing in 19:44 to get second, and teammate Juliet Ryan was a fifth-place finisher in 20:25.

“At the end, I was like ‘come on, let’s go,’ and I did not want Olivia to pass me so I had to kick,” said Brill.

“I thought Monika ran very well,” Rams coach Bill Smith said. “She competed. I thought Juliet Ryan showed some guts and determination, battling (North Penn’s) Mikaela (Vlasic) right there til the end.

Bob Raines--Digital First Media North Penn's Brendan O'Toole leads Pennridge's Matt Eissor during the cross country meet at North Penn High School Sept. 21, 2016.

North Penn’s Brendan O’Toole leads Pennridge’s Matt Eissor during their cross country meet at North Penn High School on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

“North Penn ran a nice race. They ran to win today.”

The NP boys (1-2 in the conference) had a one-two punch up top in O’Toole and Nick Cataldi, who grabbed second in 17 minutes flat. The Knights bunched three finishers in the top four, sandwiched around Eissler, who pushed hard for Pennridge, grabbing third.

“I’m very pleased with how the leaders got ‘em ready for today’s meet,” Knights coach Mike Werner said, “put us in a position to win, and our guys were able to finish it off. The guys up front ran really aggressive and I was pleased with how Brendan ran in the front the whole race and having Nick come back and being able to catch (Eissler) at the end.

“Now we get ready for a very tough meet on Saturday — it’ll be a great learning experience for us in Hershey.”

The NP boys and Pennridge girls head to the PIAA Foundation Meet in Hershey on Saturday while the Pennridge boys tackle the Rock Run at Tyler State Park and the North Penn girls cross the state line into New Jersey for the Six Flags Safari Invitational.

Top Photo:  The start of the North Penn cross country meet with visiting Pennridge on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

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