GILBERTSVILLE >> They’re embracing the distinction.
Not just for the fame, but to validate the lofty pre-season state Class AAA rankings the Spring-Ford boys and girls teams received this summer from penntrackxc.com. They achieved more validation Wednesday, on the occasion of the Pioneer Athletic Conference meet hosted by Boyertown at the district’s Junior High-East Center.
The Ram teams recorded identical 21-38 victories over their Bear counterparts, taking top individual honors and placing runners in six of the Top 10 spots. The boys (4-0) took sole possession of first place in the Liberty Division standings by dropping Boyertown (3-1) out of its unbeaten status, and the girls (3-1) continued second in their Liberty ranks.
“They’ve embraced it more than I,” SF head coach Brian Sullivan said of his boys’ seventh-place ranking and girls’ 11th-place positioning. “They’ve put the time in and worked hard.”
Shane Ainscoe outran Boyertown’s Dominic DeRafelo to win the boys’ event by a five-second margin. The girls’ race saw the Rams’ Isabella Marchini cross the finish line first, 13 seconds ahead of the Bears’ Gillian Kasitz.
Both SF teams placed their first five runners in the Top 7; They displaced Boyertown’s fifth-place boy, and its fourth- and fifth-place runners, into the second 10.
“We wanted to come up here and run well,” Sullivan noted. “Boyertown has a quality team, and that’s what we wanted to do.”
With Ainscoe leading the way by running a 16:45 on Boyertown’s 3.1-mile course, the Rams isolated DeRafelo (16:50) from his teammates. Patrick Power came home third for Spring-Ford (16:59), and Jacob McKenna was one second back in fourth, nipping the Bears’ fifth place Josh Endy (17:01).
In the girls’ race, Marchini’s heady 19:18 run distanced her from Kasitz (19:31). Gabriella Bamford was third (19:43) and Emily Smith fourth (20:16) ahead of Maddy Hunsberger, who scored fifth for Boyertown (20:23).
“With the boys, we talked about separating Dom from his teammates,” Sullivan said. “The girls wanted to separate Gillian, too. That’s the way we wanted to go.”
Ainscoe and DeRafelo dueled for much of their race, before Ainscoe kicked it into a higher gear at the end.
“We were neck-in-neck the whole race,” Ainscoe recalled. “But with 200 yards left, that was it.”
Marchini, for her part, achieved separation from Kasitz earlier in their race.
“We were together for the first mile,” she recalled, “but then I decided to pick up the pace and put pressure on her. She (Kasitz) has a tendency to sneak up on you.”
Todd Barton, placing eighth in 17:24, was the only other Boyertown boy to score a Top 10 finish. Milan Sharma (sixth, 17:03), Zachary Smith (seventh, 17:21), Joseph Power (ninth, 17:27) and Kyle Reed (10th, 17:29) completed the Top 10.
“I thought our boys would be stronger,” Bear head coach Ryan Knox said. “Our third through seventh runners had to run really good to be competitive against Spring-Ford’s depth. I thought we were capable, but it didn’t happen today.”
The girls’ race saw a 9-10 finish from Boyertown’s Paige Akins (21:21) and Grace DeMenno (21:37). The Rams effectively countered with the other Top 10 performances of Rachel Murphy (sixth, 20:32), Julie Vledder (seventh, 21:08) and Rachel Moyer (eighth, 21;19).
“Our girls took PRs in the bottom half,” Knox added, “but our 3-4-5 need to be stronger.”
Spring-Ford was coming off fourth-place team showings at the Paul Short Invitational run this past weekend at Lehigh University. Ainscoe and Marchini were the teams’ respective boys’ and girls’ leaders.
“The past two invitationals, we didn’t place where we wanted to,” Ainscoe said. “We’re looking forward to the PAC and state meets.”
“I’m very happy with my times,” Marchini noted. “Each invitational, we’re improving. I had a PR (personal record) at Paul Short.”
Both programs will have one more PAC dual next week prior to the league’s championship meet Thursday, Oct. 20, at Heebner Park in Worcester.
“We’re looking forward to winning the PAC, and I’m looking to get in the top five,” Ainscoe said.
“As long as we keep improving,” Knox added, “I’ll be happy.”
NOTES >> Both Ainscoe and Marchini pointed out the same spot on the Boyertown course — a stretch along the eastern edge, bordered by a turnaround road — as being the most challenging part of the layout. “There’s an incline there,” Marchini noted, “but it’s nothing I and the girls couldn’t handle.” … Sullivan, commenting on the “open” Wednesday Sept. 28, which saw none of the PAC schools run dual meets: “It’s different,” he said, “but I was glad for the week off. It was nice, but kind of strange.”