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OJR’s Conway, Brunton place first; Spring-Ford boys finish unbeaten in Liberty Division

UPPER PROVIDENCE >> It was a good dress rehearsal for next week’s Pioneer Athletic Conference championship meet.

On that point, the Spring-Ford and Owen J. Roberts teams were in agreement about their dual race Wednesday.

The regular-season finale for both programs saw Roberts come away with both the individual race winners — Liam Conway on the boys’ side, Ally Brunton on the girls’ — and the girls team victory, 23-34. But the Spring-Ford boys did well by their 22-35 win over the Wildcats, riding their trademark tight pack to an unbeaten run through the league’s Liberty Division.

“All our kids work hard toward their goals,” OJR head coach Dave Michael said. “We’re gearing up for the championship meet next Thursday, and the district meet the following Friday.”

Conway, for his part, strengthened the argument for him becoming the league’s new boys champion. The Owen J. junior, who finished second to graduated Methacton star Jeff Kirshenbaum in 2016’s meet, covered Spring-Ford’s three-mile home course in 15:48.

Conway’s time was 10 seconds ahead of the Rams’ Jacob McKenna, and another tick better than Milan Sharma (15:59). To be sure, he agreed running against Spring-Ford was an appropriate tune-up for the next three weeks of post-season meets.

“They’re definitely the main competitors we’ll have, them and Boyertown,” Conway said. “We have (Conor) Murray, and a lot of guys with great shots at being in the Top 10.”

McKenna and Sharma headed Spring-Ford’s leading pack, which placed six runners among the first 10 finishers and 10 in the top 14. Pat Power placed third (16:03) ahead of Murray, with Zach Smith (16:19) and Shane Ainscoe (16:20) going 6-7 and Kyle Reed placing 10th (16:31) around OJR’s Kyle Malmstrom (eighth, 16:23) and Sean Barone (ninth, 16:28).

The SF boys padded their winning team score by securing 11th through 14th places. Oscar Granese (16:33), J.T. Clark (18:38), Jack Roshelli (18:42) and Joey Power (18:47) all crossed the line before Roberts’ fifth runner, Linus Blatz, checked in at 15th place (18:49).

“That’s our strength right now,” Spring-Ford head coach Brian Sullivan said. “We don’t have any guys like Liam, who are going to bring in the low sticks, so we try to put as many guys up top as we can.”

The OJR girls had both aspects going for them. While Brunton (18:02) outran the Rams’ Bella Marchini and went on to a 10-second win, the lady ‘Cats went on to place six in the Top 10, headed by the 3-4 run of Mary Bernotas (18:28) and Autumn Sands (18:35).

“I tried to go out with Bella and stay as close as I could,” Brunton recalled. “On the last mile, I pulled out.”

The last straightaway to the finish line, the Roberts senior was in full sprint to the win.

“I was scared, with 800 (yards) to go, she might be with me,” Brunton said, “but with 400 left, I gave it everything I got.”

“Ally was back five to 10 seconds at the two-mile mark,” Michael added, “but on the last 300 to 400 meters, Ally used her speed and strength.”

Emily Hansell (18:59), Alex Glasier (19:12) and Emma Torak (19:15) going 7-8-9 enabled OJR (4-1) to nail down second place in the PAC Liberty standings.

“One of the big keys was Hansell,” Michael said, “She ran outstanding.”

Emily Smith placed fifth for Spring-Ford (3-2), running an 18:39. Gabriella Bamford added a sixth (18:48), Julia Vledder a 10th (19:27) and Rachel Murphy 11th (19:37).

“The girls have to realize the attitude and effort today weren’t good enough,” Sullivan said. “They have to take something from today.”

NOTES >> The main benefit the Spring-Ford boys will draw from their first-place finish in the PAC’s Liberty Division is the satisfaction. “The big one will be the league meet. We feel good going into the league championship,” Sullivan said. … Spring-Ford honored its senior team members following the race, on the occasion of their final run on their home course. “In my six years as head coach, this is the first big, talented class I’ve had,” Sullivan said. “They put in a lot of work, a lot of mileage, a lot of effort. I’m proud of them.”

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