NEWTOWN – The Council Rock North girls may not have won the Suburban One League (SOL) National Conference championships, cross country head coach Jess Abbott says her team is poised for future success.
The Lady Indians’ top runner at SOLs was Daphne Vorel, a freshman who finished the league meet Oct. 21 at Lehigh University in 20:36, good for eighth-place. And Rock North had four girls in the top 20 at SOLs including freshman Noelle Halikman (12th, 20:58), junior Megan Coolahan (13th, 21:00) and senior Katie Mullen (18, 21:24).
With graduation last June, North’s ranks were depleted so when offseason workouts began, Abbott says she wasn’t sure what she had. The current crop of runners sure seemed anxious to get the 2016 campaign going though, with many of the freshmen attending optional practices over the summer.
“While their talent was evident, I wasn’t sure how quickly they’d reach their potential,” admitted Abbott. “Most of them ran somewhat hesitantly in the first few meets but as they gained experience, they started handling more difficult workouts and began to show more confidence.”
According to the coach, most of those freshmen are now finishing four to five minutes faster than they did at the beginning of the season. And there’s more good news to report.
“There’s definitely still room for a lot of improvement, which is exciting,” says Abbott.
While the majority of the Indians’ varsity team is made up of underclassmen, the Rock benefits from the experience and work ethic of junior Megan Coolahan and senior Kate Mullen.
“They’re both very consistent and mentally tough,” says Abbott.
With so many youngsters, Abbott knew she and her staff had to take a different approach to coaching the 2016 group.
“Our varsity team is very different from the one we had last year,” she said.
“I made sure we took it one meet at a time and didn’t place too much emphasis on upcoming Invitationals or the championship portion of the season.”
While team workouts are geared toward long-term improvement and peaking at the right time, Abbott says she wanted to stress how all that works within the framework of the team.
“We focused on weekly goals and how to get a win each time we faced a league opponent,” the coach explained. “I’ve tried to emphasize running as a team and for the team so I think that’s served as motivation and helped take pressure of any one individual.”
The fact that her top three runners have taken turns finishing in the top spot this season has also advanced the team’s cause.
“Our rotation of runners has also helped alleviate some of the pressure associated with races,” said Abbott. “We have had three different runners (Vorel, Coolahan, Mullen) finish in our top position throughout the season. And in recent weeks, our pack running has also improved.”
At SOLs, freshman Ellie Spasova finished 23rd, in 21:59 and North has a slew of up-and-coming runners including sophomore Bridget Burke (33rd, 22:49), freshman Annabel Koza (35th, 23:17), junior Hannah Grant, sophomore Lindsay Gromlich and freshman Sophie Koza.
“We have 57 athletes on our team,” said Abbott. “And 15 of them have been in our top 10 at some point during the season.”
The Rock North girls finished their league season unbeaten at 6-0 – the same as the boys – to capture the regular season SOL National Conference crown.
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
Neshaminy junior Rusty Kujdych (15:35) may have been the fastest runner in this year’s SOL National Conference boys cross country championships held Oct. 21 at Lehigh University, it was Council Rock North coming away with the team championship.
Junior Ryan Campbell (15:49) and senior Tim Haas (15:57) finished second and third, respectively, right behind Kujdych and junior Sam Earley (16.10) and senior Bryan Keller (16.11) took fifth and sixth behind William Tennent senior Evan Hutton (15:57).
The Indians finished fifth at states last year, and have five of their top seven back from 2015.
“We are pretty excited about this season,” said head coach Dave Marrington. “The kids have been running since June, and are in very good shape. “We believe our top five are as good as anybody’s.”
Additional talent for the CR North boys includes juniors Ethan Koza and Kevin Ehrgott, along with sophomores Matt Mullen, Jake Boyd and C.J. Haas.
A big regular season win for the Indian boys this year was finishing first in the William Tennent Invitational.
The District 1 Championship race is this Friday, Oct. 28 back at Lehigh, while states are slated for Saturday, Nov. 5 in Hershey.
SOL NATIONAL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS (Girls Varsity 5K)
(Oct. 21 at Lehigh University)
1 Mary Webb 12 Pennsbury 19:29.00 1
2 Kelly Jawork 12 Abington 19:37.00 2
3 Chloe Connor 11 Pennsbury 19:48.00 3
4 Marisa Kilgarriff 9 Council Rock South 20:11.00 4
5 Lynne O’Connor 11 William Tennent 20:25.00 —
6 Tori Parisen 10 Pennsbury 20:26.00 5
7 Brittany Gable 11 Council Rock South 20:32.00 6
8 Daphne Vorel 9 Council Rock North 20:36.00 7
9 Kaylee McCullough 9 Neshaminy 20:43.00 8
10 Abby Tomlinson 9 Neshaminy 20:47.00 9
11 Becca Lehman 11 Neshaminy 20:52.00 10
12 Noelle Halikman 9 Council Rock North 20:58.00 11
13 Megan Coolahan 11 Council Rock North 21:00.00 12
14 Katie Benincasa 10 Council Rock South 21:01.00 13
15 Kabrina Weaver 11 Neshaminy 21:16.00 14
16 Megan Schaal 11 Pennsbury 21:20.00 15
17 Carolyn Ludes 11 Council Rock South 21:22.00 16
18 Katie Mullen 12 Council Rock North 21:24.00 17
19 Shane Bishop 12 Neshaminy 21:27.00 18
20 Simonet Tan 11 Bensalem 21:28.00
SOL NATIONAL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS (Boys Varsity 5K)
1 Rusty Kujdych 11 Neshaminy 15:35.00 1
2 Ryan Campbell 11 Council Rock North 15:49.00 2
3 Tim Haas 12 Council Rock North 15:57.00 3
4 Evan Hutton 12 William Tennent 15:57.00 4
5 Sam Earley 11 Council Rock North 16:10.00 5
6 Bryan Keller 12 Council Rock North 16:11.00 6
7 Sean Rahill 11 William Tennent 16:13.00 7
8 Eric Kersten 12 Pennsbury 16:28.00 8
9 Ethan Koza 11 Council Rock North 16:33.00 9
10 Jed Scratchard 11 Pennsbury 16:41.00 10
11 Dan Mink 12 Pennsbury 16:42.00 11
12 Aqeel Bacchus 12 Bensalem 16:45.00 12
13 Christian Craig 12 William Tennent 16:54.00 13
14 Kevin Ehrgott 11 Council Rock North 16:54.00 14
15 Zak Bacchus 11 Bensalem 17:03.00 15
16 Jason Fitch 11 Neshaminy 17:13.00 16
17 Kyle Kutney 10 Council Rock South 17:14.00 17
18 Tommy Brewer 10 Bensalem 17:16.00 18
19 Collin Ochs 10 Council Rock South 17:19.00 19
20 Aidan Sauer 11 Pennsbury 17:20.00 20
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