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Council Rock North cross country poised for success

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.

Contact Steve Sherman at ssherman@21st-Centurymedia.com or @BucksLocalSport on Twitter

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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