HERSHEY >> Anytime Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast cross country coach Kevin Kee wants to get under Tony Harper’s skin a little bit and give him an added push, Kee calls the junior by his given first name: Anthony.
“It’s just a back and forth we have,” Harper said.
Harper did not need added incentive Saturday as he stepped to the starting line for the boys Class 2A race at the PIAA championships. He knew what he had to do to become the first Friar to earn a spot on the medals stand since Will McDermott in 2012.
“I had to get around the pack in the front,” Harper said. “There’s always that big group at the start of the race and I knew I had to push my way through that to keep sight of the lead group. I hung with a few other runners and toward the end I picked it up and made the sprint up that last hill.”
It was a medal-winning strategy as Harper finished 14th in 16 minutes, 42 seconds, to earn his first state medal.
The PIAA made some modifications to the Parkview Course this year and Harper found the changes to his liking.
“There are more hills in the first mile,” Harper said. “Last year, those hills were into the start of the second mile and the third mile is flat now. The only hill is that one coming up to the finish. It’s a little harder because you have to take the first mile a little harder to stay with the pack. If you’re with them for the first and second mile you’re able to pick off kids as you go along.”
Harper was in 18th place after the first mile and in about the same position after two miles before moving up to earn a spot in the top 15.
“It means a lot,” Harper said of his state medal. “It’s nice to see how I’ve improved through the years.”
The Friars were 18th in the team competition. Senior David Whitfield the next best finisher for the Friars. He was 89th.
Cardinal O’Hara’s Ryan James closed out his high school cross country career on a high note, but not as high as he wanted.
James, the 2015 Daily Times Runner of the Year, was looking to be in the top three in Class 3A after breaking 16 minutes and winning the boys gold race at the PIAA Foundation meet more than a month ago.
James was eighth in 16:04.
“It just wasn’t the best day for me,” James said.
While James did not get the place he wanted he did earn his third state medal and not many runners can say that.
“It’s a good feeling,” James said.
The last mile proved to be difficult for the Lions in the team competition. O’Hara finished 13th after being fourth after one mile and fifth at the two-mile mark. The next best finisher after James was senior Gavin Inglis, who was 32nd in 16:44.
Elsewhere in 3A, Penncrest’s Avery Lederer missed earning a state medal by seven places and 13 seconds. He was 31st in 16:43. Teammate Justin Senackerib was 125th in 17:29, while Syed Shad of Upper Darby was 114th in 17:22.
Charlie Schaefer of Delco Christian was the only county runner in the Class A race. He placed 125th (18:42).