The rabbit and the pack.
That concept was the key to success for the Perkiomen Valley girls cross country team in 2016. The two aspects combined to keep the Vikings a power not just in the Pioneer Athletic Conference and District 1, but make them one in the PIAA.
The pack was a grouping of 5-6 runners who were key to running past PAC opponents both in the regular-season dual meets and the league’s championship race. Leading the way was the rabbit: Annie Glodek, The Mercury’s All-Area Girls Runner of the Year.
Glodek capped her high-school career in fine fashion. She was the PAC’s untouched champion, winning the league meet a third straight year; she then went on to score top five finishes in Class AAA competition both at the district and state levels.
While mastering the individual aspect of the sport, Glodek also factored prominently in the team’s performance. The result this fall was championships both in the PAC and District 1, followed by third place in PIAA’s Class AAA ranks.
“My goals always are to improve in big meets – Paul Short, districts and states,” Glodek said. “But I also focus on helping the team as far as individually.”
The other Vikings proved adept at following Glodek’s fast pace.
Four of them — Teaghan Scheinbecker, Michele Daniels, Jocelyn Rotay, Julia Dorley — were among the next 10 finishers behind Glodek’s winning 18:48 run during the PAC championship. All finishing under the 20-minute mark on the Heebner Park course, they merged for a 30-point team total putting them comfortably ahead of runner-up Owen J. Roberts (45) and third-place Spring-Ford (65).
“Rabbit and the pack. That worked out for us,” she said.
The PV pack was a bit more spread out in the District 1-AAA race at Lehigh University, with runners placing as far down as 55. But with Glodek going third, her 17:55 clocking bested only by Downingtown West’s Aislynn Devlin (l7:12) and Unionville’s Anna Juul (17:40), the pack brought home the district’s championship trophy and punched its collective ticket to states.
“The past couple years, I focused more on myself. It’s something I was able to control,” Glodek said. “This year, I was invested in my teammates, and this training changed the outlook on the season.
“I figured we’d win the PAC. I knew we had to win districts to go to states. It was very exciting. I wasn’t sure it could happen.“
PV finished third in the team standings at states — the best effort in the program’s history, but not enough to pick up either of the trophies awarded to the first- and second-place teams. The Vikings were 26 points out of second place, and 40-50 behind the champion.
Glodek’s individual performance, however, provided considerable cheer on its own merits. She placed fifth with an 18:32 on Hershey’s Parkview Course, five places better than the previous go-round.
“It’s good. It’s kind of what I wanted,” she said at the conclusion of her scholastic swan song for PV.
In complement to her sweep of the PAC’s Liberty Division meets and its championship race, Glodek placed third in the PIAA Foundation meet at Hershey. She also ran 10th in the Paul Short Invitational held earlier in the season at Lehigh.
“My goal this season was to run under 18 minutes at Lehigh,” she said. “It’s hard to gauge times, and the conditions differ every year. But by the end of October it’s nice and cool, and I can run good times at Lehigh.”
“Going super-hard in the middle of the race … that’s what Annie does,” PV head coach Ryan Sullivan added.
Consistently leading races offered its own challenges. With nobody on whom to focus at the front, Glodek had to both set the pace for the field of runners and insure nobody was in position to overtake her.
“In terms of a race, I don’t like to look back,” she said. “The first 2-1/2 miles, I go by crowd noise.”
Splitting off early in the league race, Glodek ran an 18:48 that put her across the line 20 seconds ahead of Owen J. Roberts’ Allison Brunton.
“It’s challenging to run that way,” she said.
Her championship-race three-peat put Glodek behind PV alumnae Becky Bullard and Methacton’s Kara Steinke for most PAC meet wins. Both won four times: Bullard from 1996 to 1999, Steinke from 2010 to 2013.
At districts, Glodek’s 17:55 clocking represented a personal best. In doing so, she weathered a late charge by Ariana Gardizy, finishing four seconds ahead of the North Penn junior.
“After we crossed the (course) bridge, I passed two girls,” Glodek recalled. “At the three-kilometer mark, I passed another. When I got to third place, I held it there.”
In the state meet, Glodek found her fifth-place run contested by Abington Heights’ Katie Dammer and Oakland Catholic’s Lauren Finikiotis toward the end. But she held her place up the steep hill preceding a straight-shot into the finishing chute, two seconds ahead of Dammer and another two in front of Finikiotis.
“By the end of the first mile, I was running maybe 10th,” Glodek recalled. “I went through the next mile fast, progressively passing girls on the hills and flats. Once I got ahead of the girl from Abington Heights, I was running scared to the end of the race.”
Not so scared, though, about the prospect of giving up places in the chute.
“All these years, I was passed in the chute once,” she said. “It was more gaining distance on people.”
Glodek will close out her time at PV participating on the girls indoor and spring track teams. She will then head to Cornell University, which recently accepted her for admission to study sociology and compete on the women’s cross country and track teams at the Ivy League school in Ithaca, New York.
Though the Viking program returns four underclassmen from its championship pack, the departure of its rabbit will nonetheless be felt strongly.
“Obviously, losing Annie is a big hit,” Sullivan added. “She ran hard every single meet. She was significantly above everybody else.
“In one of the state’s best-running leagues, she was the leader.”