LOWER POTTSGROVE >> Quality effectively trumps quantity.
That’s the guideline Pottsgrove is following this fall. With their boys and girls teams each numbering less than 10 runners, the Falcons understand the need to run a tight pack near the front of the field if they’re going to be successful.
They did that on both counts Wednesday as they hosted Pottstown in a Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division race. The boys (2-0 league) filled the top four places in their 25-35 win, and the girls (1-1) placed four in the Top Five to secure a 21-34 victory.
“We wanted to have a tight pack, so we can get the win,” Bryce Hampton said after heading the boys’ race. The Falcon junior, covering his home course in 19:21, headed a big team finish that saw Gabe Craig (19:38), Brandon Henrickson (19:47) and Cole Goldcamp (20:05) go 1-2-3-4 ahead of Pottstown’s Michael Baker, fifth in 20:16.
It was almost a matching finish on the girls’ side. Naomi Hillen was the runaway winner, the Pottsgrove freshman’s 21:55 clocking almost two minutes faster than Pottstown leader Hailey Christman (23:45), while Amie Wildermuth (23:51), Megan Czerpak (24:14) and Molly Neeson (24:24) took the next three spots.
“Coach reminds us if the other team is bigger, quality beats quantity,” Hillen said, “and we just have to run our race.”
The swelling numbers rank as a positive for Pottstown, whose program had been in danger of being shut down less than 10 years ago. Its boys squad (0-2) outmanned Pottsgrove 18-6, and the girls (1-1) had a significant edge on Pottsgrove.
“We have 32 total,” head coach Mary Ann Hill said. “We’re happy with the numbers. The kids are working real hard.”
The Trojan boys had their own pack going behind the Falcons, taking the next 10 places. But Pottsgrove’s presence at the top aided the team victory, with Jonah Korman placing 15th.
“We don’t have a lot of kids back this year,” head coach Larry Rechtin said. “But the kids are dedicated. They trained a lot this summer, and it’s paying off.
“We’ve got to keep this group together and hope for the best.”
Behind Baker, Pottstown closed out the Top 10 in the boys’ race with Gionkirk Kimmall (20:23), Jaimie Sharp (21:02), Martin Metzgar (21:09), Shane Langevin (21:35) and Nick Wilson (21:49). The Trojan girls ran tight in the “second five” with Claire Fetterman (sixth, 24:43), Adrianna Hayward (seventh, 25:27), Hannah Shankle (ninth, 26:04) and Courtney Parry (10th, 26:29).
“We don’t have a middle school program,” Hill noted, “so we have kids who are learning the sport. We have a couple of our top runners who have not run this course.”
The home-course advantage paid off for Pottsgrove, particularly on a section that veers into a wooded area on the high-school property’s southern border. Hampton and Hillen both acknowledged a degree of difficulty running on that part of the course.
“It was all wet and swampy,” Hampton said. “We had one of our runners who fell, but he was able to come back.”
“The course is more difficult. There were a few puddles,” Hillen added.
Rechtin, however, sees the advantages favoring his runners.
“It makes a difference,” he said. “The home team has a big advantage. You know where the rough spots and divots are.”
Hampton is shooting for better times as the season goes on.
“It was slow today,” he said. “One of my goals is to get to 16:22. That’s one minute off from last year.”
Hillen, at the same time, is showing promise early in her high-school career.
“She had a nice season in eighth grade last year,” Rechtin said. “She takes instruction well, and is very patient.”
Across the board, he sees both Pottsgrove’s squads needing to maintain their togetherness during races.
“It’s going to be tough against schools that can break up the pack,” he said. “Our four and five runners will have to step it up.”
NOTES >> Hillen finds no problem maintaining her pace even when not being pushed by the rest of the field. “Workouts I do myself,” she said. “I just keep going and don’t let up.” … Hill and fellow coach Mark Agnew have fostered positive feeling among their runners. “Agnew and I run with the kids,” she said. “We also go to camp in the Poconos. It’s good for team bonding.”