UPPER PROVIDENCE >> Elizabeth Mancini and Avery Lederer were born to run.
Mancini, a Cardinal O’Hara senior, and Lederer, a senior at Penncrest, have to reach back deep into their memory pools to recall their first running experiences.
The talented pair certainly will be thinking for a long time about the way their scholastic careers came to a close at the PIAA Cross Country Championships in Hershey earlier this month.
Mancini became the first female runner from Delaware County to claim an individual state championship when she finished first in the Class 3A girls race. About two hours later, Lederer was the 12th individual to cross the finish line in the Class 3A boys race.
For their excellence throughout the season — capped by outstanding performances at the state meet — Mancini and Lederer head the 2017 Daily Times Cross Country team as its Runners of the Year.
Joining them on the All-Delco first team are Mancini’s teammate — and twin sister — Eleanor Mancini as well as Katie Till; Lederer’s Penncrest teammate Patrick Theveny; Elias Lindgren and Caitlin Jorgensen of Episcopal Academy; Ridley’s Zack Forney and Jamie Green; Anthony Harper and Jenna Rastatter of Bonner & Prendergast; Will Merhige of The Haverford School; Haverford High’s Mike Donnelly; and Taylor Barkdoll of Strath Haven.
Jorgensen is a junior and Till, Theveny and Donnelly are sophomores. The other members of the first team are seniors. Mancini earned first-team recognition for the fourth consecutive year, while Lederer was selected to the first team for the third year in a row.
The All-Delco team was selected by the Daily Times in consultation with area coaches.
Mancini’s sister, Grace, was the 2013 Runner of the Year as a junior. Lederer became the first Runner of the Year from Penncrest since Nick Bonaventure earned the honor following the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Mancini began running cross country during her CYO days at St. Pius X School.
“I remember watching Grace run and saying I wanted to be just like her,” she said. “Next year, my twin sister Eleanor and I will be joining Grace at La Salle University.
“We’re excited about being on the same team again. That will be something really special because I know every time I step up to the line, they will have my back. Summer miles, runs in the snow, long meets … all were even more special and memorable because I was able to experience them running with my sisters.”
Lederer’s earliest memories of running involve trips around the neighborhood with his father (Chuck, a state-level runner during his days at Jenkintown High) when the family lived in the state of Washington.
“On the way home from school my mom (Lisa) would drop me off a short distance away so I could run the rest of the way home,” he said. “My first competition was the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K in Portland, Oregon, when I was eight years old. And I ran the 400 meters, which was the longest distance allowed, for my elementary school track team.”
In 2016, both Mancini and Lederer placed second at the Delaware County Championship Meet on Rose Tree Park’s 5K course. Mancini was 19th at the PIAA Class 3A Championships as Cardinal O’Hara earned its first team title, while Lederer did not finish high enough in the 3A boys race to earn a medal.
“I didn’t really have any expectations when this season began,” Mancini said. “My goals were to medal at states and help our team repeat as champions. We didn’t defend our championship, but I’m proud of all the work we did this season.
“My training during the summer consisted of a base of mileage, then later in the summer we did some hill training. It was the same thing I did last year, but I was more used to it.”
Lederer also had a pair of goals as he prepared for his senior season.
“I wanted to continue to be one of the most competitive runners in Pennsylvania,” he said. “And I wanted to win a state medal after I missed out during my junior season.
“I was at Ridley Creek State Park at 7 o’clock almost every morning of the summer running with my teammates. I went to the gym a couple of days each week for strength training, and towards the end of summer I was running twice a day.”
Mancini had a second-place finish at the Briarwood Invitational and took third place at the PIAA Foundation Meet on the state course in Hershey as her 2017 campaign began. Lederer was the winner of the Penncrest Invitational by more than one minute over Haverford School’s Mergihe in September.
At the Delaware County Championships at Rose Tree Park on a hot, early October afternoon, Mancini finished second to her sister, Eleanor, in helping Cardinal O’Hara win the team title, while Lederer, who had finished second in 2016, paced Penncrest to top team honors with his first-place finish.
“Winning the Delco team title for the fourth year in a row was such a memorable experience,” Mancini said.
Lederer took his duties as a Penncrest captain very seriously.
“It was exciting to be a top contender in every race I ran,” he said. “We had high expectations as a team, and winning Delcos and Centrals topped it all off.”
In preparation for the state meet, Mancini was individual champion at the Catholic League and District 12 meets at Belmont Plateau and turned in the fifth-fastest time ever clocked by a female runner on that challenging course.
Lederer was the second finisher among the Delaware County boys runners at the District 1 Class 3A race at Lehigh University. He recently committed to Lehigh, where he will study environmental engineering.
Mancini was among the top three runners throughout most of the PIAA Class 3A girls championship race, which took place the first weekend in November in Hershey. She took the lead for good with about 800 meters to run and sprinted away to victory.
“As I was running toward the finish line, I was hoping no one would outkick me,” she said. “I looked back — I know runners aren’t supposed to do that — because I wanted to know if anyone was close to me and kicking hard toward the finish.
“It still feels so unreal that I crossed that finish line first.”
Lederer had hoped to be running in the state meet with the rest of his teammates, but Penncrest fell short of qualifying as a team. Theveny was the only other Lion who took part in the state race.
“Competing at states was the only team goal we fell short on,” Lederer said.
Mancini noted that the closeness of her family has been an inspiration as she has pursued her goals in running.
“My Mom (Christine) and Dad (Robert) and sisters (Grace, Eleanor, Christine) had a large influence on my running all season,” she said. “My Mom and Dad made so many sacrifices so that I could run. Although (Eleanor and Christine) were injured later on in the season, they were great team players by running at states despite their injuries. My older sister, Grace, was at a lot of my meets, cheering me on. And she was the first person I saw when I crossed the line at the state championships.
“Tom Kennedy was such a great coach and friend, and I have to thank Coach Joe Sacchetti and Coach Bill Donovan for all their hard work and support. And thanks to my teammates, who I know the other teams will have to watch out for next season.”
For Lederer, family and coaches also rank high on his list when he talks about what helped him be successful.
“My parents always have been very supportive and have helped me through the ups and downs that go with running,” he said. “My coach, George Munro, has believed in me since I was an incoming freshman and has taught me so much about the sport, as well as have Coach (Bob) Brown and Coach (Zack) Musselman.
“And my teammates, training partners, and friends have always encouraged and supported me.”
Mancini wants to study nursing at La Salle. She has been very active in Cardinal O’Hara’s Community Service Club, Pro-Life Club, and Danny Hammond Dance Marathon.
“My goals for college would be to place high in the Atlantic 10 Championships and help La Salle win the team title,” she said.
Lederer is a member of the World Language, Math, History, and National Honor societies and participates in the Ski and Eco-Adventure clubs. He also volunteers with the Healthy Kids Running Series at its Media location.
“I’m looking forward to continued improvement at the collegiate level,” he said, “and competing in the Patriot League and making a positive impact on the Lehigh team.”
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