The Chester County high school boys cross-country scene featured plenty of fine runners, and two of them finished in the top 10 at the PIAA Championships — Bishop Shanahan senior Josh Hoey (seventh) and West Chester Henderson senior Spencer Smucker (ninth).
The accomplishments were too similar to separate the duo, so the two runners have been selected as the 2017 Daily Local News Boys Cross Country Runners of the Year.
Both of them enjoyed sterling fall campaigns. Smucker (last year’s All-Area Runner of the Year) finished first at the Ches-Mont League Championships, while Hoey placed second at the PIAA District 1 championships.
Hoey was the first of the two to cross the finish line at states.
“The course [at Hershey] was pretty muddy at some parts, and the downhills were incredibly steep,” said Hoey. “I remember going into Poop-Out Hill and feeling like I ran into a brick wall. The key was to push through as hard as I could because I knew I could kick on the final straightaway.”
Two spots behind Hoey came Smucker, who completed a four-year run of medaling at States — he was 24th as a freshman, 15th as a sophomore and 12th as a junior. Last year, Smucker became only the third runner in the last 30 years to medal at the PIAA State Championships as a freshman, sophomore and junior.
“This was the second time I had run on this particular course at Hershey, so I knew most of the ins and outs,” said Smucker. “The conditions during the race were pretty ideal — no wind, and about 40 degrees. The most vivid memory of the race for me was right as I entered the final stretch seeing the crowds on both sides of the course, and the finish line ahead.”
One week earlier, at the District 1 Class 3A championships at Lehigh University, Hoey finished second (15:12), just one second behind winner Rusty Kujdych of Neshaminy (Smucker placed seventh).
“The race went out slower that day, which played to my strengths as I am more of a speed guy,” said Hoey. “I made a bit of a tactical mistake by pushing from too far out and not having enough left in the last 200 meters.
“This season, I have learned that even if you have a bad stretch of races, it’s important to go for it all every race because you may surprise yourself with how well you do.”
Like Hoey, Smucker has learned to battle through adversity, in his case several sprained ankles the last couple of years.
“I’m really trying to be more careful about my running — I’m now doing some targeted ankle exercises, PT, and stretching more,” said Smucker. “This season, I’ve learned that injuries aren’t the end of the world. If you get injured it is more important to make sure you take the time to heal than it is to rush back into competition.”
Smucker has committed to High Point University in North Carolina, and plans to major in accounting.
Hoey will be running for the University of Oregon next fall, joining his older brother Jaxson.
“Jaxson has always been a role model for me, both in track and spiritually,” said Hoey. “He taught me what it means to run giving it everything I got, because the gift is not from myself.”
Hoey is looking to major in either business or computer science at Oregon.
“I am interested in potentially following in my dad’s footsteps as a fi-nancial advisor, or maybe looking for a career in programing,” said Hoey.
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