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O’Hara’s Mancini beats injuries and a Bulldog challenge

UPPER PROVIDENCE — Cardinal O’Hara senior Christine Mancini flashed a big smile after she finished first in the girls varsity race at the 29th Bulldog Cross Country Invitational at Rose Tree Park Saturday morning.

Mancini had struggled with injuries during parts of her junior cross country and track seasons.

“I finished fourth in the 800 at indoor (track) states, then my back started hurting,” said Mancini, whose older sisters Grace, Elizabeth, and Eleanor are members of La Salle University’s cross country team. “But then I had an awesome summer. I had some great training partners, including my sisters.”

She will have some good teammates this season, including junior Katie Till, who placed ninth Saturday, and sophomore Kaitlyn Durning, who was 24th.

The Bulldog, which previously had two varsity races for both girls and boys, had only one each Saturday. Avon Grove won the girls team title, followed by Perkiomen Valley, Souderton, Downingtown East, and O’Hara. Radnor placed eighth.

Individual champion Garrett Campbell led Methacton to the boys’ team championship. Perkiomen Valley finished second, followed by Avon Grove, Downingtown West, and Bishop Shanahan. Senior Ethan Zeh took second in the individual standings to help Radnor to sixth in the team race.

Archbishop Carroll’s Aidan Doherty was the other local runner in the top 10, placing eighth.

O’Hara’s Mancini took the lead, was passed, then came back with a strong finish to get across the finish line in 20 minutes, 54 seconds. Sophomore Lauren O’Neil of Avon Grove was second (21:08) and Souderton senior Lael Flores was third (21:11).

“I wanted to stay with the leaders,” Mancini said. “I had to see how the pace was going to be. We ran a Catholic League meet Wednesday, but that was more about tempo.

“We have a young team, but this season will be about defending our title at Delcos, winning the (Catholic League), and getting back to states.”

Till was a member of the O’Hara team that earned the state championship two years ago. She spent her summer performing at the Upper Darby Summer Stage. She played the part of Timon, the hyperactive meerkat. She also has sung the national anthem before O’Hara girls basketball games.

“This was a nice way to really get into our season,” Till said. “I was leading for about the first half mile then I fell back. I was glad I was able to come on toward the end of the race.”

Radnor junior Abigail Idiculla took 10th place, 2.6 seconds behind Till.

“I was just trying to keep pace with those in the front pack,” Idiculla said. “The beginning of the race is a little downhill, but I knew if I went out too fast, I would eventually wind up slowing down, especially if there was a strong pace.

“I’m a captain, and during the summer we’d get our work in six days a week to be ready when practice started.”

The other local girls runner finishing among the top 25 was sophomore Denize Cisco of Upper Darby, who was 25th.

Methacton’s Campbell beat Radnor’s Zeh to the finish line by 10 seconds to win the boys race.

“This is only my second year of cross country, and it was the first summer I really did a lot of training,” said Zeh, who finished sixth in the 800-meter run at the state track championship meet in May. “And this was only our second race of the season.”

Zeh and Carroll’s Doherty have become good friends through running.

“His school isn’t very far from ours, and he came over to go out for a long run with us Thursday,” Zeh said.

Doherty began running as a fifth grader at Holy Family School in Phoenixville.

“I’m really trying to make sure I can make it to states this year,” Doherty said. “Next week, we’re going to run in Hershey, and there will be a lot of good competition there.”

Radnor senior Doug Rosin was the only other runner among the medalists, placing 20th.

• • •

NOTES >> Al Hagan, a member of Interboro High’s 1974 cross country team who has worked in Alaska, was honorary starter for the novice race, which opened the meet. Hagan was inducted into the Interboro Hall of Fame earlier this year. … Radnor freshman Leni Hartman took sixth place in the novice race. … The top local finisher in the boys’ junior varsity race was Radnor junior Luke O’Malley, who was 12th. … Erin Donovan, a junior from Cardinal O’Hara, took 24th place in the girls’ junior varsity race.

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