Power, Spring-Ford sink Pottsgrove

LOWER POTTSGROVE — Paul Power picked right up were he had left off last year, easily running away from the pack to open the cross country season with a dual meet win.

“That’s exactly what I wanted to do,’ Power said with a rare smile.

Power ran a blistering 16.17 on a hot and humid day to lead the Spring-Ford boys to a 19-38 win over always tough host Pottsgrove, Wednesday, in both sides season opening Pioneer Athletic Conference dual meet.

Pottsgrove standout Derek Lopez was the only Falcon able to penetrate the Rams’ stronghold, crossing second with a 17:39, followed by four more Rams ahead of the next Falcon to nail down the Spring-Ford win.

And the Spring-Ford girls, led by freshman Gabriella Bamford and sophomore Isabella Marchini, made it a sweep by beating the Pottsgrove girls, 15-48.

Bamford won the girls race with a 20:57, Marchini took second with a 21:44, and Rams freshman Julia Vledder placed third with a 21:59.

Dyani Hairston was the first Falcon girl across, placing sixth with a 23:07.

The season-opening question here was, did Power still have the speed of last year? He does. Even more so.

“They know their course better than we do, but we knew we could come in here and beat them,’ Power said. “It was definitely more of a team thing today. I wanted to set the tone and my guys followed behind me just like we planned.

“I’m pumped just because I think we’re going to win the team title. That’s our goal, that’s what we’ve been working for all summer since June. That’s what we’re going after. This is the year we’re going for it.’

After the Rams dealt Pottsgrove its only dual loss last year, the Falcons beat Methacton, and that’s how the three — Spring-Ford, Pottsgrove, Methacton — ended up in a three-way tie with 8-1 PAC-10 records. Methacton then won the championship race for the PAC-10 title. And the three might be battling it out again down the line this year.Lopez would love to also battle it out with Power for the PAC-10 individual title. But he is part of the long-standing Falcons strategy of pulling out the team win by racing as a group, a methodology that led Pottsgrove to the PIAA Class AA title in 2012 and a PIAA-AA runner-up finish in 2013. And as the senior and their top runner, it is Lopez’s role to try and keep that group together, to keep pushing it as a group, rather than break loose and just go after his own individual win. He did break away and go harder in pursuit of Power in the later part of the race.

The strategy was for me to run hard, and pull the guys along,’ Lopez said. “Running as a group is what we did last year, and the years before. And that’s where our success has always come from. Our team is very good and strong. The first K (kilometer) we had a good pack going, just like we used to do. But Spring-Ford came on really strong, especially at the end of the race. I think it was a good race for both teams, especially on a tough course like ours.’

It was the Rams’ youth movement behind Power this year that was most impressive in the win. Parr, the second Ram across and third overall, is a sophomore, while Smith, right behind him at fourth overall, is only a freshman, with this his first high school dual meet.

“We were ready to come here,’ Parr said. “We put in the work all summer, putting in 35 to 45 miles a week. We were ready to run here. And we felt good out there, just came out and ran our race. And were able to come in pretty nicely. We realized we couldn’t catch Derek (Lopez) and coach just said ‘ cruise into the finish,’ because we had the position to take the meet. We feel like we have the pieces to win it this year, with the senior leadership and then the young talent we have.’

Including Smith, the freshman.

“I ran middle school and that helps a lot,’ Smith said. “It gets you ready for high school cross country. And I ran with Chase (Parr) in middle school, so helps me a lot. This was my first time running against a great high school team. I just came out here and did the best I could. I’m very happy.’

The Rams girls win was kind of expected since they are so very much deeper in numbers than Pottsgrove.

Turns out, they are powered by a youth movement, too.

Asked how she pulled off the win in her first high school cross country meet, Bamford laughed and said, “I don’t know?

“A lot of practice and pushing myself when it’s hard,’ she added. “We have a good freshmen team this year, so that’s a bonus.’

Veteran Rams coach Brian Sullivan, and assistant coach and former Rams standout Heather Giovagnoli have something to do with that, Bamford pointed out.

“They are both very good coaches and they helped me a lot,’ she said. “I am thankful to have them as coaches.’

Since Marchini was injured all of last year, this is also her first cross country season though she did run spring track.

“We have a lot of good girls with a lot of sophomores and a lot of good freshmen coming in,” Marchini said. “And we’re all just working together and we’re just making the best of it. I’m really proud of all the young runners. I’m pretty confident this year that we have a very solid team and that we can win the championship.’

The Falcons girls may be short on number, but not short on fighters, namely Hairston.

“The heat always kind of gets me, but I think I had a good race overall,’ Hairston said. “Spring-Ford has a really big team this year, about 30 girls. But, I know so many girls on that team and they are very nice girls, very humble runners. I’m just happy to race with them. And I hope that my race next Wednesday can be as good as today.’

The Rams girls and boys are so deep in numbers largely because their coach, Brian Sullivan, is a relentless recruiter, just as he was for more than two decades at St. Pius X.

“It was a good opener for us,’ Sullivan said. “We put a lot of work in this summer, so now it’s ‘ Let’s go out and show everybody that we put the work in.’

“On the boys side, we beat Pottsgrove by a point at the very, very end at our place last year. They had that long unbeaten streak at the very end and we figured they’d be real up for it today, come out and give us a run on their home court. So we wanted to make sure that we were ready to go.

“Our girls team is so young, as the season goes on, they are going to learn to race better and be better. It’s got a lot of potential on it.

“We’re definitely an improved team this year, both boys and girls. Definitely fast up-front and deeper. And Paul is even better this year. So we do have big goals this year.’

And the Pottsgrove boys sure did want to avenge that one-point loss of last year. Especially their veteran head coach Larry Rechtin.

“It’s early, but, clearly, they are way ahead of us right now,’ Rechtin said. “They beat us, and beat us bad. This is our first 5K this season and we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of juniors and sophomores. But the guys did just not run well. They were well below where they should be at this point. The practices looked better. Today, it wasn’t even close. We’re capable of much better results.’

But chasing the team championship didn’t stop with this loss.

” I still believe in my team and that they are capable to run with anyone in the league,’ Rechtin said.

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