Methacton sweeps double dual with Phoenixville, Upper Perkiomen

RED HILL — After winning their first-ever Pioneer Athletic Conference cross country title last season, the Methacton boys are determined to make it two straight this year.

With junior Jeff Kirshenbaum still their front man — and even faster this season — the Warriors are off to a promising start.

Kirshenbaum easily won the race with a 16:53, leading the Methacton boys team to a PAC-10 double dual meet win, Wednesday, as the Warriors (3-0) beat host Upper Perkiomen 21-38, and Phoenixville 18-43. Upper Perk edged Phoenixville, 23-33.

Methacton’s Jared Kline crossed second with a 17:13, Upper Perk’s Jake Keiper was third with a 19:19, while the Indians’ Landon Detweiler (17:28) and Phoenxville’s Dylan Smiley (17:31) rounded out the top 5.

And former Methacton standout Kara Steinke may have graduated, but the Warriors girls sure have not lost their focus, and want to be in the run for the team title this year.

Abby Konkoly and Ryan DeOrio crossed as a pair, both with a 21:04, to lead the Methacton girls for the double dual sweep, beating Upper Perk 19-42, and Phoenixville 16-45, while Upper Perk held off Phoenixville 24-32.

Upper Perk freshman Leanne Markhalter was third (21:18). Fiona Halloran was the first Phoenixville girl across in seventh with a 22:09.

Last week at Boyertown, Kirshenbaum set a new course record en route to the win. This week he hung with the Warriors pack a little longer, part of Methacton’s new strategy this year.”Definitely the team win is more important,’ Kirshenbaum said. “Obviously I want to win the PAC-10 championship myself and go on to states. But the No. 1 thing is that the team does all that, too. That’s why today we did pack run so we can kind of string our fourth, fifth and seventh guys along.

“Every race we’re trying as hard as we can. Some races we’ll go out in a pack, and some races not. We thought that if we all ran in a big bubble today it would help out our fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh guys and that would help us get the team win. But any race, I’m going to try to run a good time. I’ve been training for it all summer and so far this fall. It’s definitely my goal to win the individual PAC-10 championship this year.’

He finished second behind Spring-Ford’s PAC-10 champion Paul Power last year.

Not far behind Kirshenbaum, Kline was a surprise second-place finisher.

“Today we were trying to work as a pack for the first two miles,’ Kline also pointed out. “Then we wanted to kick it the last mile and see how well we could do. We had a pretty hard workout yesterday, so we wanted to take it easy, not tax ourselves too much. Jake Keiper was tough, almost caught me at the end, but I was able to kick just a little better.’

Since Keiper has not been feeling his best for the past few days, third was fine with him.

“I’m happy with it,’ Keiper said. “Going in we knew we didn’t really have a chance against Methacton as team. So it was line up the guys against Phoenixville and we did well. I wasn’t really pushing it today. I’m just coming off from being sick, getting over that, and trying to get well for this weekend for an invitational.’

Invitationals carry as much or more weight for some runners.

“I don’t know about other teams, like Pottsgrove,’ Keiper said. “They are a good, solid team, like Methacton and Spring-Ford. They have a chance to win PAC-10s. But we’re a young team, a lot of our guys are freshmen and sophomores. So for guys like me (with Keiper a senior), just do what you need to do in the dual meets, and then really go for it in the invitationals.’

Phoenixville’s Smiley also had an eye toward the weekend invitational at Penn State for the Spiked Shoe Meet

“Invitationals are where you are going to get seen by the colleges,’ Smiley said. “There’s a lot more competition, you can really see where you stand amongst other people. I couldn’t run in the invitational last Saturday because I had cut my foot, so I ran this dual harder than normal.’

But don’t tell the Methacton girls that invitationals are more important than duals. Certainly not Konkoly or DeOrio.

“This year, for us, dual meets mean a lot because we think that since Kara is gone a lot of teams underestimate us,’ Konkoly said. “And that’s why pack running is really helping us. Other teams can get one and two, and then we get we’ll get three, four, five, six, seven, eight and win the meet. That’s what is really helping our team stay strong this year.’

Through off of Steinke’s success in going undefeated in dual meets and winning the individual league title all four years, the Methacton girls never won the team title.

“‘ How is it going without Kara?’ is the general question everyone is asking,’ Konkoly said. “And we’re doing OK, actually. We are learning how to pack-run, and that’s really helping our team. We definitely miss Kara, she was really good at motivating us to work hard and to stay positive. We’re trying to fill the void and not live in the past too much.

“She kept us really calm and relaxed before meets and always told us, ‘ You’re going to do fine,’ She was good at that,’ DeOrio said.

Since Konkoly and DeOrio always run practices as a duo, it’s not surprising they crossed the finish line that way.

“When we practice, we’re always right on each other,’ DeOrio said. “Generally, we’re always together and that’s how we motivate each other. Today we were trying to practice our pack strategy, pull our teammates along with us, make them push themselves. Today’s win really helps and motivates us that we can try to compete for the PAC-10 championship.’

And veteran Methacton coach Steve Mahan, as much as he always praised Steinke, is thrilled to see the team moving on so well.

“There has been real good leadership from junior Abby Konkoly, who ran and trained with Kara last year,’ Mahan said. “She has been dragging along sophomore Ryan DeOrio. They had a good year to prep with Kara and they implement a lot of things that she did. And my senior captains have done a real nice job making sure that they don’t get offended by those younger kids kind of taking care of the varsity.

“But it’s been a really smooth transition. And they have put themselves in a position to, when they look at other results, they think to themselves, ‘ All right, what can I do to make the third runner hang with us, the fourth runner hang with us.’ And that’s kind of what we tried to do today.’

Upper Perk freshman Markhalter hopes she can be a first-year phenom like Steinke was four years ago.

“I really worked hard all summer and just trying right now to stay with the upperclassmen. I just put in a lot of miles to get where I am,’ Markhalter said. “I ran in seventh and eight grade in middle school, so I have some experience. And this year is just a matter of increasing my mileage from the 3K in middle school to running the 5K now. I was first into swimming and running compliments swimming. So I figured I could improve my swimming by running. And then I just dropped swimming and now just work on running.’

Halloran was the top runner for Phoenixville when they had barely enough for a full team the last couple of seasons. Now the Phantoms girls have more than doubled and she still is.

“Methacton is a really good team and I think it is definitely an advantage for us running with them,’ Halloran said. “It gives you something to work for and someone to look for, someone great to run with, which is awesome. I definitely think we have a new approach this year with girls team having a new coach (Justin Winters, who was previously only the boys team coach).’

There are many positives for Winters in his first year coaching both teams.

“We have probably one of the biggest teams we’ve ever had,’ Winters said. “We have about 35 boys, which for one of the smaller schools in the PAC-10 is, I think, pretty impressive.

“On the girls side, and this is my first year also coaching the girls, last year we had seven or eight girls, this year we have 18. So on both sides, we’re improving on numbers and we are definitely improving on performance.

“Our goal is always to do well at districts, so we train with our emphasis very much on that.’

Todd Niemann has been coaching the Upper Perk team for quite some time. His numbers are deeper this year, too. And so is his young talent.

“I’m kind of pleased, I have definitely seen some progress,’ Niemann said. “They are improving. Leanne (Markhalter) is running very well. Rachel (Landis, Upper Perk senior), has been great for her as a team leader, kind of taking Leanne under her wing, showing her the ropes. It’s not easy for a senior with a freshman running as well. I have seen some great performances on the back-end of my girls. So I’m pretty happy. We’re not quite there yet as far as being in shape, but I think by the end of the season we’ll be pretty competitive.

“The boys, Jake wasn’t feeling very well, so we were a little conservative with him today. Landon (Kline), just a sophomore, is running great. He’s going to be good. We go a lot of PR’s, a lot of young guys.

“And for us, yes, the invitationals are a little more important than the dual meets at this point. Because we don’t really have a team that’s going to compete for the PAC-10 championship at this point. We’ll win a few meets here and there. And I really put a lot of stock in the invitational because I like to see the kids get medals.’

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply