Owen J. Roberts boys and girls sweep

KNAUERTOWN – The Owen Roberts girls’ cross country dual meet winning streak keeps stretching on and on with the Wildcats sweeping yet another Pioneer Athletic Conference double dual Wednesday at Warwick Park to make it 20 straight PAC-10 dual wins going back to 2012.

Boyertown senior Emily Schumaker won the girls race in 19:26 to remain undefeated in dual meets.

But the OJR girls beat Boyertown, 24-34, and Phoenixville, 15-48, to up their record to 7-0 for this season. Boyertown (5-3) beat Phoenixville (2-6), 19-41.

On the boys side, OJR freshman Liam Conway seems to have added a new spark to a Wildcats team that made it a double sweep to nail down their first Final Four season in years.

Not only did Conway win the meet with a 16:41, he also led his Wildcats (6-1) to a 26-29 win over Boyertown (4-4), and an 18-45 win over Phoenixville (2-6). Boyertown beat Phoenixville 18-45.

The Owen J. Roberts girls haven’t lost a dual since falling to Perkiomen Valley by one point midway in he 2012 season and will be chasing their third straight league team title at the PAC-10 championships in a couple of weeks.

Even without top runner Ally Brunton (out with tendinitis), and despite Schumaker running a fabulous race, the Wildcats easily took the team win.

Andrea Shade, the Cats’ other top girl runner, took the lead on this day, crossing second with a 19:45.

“The Boyertown girls are really tough,’ Shade said. “The team win was most important to us today because we are undefeated. But we have a lot of younger girls on our varsity team so they are under-experienced and we kind of have to help them along the way. But it’s really helped me become a better leader and more confident in my running.

“With Ally (Brunton) out it definitely put more strain on me because we usually run together, (and) help each other a lot. So it was definitely hard running by myself. Emily Schumaker is a great runner and I tried to keep up with her, but couldn’t.

“It’s amazing to think we have that undefeated streak and that’s why we keep on going so hard to keep this up. And we have a great family too. Our team unity is amazing.’

For Schumaker, seeing her Bears girls team not win is always tough. But she finds comfort in remaining undefeated chasing her individual goal – to win the PAC-10 girls title. And she knew this would be yet another tough test, not just for her team, but as much individually.

“I was worried,’ she said. “I always look out for Owen J. And I don’t ever come in thinking that I’m going to win it. It definitely worries me every race. What we were trying to focus on today was more pack-running. To push each other, encourage each other, because we know they have a big team, a lot of depth.

“Individually I’ve been looking forward to the championships this whole entire season. Actually since my freshman year because I knew that (former Methacton star) Kara Steinke has graduated by now.’

Steinke dominated the PAC-10 for the past four years. Now there is room at the top for other PAC-10 girls and Schumaker, always a contender but now a senior, knows this is it for her.

For Conway, the OJR boys leader, it’s all just starting out.

Conway made his mark over the summer before he even entered high school, winning the 1,500 meter run with a 4:13.82 at the July AAU Junior Olympic Games. Wednesday, he held off the Bears’ tough Dylan Eddinger, who crossed second with a 16:51, with the Bears’ Bryton Henry third (17:23).

“I’m pretty surprised I won,’ Conway said with a big smile. “My main goal for this race was the team win because that’s going to be big for the PAC-10 championships. And I think my guys did really good today. For me individually, it’s been a lot of motivation from the coaches. And my teammates, they always push me through the workouts. I wouldn’t be here without them.

It helps to train every day at Warwick Park, the Wildcats home course.

“Some of our workouts are going up that big hill,’ Conway said, “and that’s a preparation for all of us. If we didn’t have those workouts up that big hill, I don’t think we would have been prepared for this.’

It was that big hill that kind of got to the Bears, who were more used to their flatter course workouts.

“We were going for the team win today,’ Eddinger said. “(It was a) Good run today, though. This course is really tough, with all the hill work. We don’t get to do a lot of hill work back at home. I’m upset with the team loss, but overall the race felt good, even so I got beaten by Conway.

“It was a good run by our team, we just didn’t have as much as Owen J. had,’ Henry said. “I feel like we’re more of a good-start team, that we maybe go out too fast. And their course advantage was a factor too.’

Eddinger and Henry did lead early on. But then the ‘ Cats caught them down the stretch.

“This is definitely a course where there is a home-field advantage because they know the ins and the outs, and know the hills,’ Bears coach Steve Fegely said. “We ran it well on the hills, I won’t take that away from my team. I do hope, though, our boys have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder from all these close meets. We had so many close meets, that they have something to shoot for at championships.

“The Owen J. girls have a deep mob and pack-run. And it’s a lot of them. I told Emily to make this a statement meet. And she did.’

Owen J. Roberts head coach Dave Michael has been coaching these Wildcats teams for 37 years. He knows it goes in cycles. A decade and a half ago, the Wildcat girls were the team to beat. Then came some slower years. Now they are back on top.

“Great, great job by the kids today,’ Michael said. “The girls are working hard and what happens, happens.

“The boys are also working really hard and it’s really nice that they are working together. This is our first Final Four for the boys in a long time. We’re just excited to be where we are.

“And on this course, all the runners from all the teams had great times.’

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