Downingtown West clinches first Ches-Mont boys’ title since 1988

East Marlborough – Entering the 2014 Ches-Mont Cross Country Championships, there were questions to be answered.

Would West Chester Henderson’s boys’ team win its seventh straight title? Would Unionville’s girls’ team, the 2013 PIAA champions, continue their postseason dominance? Who would take first place in the girls’, and boys’ varsity races?

Those who came to Unionville High School on Monday morning witnessed exciting races.

Through the first mile, the varsity boys ran together as a large pack. By the end of mile two the lead narrowed. The race became a two man competition between Downingtown West’s Henry Sappey and West Chester Henderson’s Alex Knapp.

The thrilling finish came down to the wire.

With 700 meters remaining, Sappey started to make a move and break away from Knapp. Knapp was able to respond and regain parody. As the race came down the homestretch, the enthusiastic crowd seemed to energize both runners who were in a full sprint at this point.

At the finish line, Sappey made one final push to victory, finishing less than a second faster than Knapp to claim the boys title.

“This is an amazing feeling,’ Sappey said. “The Ches-Mont is such a great division with some really talented runners. Today it was a battle to the finish. He (Knapp) started to go all out and in my head I said ‘ Oh know what do I do?’ But luckily I was able to hold him off.’

While it may have been tough to miss first place by milliseconds, Knapp felt that there were plenty of positives to take from a race like this.

“This was a great race,’ Knapp said. “There are things you can learn from something like this. I feel confident in my ability to kick at the end. I could have pushed a little harder in different areas but you learn from it, and I just need to continue to work hard and get ready for the rest of the postseason.’

The exciting finish between Sappey and Knapp turned out to be a perfect representation of how both teams finished in the overall competition. The Whippets edged the Warriors by a score of 45-47. It is the first time a team other than Henderson won the boys Ches-Mont Championship since 2007.

Downingtown West boys had not won the meet as a team in 26 years. Sappey was their first runner to win overall since 1986. “It was one of our goals to go out there and run well in this meet,’ Whippets’ head coach Scott Burns said. “This feels awesome. I am so happy for these guys. They set their minds to this back in June and they have worked so hard. It really is a great feeling.’

In the girls race, West’s Aislinn Devlin took a bit less climatic route, and cruised through the finish line with a time of 18:34, winning the race by 10 seconds.

“I really had to get past that mental block today,’ Devlin said. “I just needed to race and not think about anything else. I was able to make my moves on the hills. This helps my confidence moving forward and I am really excited to race in districts.’

While Devlin was impressive with her first place finish, Unionville’s girls team showed how talented they are, taking first place in the team competition.

“We did well,’ Unionvillle head coach Mark Lacianca said. “We definitely have some things we need to work on moving forward, but this was a good day. This was a good benchmark for us, we need to keep adjusting and keep fine tuning, and go from there.’

Unionville was led by Olivia Young, who finished in third place.

“It feels good,’ Young said. “We’re excited about winning. I think the workouts we do in practice have helped us get to this point. We feel really good moving forward with the season.’

All 14 teams will continue their postseason on October 24th at Lehigh University when they compete in the District 1 Championships.


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