Another O’Hara District 12 title marks McShay’s farewell tour

PHILADELPHIA >> John McShay is a guy who isn’t afraid to express what he’s feeling, and Thursday was no different.

As the Cardinal O’Hara girls cross country coach egged his team on to a dominant Class AAA win at the PIAA District 12 Championships, he took in a fair, breezy afternoon at Belmont Plateau that proved a little more sentimental than the rest.

After all, Thursday’s race was his last Belmont competition in charge of O’Hara’s girls team, as he said he’s retiring after next Saturday’s PIAA Championships at Hershey.

“I was very emotional today,” McShay said. “It’s going to be hard for me.”

Though McShay declined to discuss the reason for his impending departure, he referenced his decades-long involvement coaching with O’Hara and in other cross country capacities, including the Catholic Youth Organization.

“I had a good run,” he said. “We’ve had 26 to 28 championships over 34 seasons in outdoor and cross country … it’s been a great ride and I’ve coached a lot of great kids.

“I told them at the beginning of the year that this was my last year,” he added of his current group. “My wife stopped coaching last year and I’m not getting any younger … it’s just time for me to move on in life and to try different ventures. I’m just waiting for my next calling, so to speak.”

Though his Thursday was bittersweet, the Lions helped make McShay’s Belmont sendoff a little more memorable, as junior Olivia Arizin and company swept their race’s top five places en route to a perfect 15 points. Arizin led the Lions with her winning time of 18 minutes, 57 seconds, while sisters Grace and Elizabeth Mancini followed up with respective second- and third-place marks of 19:55 and 20:29.

“I don’t really put expectations on my meets, but I was hoping to just go out there, run my best and see what I could do,” Arizin said. “I know that my workouts are paying off and the kind of shape I’m in.”

The two-time district champion cruised for the majority of the course’s 5-kilometer route and created a near-minute’s worth of space behind her before reaching its end.

While O’Hara’s girls won the day, the Lions’ boys team still made out with a team-wide state qualifying spot of second overall, as senior Rob Morro (16:40) and junior Ryan James (16:43) paced O’Hara with a two-three finish. La Salle senior Eddie Goebel pulled away late en route to a blistering 16:30, less than a week after crossing behind the Lions’ top duo in last Saturday’s Catholic League Championships.

“Goebel ran an awesome race,” Morro said. “The kid’s in amazing shape right now and it’s pretty cool to see. Me and Ryan were hoping to do as little as possible to get the one-two and Goebel wasn’t going to let that happen, so I respect that a lot.”

As Thursday’s quick turnaround combined with the fact that it’s all about Hershey at this point of any O’Hara fall season, Tom Kennedy, the boys coach, said he isn’t sweating the team defeat to La Salle, which took the Class AAA district title for the second year running.

“The Catholic League championship is really an emotional race for all the league teams,” he said. “Every kid that gets on the line goes all in, so it’s difficult to go from the Saturday to the Thursday. I think we did a pretty good job of moving on.”

For Kennedy’s counterpart, a nice showing next week is all he wants when he bids adieu.

“Getting second at states and beating Unionville,” he said. “That would be a nice parting gift.”

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