Christopher Dock girls, CB West boys shine at District 1 championships

BETHLEHEM >> The scene at the starting line is intimidating enough: 375 runners, the district’s best, stretched far and long.

But when the race reaches its crescendo in the final mile, that’s when things get a little crazy.

“As soon as you hit the two-mile mark, it was sit and kick,” Souderton Area’s Connor McMenamin said following the District One Class AAA boys race, the fastest and tightest race of Friday afternoon at Lehigh University. “It was really intense. The end was brutal — just hold on and see who doesn’t pass you.”

McMenamin, distinguishing himself with a seventh-place finish in AAA, is headed back to states, as are the Central Bucks West boys, who raced to the runner-up spot as a team, led by Rock Fortna’s fifth-place finish in 15 minutes, 40 seconds.

“Eight places better than last year, so I can’t complain about that,” said Fortna, who led the Bucks back to states for the second year in a row. “I didn’t quite hit a P.R., but that was all my effort right there.

“We were real fired up (coming into the race). Nothing like being an underdog.”

The Bucks, with just 47 seconds separating their first and fifth runners, move up from a No. 3 spot a year ago to take runner-up honors, scoring 120 points, outdone only by Downingtown West, which finished with 84.

Local team success began in Class A, as the Christopher Dock girls defended their district crown, kicking off a mild, breezy day on the course at Lehigh.

“It means a lot,” Dock freshman Lael Flores said of the title. “I felt great. I just wanted to start off fast, keep that pace throughout the race.”

Flores and the Pioneers stuck together, taking five of the top seven spots, with Maddison Landis (third, 20:21), Camryn McCloskey (fourth, 20:37), Lindsey Bernd (sixth, 21:01) and Erica Gunden (seventh, 21:07) running hard to enable Dock to outrace second-place Jenkintown, 22-57.

“That’s what they were hoping for, and they’re excited to get that chance to go to Hershey,” Dock coach Justin Feil said. “They ran great.”

Another Dock standout, Michael Gunden, raced to the district title in Class A boys, conquering the Lehigh course in 17 minutes, 7 seconds, outracing all other competitors by almost half a minute.

“I started off with the front pack, and then I knew I had to make a break for it,” Gunden said. “In the second mile, I started going, and I just pretended there was a guy behind me. I was running by myself, but I tried to keep on pushing the entire race.”

Gunden joined Callahan Lennon (AA, Holy Ghost), Jake Brophy (AAA, Central Bucks East), Emma Seifried (A, Sacred Heart), Katie Irelan (AA, Villa Jospeh Marie), and Aislinn Devlin (AAA, Downingtown West) as individual district champions, and Gunden helped lead the Pioneers to a second-place finish in Class A.

Qualifying as a team narrowly eluded the Dock boys, as well as the North Penn girls, who were sixth in Class AAA, led by Ariana Gardizy’s 12th-place finish.

“At the end, I was feeling really tired,” the sophomore said, “but once I saw the 1,000-meter mark and I saw the big lines of people, I was like ‘it better be time to go now.’”

Teammates Phoebe Clowser and Olivia Dyer will join Gardizy at states. Also headed back to the big meet is Central Bucks West’s Maddie Villalba, who crossed 10th and led the Bucks to an eighth-place finish as a team.

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