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Clifford, Watts lead Perkiomen Valley sweep at PAC XC Championships

WORCESTER >> Perkiomen Valley High turned to its veterans and then to its youth in sweeping the individual titles in the Pioneer Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships Thursday afternoon at Heebner Park.

In the boys’ race, Viking senior Tyler Clifford copped top honors with a 16:14 clocking.

Then in the girls’ race, Perkiomen Valley freshman Summer Watts captured first place with a time of 18:51.

In the team competition, Owen J. Roberts won the boys division with 48 points while Perkiomen Valley took second place with 72 and Spring-Ford finished third with 104 points.

Perkiomen Valley won the girls’ division with 53 points, followed by Owen J. Roberts with 61 and Pope John Paul II with 67 markers.
Unfortunately for the runners, the championship race occurred on the windiest day of the fall season. But as runners do, they adjust to the weather elements, and this time it was the extremely windy conditions. They handled the situation admirably well.

“I just went in trying to hang in there with the pack the first mile,” said Clifford. “That took some of the wind so I didn’t get it all. Christian (McComb, Boyertown) made a real run. Then I made a run one-half mile from the finish.”

Perkiomen VAlley’s Sean Clifford crosses the finish line to win Thursday’s PAC championship race. (Barry Taglieber – For MediaNews Group)

McComb, the defending champion in the boys’ race, finished in second place with a time of 16:28.
Owen J. Roberts had two runners finish close as sophomore Thomas Damiani placed third at 16:34, and freshman Andrew McGonigle was next in fourth place at 16:35.

“It was super windy,” said Clifford. “That made it interesting. I was a little worried, but I adjusted.”

Clifford has been competing in cross country for four years. However, he suffered an injury his freshman year, which limited his performances.

“I have been running ever since,” said Clifford. “I definitely worked hard over the summer. I got a lot of miles in.”

Perkiomen Valley swept through the PAC Liberty Division boys standings with a perfect 5-0 log, followed by Owen J. Roberts at 4-1 and Spring-Ford at 3-2. So it was kind of anticipated that runners from those schools would rise the top in the championship race.

Methacton took fourth place in the boys scoring with 105 points, one point behind Spring-Ford, with Boyertown fifth at 110.

Phoenixville led the way among the Frontier Division schools with 164 points, followed closely by Upper Merion at 165, Upper Perkiomen at 214 and Pope John Paul II at 216.

Phoenixville, Upper Merion and Upper Perkiomen finished in a three-way tie atop the Frontier Division with identical 4-1 records. The Phantoms’ victory in the team race breaks that tie.

The youthful Perkiomen Valley girls made a statement to the league as far as future years are concerned, assuming all the athletes stick with cross country in future years. They were led by Watts, who made up quite a distance with a late surge to win the race.

“It was rough running in the wind,” said Watts. “But it is a good course, super well-marked. In the end, it was like I had one person to beat in Claire (Zubey, Owen J. Roberts). She was super ahead of me. That made me run faster.”

Perkiomen Valley’s Summer Watts (682) leads the pack at Thursday’s PAC girls cross country championship. (Barry Taglieber – For MediaNews Group)

Watts began running in third grade because that type of activity appealed to her. But her first serious running took place when she joined the middle school cross country in seventh grade.

“My first real team was in seventh grade,” said Watts. “My Mom and Dad are both runners so I run with them at home.”

Distance running has always been her specialty, which is why she is a natural winner in cross country. She also competes in distance events at track & field, preferring the mile run to the other events.

“Distance has always been better for me,” said Watts.

Perkiomen Valley’s girls had a perfect 5-0 run through the PAC Liberty Division, followed by Owen J. Roberts at 4-1, Methacton at 3-2 and Spring-Ford at 2-3.

In team scoring at the championship race, PV came out first with 53, ahead of OJR with 61, PJP with 67, Phoenixville with 131, Upper Merion with 160, SF with 162 and Methacton with 170, Boyertown with 181 and Pottsgrove with 195.

“When I joined the team in the summer, met all the girls,” said Watts.”They’re so nice and they are all super supportive.”
Defending champion Naomi Hillen of Pottsgrove, a junior, finished in second place.

The PAC boys cross country runners head down the home stretch at Thurdsay’s championship race. (Barry Taglieber – For MediaNews Group)

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