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DLN cross country preview: WC Henderson duo leads a strong pack of runners

Chester County has had its share of fine high school cross country runners the past few years, notably West Chester Henderson senior Jenna Mulhern, the Daily Local News All-Area Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year for each of the past three years.
This fall, the Warrior girls feature a squad that includes two runners who finished in the top 20 at last fall’s PIAA girls’ cross country championships: Mulhern (who was sixth) and junior Weronica Ziemniak (19th). Here’s a look at the Chester County high school cross country teams as they prepare for the fall 2021 season:
The West Chester Henderson girls cross country team, which finished third at the PIAA 3A state championships last fall, returns two outstanding runners in Mulhern and Ziemniak.
Mulhern has enjoyed a memorable distance running career at Henderson. As a freshman, she finished first at the PIAA Class 3A cross country championships, and the following year, she placed third at States. Last fall, Mulhern won the Ches-Mont Championship (for the third consecutive year) and finished first at the District 1 Championships. At the 2020 Ches-Mont Championships at Unionville High School, Mulhern’s winning time of 18:55.3 was 49 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.
Ziemniak also enjoyed a fine cross country season last fall as a sophomore. She finished eighth at the PIAA District 1 3A championships, with a clocking of 19:49.40, then placed 19th at the PIAA 3A state championships, with a clocking of 19:59.
Other Warriors to watch this fall include senior Amanda Kelly, sophomore Natalie Krauss and senior Lucy Olson.
The West Chester Henderson boys’ team is led by senior Gavin Brophy, who placed seventh at Districts last fall. Other Warriors to watch include senior Danny Burt, freshman Liam Schwinn, senior Pat Snyder and junior Lance Reitelbach.
The Downingtown East boys’ cross country team will have a fine 1-2 punch in seniors Brendan Flynn and Caiden Leen. Both were District 1 medalists last fall, and both received second team All-Area cross country honors from the Daily Local News. Another returning District 1 medalist is senior James Smith, and other runners to watch are senior Owen Hibshman, junior Ryan Christman, senior Chris Walsh and senior Luke Barcalow.
For the D-East girls, sophomore Madison Brown placed seventh at the Ches-Mont Championships last fall and was a District 1 qualifier. Other Cougars to watch include senior Jackie Druecker, senior Adylee LaVerya, junior Keira Moser and junior Keira Morrin.
For West Chester East, the girls team of runners will be led by senior Sonia Piombino, who last fall finished second at the Ches-Mont Championships, placed 10th at the PIAA District 1 3A championships, and was 46th at PIAA 3A state meet. She is a three-time all Ches-Mont runner, a three-time top 20 District 1 finisher, a three-time state qualifier, and a state medalist. Other Vikings to watch include seniors Giovina Leeds, Ella Prieto, Carly Chermak and Lauren Stypulkowski.
The West Chester East boys will be led by senior Robert Kerns and junior Gavin Hefferan, who are coming off strong spring track season last spring in which they were league qualifiers in the distance events.
The Avon Grove girls’ team is led by senior Annika Pfaff, who is coming off two consecutive PIAA state championship appearances. Last fall, she finished fifth at the Ches-Mont Championships, placed 15th at the PIAA District 1 3A championships, and was 36th at the PIAA 3A state championships.
The Red Devils girls’ team is stacked with seniors, including Pfaff, Jade Barrett, Leia Conlan, Hannah Parsons, Brooke Barfell, and Addy Chandler. Sophomore Ava Pfaff hopes to catch up with her sister and join her at States this year. Barrett is coming back from a strong performance at the District 1 Championships last fall.
The Avon Grove boys are ready to build on their first place JV Ches-Mont Cross Country race last fall and strong spring track season. Senior captains Noah Cimini, Connor Bossong and Alek Pochan lead the team and other promising runners include seniors Evan Diefenbeck and Nate Allen, juniors Gavin McGinn, TJ Oakes and Alex Hutchinson, and sophomore Connor Britton.
The Great Valley boys’ squad graduated five of its top seven runners last spring. The top returning runners are senior Jake Zielinski (who placed seventh at Districts in the 800 meter race during spring track) and senior Charlie Sita. Juniors Pete Schembri and Tim Matthews return with some varsity experience.
The Patriots girls return second team All Ches-Mont runner sophomore Molly Foltz. Other returning varsity runners are senior Kate Bevec and juniors Sophia Geibel, Megha Iyer and Laura Lum.
Oxford has several promising girls running this fall, led by senior Abby Oliver, the Hornets’ only Districts qualifier last fall. Other promising Oxford girls are junior Brianna Pollock and sophomore Jessie Cox.
For the Oxford boys, the most promising runners are senior Ryan Latsch, freshman Owen Oliver and sophomore Paul Kellerman.
The Kennett boys’ team will be led by seniors Jesse Comanda and Kendal Lanier, who are coming off strong spring track seasons. Other Blue Demons to watch include seniors Logan Piercy, Gabe Pardo and Mattias King, junior Matt Pollard and sophomore Karsten Bardenhagen.
The Blue Demon girls will be led by two newcomers to cross country, junior Ella Burnham and senior Corinna Kley – both are coming off strong spring track campaigns. Other girl runners to watch include seniors Kim Alvarez, Rhiannon Stewart and Amelia Houck.
The Bishop Shanahan boys feature a number of promising runners, led by junior Aryan Abbaraju (who finished 24th at Districts last fall), and including five senior captains – Colin Keenan, Adam Kitay, Jaconb McCann, Michael Scali and Caden Young. The girls’ top runners are senior co-captain Sarah Smith, junior co-captain Shannon Deutsch, senior Josie Tucker and juniors Becca Harkness and Nicky Diver.
The West Chester Rustin girls runners are coming off a strong spring track season, including junior Ellie Keefer (placed fifth in the 3200 meter run at States last spring), sophomore Maddie Miller, sophomore Brianna Ambrosine (fourth in 3200 meter run at Ches-Monts), junior Hanna Betchyk and senior Lindsey Volkman.
The Rustin boys’ team is led by senior captains Chris Canterino and Braydon Malley (both are four-year, three-season runners), senior captain Dimitri Kosmidis (a three-year two-season runner) and junior captain Liam Stigora (a three-year, three-season runner). Senior Chris Watson and juniors Nico and Dominic Stoccardo (twin brothers) round out the core runners for the Golden Knights.
Downingtown West features some fine runners, including junior Carolyn Tarpley, who placed fifth at Districts last fall and qualified for States in the 3200 meter run last spring. “She’s a fierce competitor with lots of grit,” said D-West cross country coach Scott Burns.
Another Whippet to watch is junior Taylor Rochon, who finished 22nd at Districts last fall and ran impressive times in outdoor track last spring.
“After a strong summer, she’s ready to level up,” said Burns.
Senior Dev Jijilal, who has posted a time of 16:56 for the 5K, is the top boys’ returnee for D-West. Sophomore Richard Planck joins the Whippets after an impressive freshman track season. Senior JJ Conzelmann qualified for Districts in the 800 meter run last spring.
The Coatesville boys team is led by junior Josh Miller and senior Dave Kelly, both of whom received Daily Local News All-Area Cross Country honors last fall. Other Raider boys to watch include Albert Morton, Tommy Wayne, Pablo Rodriguez, Ben O’Toole and Tommy Silvester.
For the Coatesvile girls, freshman Madison Fogg and sophmore Alexis Fields are promising runners, as well as senior Kathy Forward.
In the AACA, Villa Maria Academy returns a deep lineup of runners who finished well at Districts last fall – senior Caroline Bell (11th at Districts), senior Christina Traficanti (13th at Districts), junior Charlotte Fritz (16th), junior Mary Cate Doughty (17th), junior Maddie Keister (21st), junior Anna Bagley (25th) and senior Katrina Heppelmann (26th).
In the Central League, Conestoga has three fast and seasoned seniors in both their boys’ and girls’ lineups.
For the Pioneers boys, co-captain Raymond Welgosh is an accomplished triathlete who was first team all Central League in cross country last fall. Co-captain Vicente Pena is coming off a strong spring track season, and according to coach Richard Hawkins has had some great summer training. Another promising senior is hard-working Michael Baumgardner.
The Conestoga girls feature a trio of seasoned senior runners – co-captain Molly Ryle, co-captain Karis Blagden and Ella Warkentine, who received second team all Central League honors last fall. Another promising Pioneer is junior Julia Harris, who earned second team All-Central League honors last year.
In the Inter-Ac, Malvern Prep features some fine underclassmen runners, including junior Carson Myers, who is likely the Friars’ top returning runner; junior Leo Russo (posted a PR of 10:30 in the 3200 meter run last spring); junior Jake Marrone (was the Friars’ third runner last year and has improved rapidly); sophomore Jack McEvoy (ran varsity as a freshman); and junior Dylan Regan (posted a PR of 2:04 in the 800 meter run last spring).
In the Catholic League, Devon Prep runners to watch for this fall include senior captain Keaton Rush, who captured the District 12 cross country title last year. The Tide also feature standout sophomore Pat Rullo, who was the 144th fastest freshman in the state last year. One freshman to watch for is Pierce Rohlfing, who was 10th overall in a local 5k this summer, close behind Devon Prep teammates Rullo (third overall) and Rush (fourth overall).

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