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Downingtown East girls lead pack at Briarwood Invitational

Philadelphia >> After finishing more than 30 seconds ahead of the second-place runner at the Briarwood Invitational Girls Championship race Saturday, Downingtown East junior Madison Brown reflected on the Belmont Plateau 5K course she had just completed.
“This is one of the toughest cross country courses I’ve ever run,” said Brown, who posted a time of 19:26.70. “But now, it might be one of my favorites (laugh). The hills here are tough, but I get excited when I see hills, because it gives me a chance to move past people.
“I was recently talking to the St. Joe’s [University] cross country coach [Mike Glavin], and he said something about competitive running that really stuck with me today – ‘Whoever can endure the most pain.’ I definitely felt pain today.”
For finishing in first place in the Girls Championship race, Brown received an engraved trophy clock.
Led by Brown, Downingtown East finished first in the Girls Championships Varsity team standings. The Cougars recorded 74 points (with six runners placing in the top 27), ahead of Padua Academy (77 points) and Strath Haven (79).
“It was a solid performance by our team – even though we were missing our No. 2 runner today (Emily Steinberg), all of our runners came together as a pack, and I’m really proud of them,” said Downingtown East girls coach George Read. “This course is hard but it’s a premier course. You do well here, you can do well anywhere.”
Cougar girls in the top 27 places included Brown, senior Keira Morrin (12th, 21:54.80), sophomore Jocelyn Moser (20th, 22:33.60), senior Eileen Hewitt (22nd, 22:37.30) senior Keira Moser (23rd, 22:48.50) and sophomore Melanie Liu (27th, 22:58.60).
Avon Grove junior Ava Pfaff finished sixth in the Girls Championship race with a clocking of 21:26.20.
“This is probably the toughest course I’ve run,” said Pfaff, who placed 11th at Briarwood last year. “It’s comparable to the [PIAA state championship] course at Hershey. The hills in particular are tough, and Parachute Hill is the toughest.”
The 5K cross country course at Belmont Plateau (there is also a 3K and an 8K course) consists of the runner completing the Lower Loop (Flagpole Hill), the Inside Woods Loop (Parachute Hill), as well as the Lower Loop again.
In the Boys Championship race, Avon Grove junior Connor Britton finished sixth (16:49.20).
“I was dying out there today, on Parachute Hill and the last hill,” said Britton, who posted a time of 17:30 last year at Briarwood and placed in the top 25. “I went out fast – I felt like walking after the hills but pushed through. I tried to take it a little easy on the uphill parts and pass people when it was downhill.”
Avon Grove finished fourth in the Boys Championship team standings, behind LaSalle College, North Penn and Twin Valley. Britton led the way for the Red Devils, followed by seniors Gavin McGinn (13th, 17:26.80) and Timothy Oakes (19th, 17:33.10).
Great Valley sophomore Trip Gomez, the Patriots’ top finisher in the Boys’ Championship race (25th), noted that he ran 70 seconds faster Saturday than he did at last year’s Briarwood Invitational.
“These hills are something different – they take a lot out of you but you’ve got to keep your eyes on the guy in front of you and look to pass him,” said Gomez.
Villa Maria Academy competed in the girls’ varsity smaller school race – the Girls Challenge. Their top runner, senior Charlotte Fritz, placed 17th (23:53.20).
“I’ve run this [Belmont Plateau] course since I was in kindergarten,” said Fritz, a Berwyn resident. “It’s definitely a really hard course, and you need a lot of mental strength to compete on it. There are a lot of hills in direct sunlight. I think Parachute Hill is the toughest part of this course. This course is definitely tougher than the [PIAA] Districts course at Lehigh.”
NOTES: Great Valley placed sixth in the Girls Championships team standings, led by sophomore Aimee Dill (19th, 22:32.40) and senior Megha Iyer (21st, 22:35.10). The Patriots placed eighth in the Boys Championships race, led by Gomez.

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