CC runners dominate LHAC meet

SIDMAN – When asked if his teams had a big day at the Laurel Highlands Conference Championships Wednesday, Central Cambria head cross country coach Randy Wilson responded, “Oh my God, it sure is.”

Wilson’s response was actually an understatement. Central Cambria won the girls team title, the boys team title, the girls middle school title, and had the top boys middle school finisher.

The Red Devils dominated the girls race. They had four of the top eight finishers and won the girls team title by 42 points over second place Somerset.

“I think the girls ran well,” said Wilson. “I think they have a better race in them for next Saturday, but I think they ran well. I think we had four girls in the top eight. Three of those girls are freshmen. They have been training hard. They haven’t really had any down time. We are hoping to rest them for districts. It was just a great race.”

Samantha Koss was the Red Devils’ top finisher, grabbing third in 19:46. Emma Wess finished right behind Koss.

Other Central Cambria runners included Sydney Gilkey (sixth), Jordan Hayward (eighth), Jackie Bracken (14th), Kaitlyn McKeel (17th) and Hannah Swope (22nd).

The top girls finisher was not a Red Devil, though. Arlee Simendinger of Penn Cambria was second overall with a time of 19:35. Simendinger won the Forest Hills Invitational on the same course a month ago. She beat Westmont’s Hannah Dorian at the Invitational, but lost to Dorian Wednesday at the conference meet. Simendinger led the first lap, but was not able to hold Dorian off on lap two of the course.

“I knew she had speed from track,” said Simendinger. “She has a good finish, so I was trying to get that distance ahead of her, but when I went up the last hill she just took off and I tried to hold on.”

Other local teams were Penn Cambria (fourth), Cambria Heights (sixth), Bedford (eighth), and Bishop Guilfoyle (10th).

William Kachman of Bedford won his second consecutive LHAC boys conference title. The sophomore won the boys race with a time of 16:21. Despite winning the race by 16 seconds, Kachman saw some areas where he could improve.

“My goal is a state title,” said Kachman. “The time was not as good as I wanted it to be. There’s a kid from Kiski who is running around 15:30, and I want to beat him.”

Kachman did say that the wet conditions had something to do with his slower time.

“It was wet, and I did not have long enough spikes. Coming down the hill and going back up I slipped a few times.”

Two places behind Kachman was Central Cambria’s Justin Jeffers. He led a contingent of Red Devils that saw five runners place in the top 16 to allow the Red Devils to take the team title. Other members of the winning Central Cambria team were Javaunte Neumann (fifth), Bryce Descavich (ninth), Logan Brandis (10th), Mike Walwro (16th), Max Murin (19th), David Barnes (22nd).

The Red Devils took inspiration from the Forest Hills Invitational in October. There, Central Cambria lost the team title to Somerset by four points.

On Wednesday, the Red Devils beat the Eagles for the LHAC team title by one point.

“They boys have been fighting since the first day of summer to try and win districts,” said Wilson. “When we lost in Somerset they fought every single practice, every single workout we have done. We have been close to them every time we have raced them. We lost to them in a dual meet, we lost to them at the Forest Hills Invitational, we lost to them at the Altoona Invitational. We just kept getting closer and pecking away. If it wasn’t for that team, we wouldn’t be the team we are today, because they have literally made us work hard every single day.”

Other local teams included Bedford (third), Penn Cambria (eighth), Cambria Heights (ninth), Bishop Carroll (10th), and Bishop Guilfoyle (11th).

Tyler Lorditch of Central Cambria won the boys middle school race in a time of 9:12. Carly Kaschalk (9:35) and Paige Wess (9:39) took the top two spots in the girls middle school race, leading the Red Devils to the girls team title.