CC girls, Portage’s Shaffer seek gold
HERSHEY — The Central Cambria High School girls cross country team has set the standard in the area for success at the state level.
The Lady Red Devils are the defending PIAA Class 2A team champion after also earning state titles in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2014.
Central Cambria should again be in the mix of the top teams when the 2019 PIAA Cross Country Championships will be held on Saturday morning at the Parkview Course.
Central Cambria, fresh off its District 6 title last Saturday, is led by sophomore Stella Kuntz, the District 6 2A individual champion who earned a state medal by placing ninth at Hershey as a freshman.
Kuntz, junior Anna Dill and sophomores Abby Walwro, Faith Wilson and Marlow Soyka were all on the medals stand when Central Cambria received its gold medals last year. Those five will be joined by junior Jenna Smith and freshmen Annaliese Niebauer and Abby George on Saturday.
“We are going to do down to Hershey and run our best race of the year,” Central Cambria coach Randy Wilson said. “What place that will bring us is out of our hands.”
Bedford Area will have two freshmen — Meah Eshelman and Savanna Nesbitt — also compete in Class 2A.
The 2A girls race will begin at 10:15 a.m. and will follow the 1A girls race — an event where the area will also be in the running for a high medal.
Portage Area sophomore Lauren Shaffer, the District 6 Class 1A champion, should be among the top runners after placing second in the state last year as a freshman.
Shaffer finished behind Loyalsock’s Isabell Sagar, who has graduated high school and is now at Harvard University.
“Lauren has been running her pace all season, and that pace is very fast,” Portage coach Lance Hudak said. “If she can get out and make the others run her race on an extremely tough Parkview Course, I like her chances at the finish. We are hill people — Lauren loves hills. She is ready.”
Others from the area in the 1A girls race are Cambria Heights junior Maggie McMullen, Chestnut Ridge freshman Ava Whysong and Northern Bedford County freshman Harley Socie.
Altoona Area will be represented by two girls and one boy in Class 3A. Sophomore Mackenzie Kelley and freshman Reese Wilber will compete in the 3A girls race, scheduled for 11 a.m., and Altoona senior Brayden Henninger will join Hollidaysburg Area sophomore twin brothers, Ben and Chris Love, in the 3A boys race beginning at 1:15 p.m.
Two other area boys will be trying to earn medals for the second straight year.
Northern Bedford junior Ian Zimmerman, the three-time District 5 champ, placed 13th in the 1A boys race last year and will be joined by teammates Ian Sherlock, Josh Strayer, Connor Laird, Justin Grine, Hunter Horton and Kaiden O’Neal in the team competition. Others competing in 1A boys include Portage senior Tyler Spaid and junior Lane Macy.
Bedford Area junior Van May, the District 5-6 2A runner-up, earned a medal at states in 2018 with a 16th-place finish.
One of the top runners May will face will be the same one he ran against at districts. Juniata senior Garrett Baublitz, the District 6 champion, was the PIAA Class 2A runner-up in 2018.
Chestnut Ridge freshman Calan Bollman will also compete in 2A boys as an individual.
In addition, the Central Cambria boys, the six-time District 6 2A champions, will compete in the team competition.
The Red Devils are led by seniors Nate Kuntz and Ike Haycisak, along with juniors Toby Cree, Tyler Gibson and Adam Lechleitner, sophomore Eli Wandle and freshmen Aiden Lechleitner and Devon Morgan.
The 1A boys race is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. with the 2A boys race set for 12:30 p.m.