The Dock Mennonite Academy cross country teams exceeded all predictions to finish second in both the boys and girls District 1 A championships Friday at Lehigh University.
The Pioneers also advanced four individuals to the PIAA state championships for the second straight season. Lauren Birch and Sara Kennel qualified on the girls side while Matthew Birch and Sean Robinson will represent the boys in Hershey on Saturday, Nov. 3, in the state final. The top five individuals from the A race outside of the members of the team champions qualify for states.
In all, 15 Dock runners set new personal records and two more ran season bests Friday. Those efforts helped propel the Pioneers to a surprise finish.
An online virtual meet predicted the girls would place third, 20 points behind Jenkintown for the team silver medal. Calvary Christian won the team title as expected with individual winner Abigail Brown leading the way, but the Pioneers got incredible efforts top to bottom to edge Jenkintown, 47-50, for second place.
Lauren Birch helped get the Dock girls ahead of pace by placing second. The sophomore in her first season with Dock was predicted to take sixth, but was third midway through the race, and by the two-mile mark she moved into second place. She stretched her gap by recording a 6:20 final mile to equal her first mile time and clock a new personal best of 20 minutes, 6 seconds. It marked a jump of 1:15 over her league race a week earlier.
Kennel is returning to the state championships for the second straight season. After earning the final spot last year thanks to a late finishing kick, the sophomore made it a lot more comfortable this year while taking the last spot again. Kennel ran a faster final mile than her opening mile to finish in 21:42 for ninth place overall, 25 seconds better than the 10th place finisher. Her time was a season best.
Sydney Putera saved her best race for the last one of the season. The sophomore was predicted to place 17th, but climbed all the way to 12th thanks to a new personal record 22:31, more than a minute faster than her previous best to close her first season of cross country in incredible fashion.
Another first-time cross country runner, Rachel Jin, was Dock’s fourth finisher. The junior made a huge push to make up 26 seconds on a Jenkintown runner over the final mile. Jin placed 18th, four spots better than had been predicted, in 23:32. Jin had never broken 25:00 minutes before Friday.
Dock’s final scoring finisher was Lydia King. The sophomore ran a courageous race despite a strained quad muscle. King, who like Kennel also plays soccer for Dock, placed 21st in 24:17, her second fastest time of the season to seal the team’s second-place finish.
Only two spots back was another dual-sport athlete, Laura Bergey. The senior who also plays volleyball for Dock, went under 25:00 for the first time in her career thanks to an impressive final mile in 7:44, well ahead of her first mile time. Bergey placed 23rd in 24:58.
Pushing in to take the next spot was Rebecca Crissman. The sophomore closed her first season of cross country with her fastest time ever, 25:09 for 24th place.
The boys also came through with the top six Pioneers finishers recording bests to push Dock to a dramatic turnaround from virtual predictions. Predicted to place third, 49 points behind Calvary, the Pioneers instead surged to a dramatic two-point advantage over Calvary for second place, behind only team champion Jenkintown.
Matthew Birch paced the Pioneers to snag the first individual qualifying spot for Hershey. The freshman came back from an off week to run a personal-record 17:34, a minute and 20 seconds better than his previous best. To make things more impressive, he ran the final 1.3 miles of the race with only one shoe after the other fell off in the cornfield section of the Lehigh course.
Robinson had been solid, steady but also stuck running nearly the same times all season. He broke through at the perfect time. The sophomore got out to his best start, hung tough through the second mile and rolled through the final mile to run 17:45, a new personal best by 1:38. More importantly, it gave him 11th place overall and the fourth out of five individual qualifying spots for states, a giant leap for someone who didn’t even finish in the top five for Dock at last year’s district meet.
Jonathan Anderson also made huge gains in his final race of the season. The junior lowered his personal best 58 seconds from last year and more than a minute from this season’s best to clock 18:17 for 15th place.
Steven Seachrist had his finest race of the season. The senior tri-captain lowered his top time this year 1:01 to be Dock’s fourth finisher, 19th overall, in 18:53.
Josh Bauman continued his improvements to round out the top five scorers for the Pioneers. The sophomore dropped 53 seconds from his personal record to run 19:29 and take 24th place.
Jesse Mong also closed his year on a high note. The junior’s first season of cross country ended with him taking another 59 seconds off his previous best. He made up significant time over the final mile to run 19:35 for 27th place.
After injuries kept him out of districts the last two years, Addison Schweizerhof represented Dock in his final varsity race with another consistent showing and solid leadership. The senior tri-captain placed 30th in 20:01.
The encouraging efforts continued in the junior varsity races. The five boys ran well to score as a team for the Pioneers. Camron Good broke 20 minutes for the first time and snapped his personal best with a 19:54 showing. The senior ran the fourth fastest final mile of any Dock boy Friday.
Aaron Lee came up big to end his first season of cross country. The sophomore lowered his best time almost 20 seconds to 21:23.
Daniel Shin had one of the largest time drops of the day. The freshman ran 23:46, exactly two minutes better than he’d ever run.
Just behind was Adam Suter after taking even more time off his best. The sophomore in his first season of cross country clipped 2:05 off his personal record to knock it down to 23:55.
Bobby Hadden rounded out the Dock boys. The senior tri-captain returned from tendonitis that kept him out of the previous three races and cost him training time to clock 24:57, his second best finish of the year.
In the girls junior varsity race, Cici Ren smashed her season best to end a record-setting day. The junior capped her first cross country season running 25:25, an improvement of nearly two minutes.
The quartet of state qualifiers, three of them making their first trip, will compete on Nov. 3 in Hershey where they ran one month ago in the Foundation Invitational.
Check out Photo Gallery from Becky Putera HERE