The girls cross country team has been absolutely dominant for Elizabethtown Area High School this season, going undefeated in the regular season and winning the Section One title in the Lancaster-Lebanon League, both firsts in program history. The Lady Bears did it on the backs of the trio of senior Cat Shontz, junior Katie Locker and sophomore Madeline Quinn, who finished in the top three of each meet.
But the L-L League Championship Meet at Ephrata Middle School on Tuesday, Oct. 16, was a different beast entirely. They now had to contend with every other school in the L-L to try and walk away with the team victory. While they ultimately didn’t succeed, they did have a very real chance to escape with the win, and one of the three did finish in first place individually.
Elizabethtown finished second behind Manheim Township, losing by just 12 points. The Blue Streaks were able to get all of their runners inside the top 45, while the Lady Bears had four in the top 25 but no one else in the top 75. Still, it’s an impressive finish if the loss of junior Kate Weissend, normally the team’s next best runner, to injury just a few weeks ago.
“It’s fantastic considering what happened to us during the season,” head coach Mark Gallagher said. “Our No. 4 runner, a two-time All-Star, breaks her foot early in the year, so without her, how are we gonna win leagues? So for our girls to pull together and get second place is a tremendous accomplishment.”
After placing second in the previous two seasons, Locker came in first with a time of 18:41.6. Shontz and Quinn were not far behind, taking third (18:57.5) and fourth (19:20.0), respectively. Freshman Sierra Kapcsos was strong as well, finishing in 24th (20:47.6). The remaining Elizabethtown runners included senior Jessie Lloyd (85th, 23:02.6), junior Camille Donahue (102nd, 24:07.3), senior Brooke Nicodemus (111th, 24:54.3) and senior Julee Wells (25:00.3) It was most certainly a team effort, but Locker’s win is still a major achievement.
“It feels incredible,” Locker said. “I know there’s a bunch of other girls out there that were in the same position as me. Their goal was to win, so knowing that I ended up with the honor was pretty cool.”
“It was interesting how she finished her season,” Gallagher said. “Katie’s had some really good races, and she’s had some days where things didn’t go quite as well. We knew we had three girls who had a legitimate chance, so there was a question of who could pull it together today. I told Katie before the race ‘You got to be in it to win it.’ To her credit, that’s what she did. She took off in the last 100.”
Quinn led at the halfway point of the race, though Locker, Shontz and Cedar Crest sophomore Gwyneth Young were able to pass her down the stretch. Locker had to fend off Young (second, 18:45.8), who hung with her for a significant amount, but she eventually pulled away late to win.
“When Madeline’s in front of me, she always pushes me to do better,” Locker said. “She’s my teammate, so knowing that she’s out there helps me. I could hear Gwyneth behind me and people cheering for her, but there were also people cheering for me, which gave me confidence.”
Earlier in the day, the boys team had their year-end meet as well, eventually finishing ninth in the team standings. The Bears were just four points away from ending up in seventh over Cocalico and Penn Manor.
Junior Alex Hartman was the surprise runner for Elizabethtown, placing 45th in 17:47.8. Freshman Nathan Johnson (47th, 17:49.7) and junior Jesse Myers (50th, 17:52.1) also finished inside the top 50. Senior Nat McCloud (57th, 17:59.1) and sophomore Garrick English (63rd, 18:07.6) rounded out the scoring, while junior Dustin Sauder (92nd, 18:57.4), junior Jared Alvarez (95th, 18:58.6) and sophomore Nate Barnhart (19:06.6) also competed.
“The guys were such a mirage,” Gallagher said. “It was like ‘What are we seeing here?’ We had two guys (Myers and McCloud) coming back from last year, and they were not our top runners either. We started off not knowing what we were gonna have, so they did well to come in ninth just a few points out of seventh and eighth.”
Both the girls and boys teams will be taking part in the District 3 Championships on Saturday, Oct. 27, at Big Spring High School, looking to boost their placements from last season; the girls just barely missed out on states in fifth place, while the boys were 17th. Locker, Shontz and Quinn all made states individually as well, so they’ll be hoping to do the same this time around. Before then, however, the Bears will collectively have a chance to catch their breath.
“Definitely gonna sleep a little bit more,” Locker said. “Then we’ll see what workouts Coach has for me.”
“We’re gonna enjoy this one for a day or two and take a little break,” Gallagher said. “Then we’ll start gearing up for the big stuff.”