BY SCOTT WALSH
For the second time in 10 days, members of the Elk Lake cross country team shed tears following a meet.
Only this time, they were tears of joy.
Elk Lake headlined a dominant day for District 2 at the PIAA Championships on Saturday at Parkview Cross Country Course, sweeping the girls and boys team titles in Class AA.
Led by the Trowbridge sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, the Lady Warriors placed five runners in the top 54 to total 77 points and finish first ahead of District 2 rival, Holy Redeemer, which had 106 points.
Maria Trowbridge finished sixth, covering the 3.1-mile course in 19 minutes, 35 seconds. Elizabeth Trowbridge wound up 11th in 19:48. The top 25 individual runners earn state medals.
Meanwhile, the Warriors’ first four runners placed in the top 37 and scored 102 points to also wind up ahead of Holy Redeemer, which finished with 116 points. Three of Elk Lake’s runners captured state medals – Mike Bedell was seventh in 16:49; Luke Jones 17th in 16:59; and Sean Carney 24th in 17:08.
It is just the second time in the history of the state meet that a school has swept the boys and girls titles. North East from District 10 was the first to accomplish the feat in 1982.
Also, Elk Lake’s girls halted Central Cambria’s bid for a fourth consecutive Class AA team title. The District 6 school finished third with 180 points.
Elk Lake’s boys’ team brought home its second state title in three years, after winning in 2008, while the girls bested their 2007 Class AA runner-up finish.
In individual standings, Trinity High School’s Tommy Gruschow took first place in 16:30 while the girls’ race was topped by Angel Piccirillo of Homer-Center High School in 18:44.
Coach Will Squier said he often dreamed about Elk Lake sweeping the two titles, but never thought it would become a reality.
“To have it happen is unbelievable,” Squier said. “So many things have to come together and go exactly right. It’s not easy to get everything to click. It’s hard enough to get one team to click, let alone two in the same day and have everything come together.”
Saturday’s 1-2 Elk Lake-Holy Redeemer finish is somewhat ironic considering that both Elk Lake teams wound up second to Holy Redeemer at the District 2 Championships on Oct. 27.
It was at that meet where Bedell, the Warriors’ No. 1 runner, collapsed approximately 200 yards from the finish line while running out front with teammate Jones.
Watching Bedell be taken away in an ambulance left both the Warriors and Lady Warriors an emotional wreck.
Then, this week leading up to states, there was plenty of uncertainty whether Bedell would be able to run in the race even though he was able to practice.
But the defining moment for both teams came Friday at, of all places, a Subway restaurant in Pine Grove.
While the team headed to Hershey on Friday morning, Bedell underwent one final test to see if he would be cleared to race. The team had stopped for lunch when Squier got a call from Bedell that he would be meeting up with them with the verdict.
“He came up to me and said, ‘Your number-one runner is back,’ ” Squier said.
“After that, the whole mood on the bus absolutely lifted. They went from kind of somber, tense, uneasy, doubtful to a sense of wholeness again. We were all back together again, we were OK and we were going to go down and be able to compete.”
“We were going to run regardless whether we had Mike or not,” Carney said. “But when he got on the bus and said he was cleared, everyone was like, ‘Yeah! Yeah!’ It was amazing. We were so happy. Overall, we felt more confident.”
That confidence showed Saturday.
The girls race went off first. Maria Trowbridge, who admitted she had been struggling of late, set the tone for the Lady Warriors with her sixth-place effort. That was three spots better than her finish last year at states.
“I had a couple of bad races in a row and it was starting to get to me a little bit,” Maria said. “But I just had to get my head together and do it for the team.”
Elizabeth Trowbridge, only a freshman, followed her sister’s lead and crossed the finish line in 11th place.
“I’m really proud of myself and the team,” Elizabeth said. “We worked so hard this season. It feels amazing.”
Kirsten Hollister finished 36th in 20:45. Lainey Bedell was 48th in 20:56. When Abby Zdancewicz came across 54th in 21:03, the Lady Warriors had secured the title.
Following Zdancewicz was Emily Williams in 81st place at 21:24 and Cassie Salsman in 124th a 21:54.
Blue Ridge’s Allison Hall also traveled to Hershey, where she finished 43rd overall in the race at 20:49.
Montrose’s Samantha Bennici took 130th overall at 21:58, while teammate Allison Lewis placed 215th at 23:14.
Buoyed by the girls’ performance, the Elk Lake boys went out and completed the sweep.
Bedell showed no ill-effects from his incident by finishing seventh. He was 23rd at states last year as a junior.
“At the two-mile I got a little worried because my legs got sore going down the hill,” Bedell said. “So I backed out a little bit. But when I realized it was just something normal, I picked it back up again.
“I just wanted to be able to run today. To finish the race, I’m ecstatic.”
After Jones and Carney came across, Jeff Horvath placed 37th in 17:26. Sixty-two seconds later, Bryan Grosvenor finished 148th and the Warriors were state champs for the second time in three years.
After Grosvenor, Will Bennett cross the finish line in 153rd place at 18:30, and Seth Carney rounded out the Warrior pack at 18:44 in 180th place.
Also competing in the boys’ race was Blue Ridge’s Jake Hinkley, who took 62nd overall at 17:42.
Montrose’s Ryan Martin finished in 138th place individually, with a time of 18:24.
Holy Redeemer actually had three individual girls state medalists and two individual boys, including a second-place finish by A.J. Limongelli.
But on this day, Elk Lake was just too much for the Royals to overcome.
“If we’re going to lose to a team, we want it to be Elk Lake,” Holy Redeemer coach Ed Roman said. “They’re a great program, a great bunch of guys and girls.”
On Friday, Elk Lake School District will hold an assembly to honor the cross country teams at 2 p.m.
The event will be held in the high school gymnasium and players and coaches will be introduced to the student body.
Also a few guest speakers are planned to address the crowd, according to director of athletics/assistant principal Brian Mallory.
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