Hundreds of runners took to the monstrous course at Elm Road Elementary School for the Penn Cross Country Invite on Saturday morning. Known as one of the hardest courses to run in Indiana, the home turf gave Penn an advantage, but the other fourteen schools had a mountain of a hill waiting for them.
The invitational featured teams from: Penn, Valparaiso, Bishop Dwenger, Homestead, Northridge, Culver Academies, New Prairie, Elkhart Central, Mishawaka, Goshen, John Adams, Riley, Clay, Plymouth, and Wabash.
PennGirls’ Cross Country head coach, Michael Clements, knew that teams came to compete for top three today, especially Bishop Dwenger and Homestead. But he was confident in his team to adapt and respond.
“One of the big things we talk about a lot is adaptability,” said Clements. “We kind of use running as a window into life because there’s a lot of challenges and ups and downs in running,so it’s important to take it day by day.”
Penn seniors Brook Neal and Aisoynn Alkire, were both excited and nervous for Saturday’s meet. The tworan in the state finals last year and knew what their opponents had to offer.
“This is our home course,so we know the hills are hard for everyone,” said Neal. “But this is our home and we run here over the summer,so we have more of an edge.”
“We have a really strong team this year,” said Alkire. “We did really well last week, so we just need to keep that going.”
Bennett Blazo, assistant coach for the Penn Boys’ Cross Country Team, wants nothing more than to make it to semi-state this year. The key to that is to make every meet better than the last.
“The keys needed for conquering this course is conquering that hill,” said Blazo. “Everyone is going to be challenged, so the key is to stay consistent and stay as a pack.”
Valparaiso seniorJonathan Fry kept the team hyped as the senior-driven team is urgent to end their high school careers on a big note.
“My job on the team is to get the guys hyped up,” said Fry. “We had the overall winner in Jack Acton at this meet last year,so we’re hoping to do well this year, we just need to do what we do.”
For the boys varsity race, Homestead took home the overall win with an average time of 00:14:59. Valparaiso followed in a close second with an average time of 00:15:09, and Penn came in at third with an average time of 00:15:21.
For the girls varsity race, Bishop Dwenger sealed first place with an average time for 00:18:17. Penn took second place with an average time of 00:18:47,and Homestead came in third with 00:18:39.
Overall, Penn and Homestead tied with 68 points each.