Indiana is sending a record number of runners, Blairsville is sending its most runners since 2008 and 14 runners from county schools will make up the local contingent at Saturday’s PIAA cross country championships in Hershey.
On the Class AA side, Indiana is sending four runners to the state meet — three boys and one girl — believed to be the most the Indians have ever sent to one meet, according to Indiana’s director of athletics, Pat Snyder.
Making up the Indians’ contingent will be seniors Adam Lenze and Ryan Louther along with Sam Lenze on the boys’ side. Kacey Raible will be the Indiana girls’ lone representative. A sophomore, Raible is making her second trip to the state meet, as is Louther.
Meanwhile, in Class A competition, Blairsville is sending three runners for the first time since the Bobcats placed second as a team at the District 6 meet in 2008 and sent all their runners to the state meet.
Leading the Bobcats will be Heritage Conference champion Alex Horchar, Ryan Horchar and Derek Rocks. A senior, Ryan Horchar will be making his second trip to the PIAA Championships, while his twin brother Alex and Rocks are going to Hershey for the first time.
“Cross country is one of those sports, you have to look at improvements in terms of long-term,” Blairsville coach Dan Cunkelman said. “You have expectations as you prepare for one year, but hopefully you’re also preparing for next year, and you’re making a level of improvement for next year. And that’s what they’ve done. They’ve improved more and more each year.”
The same could be said for Louther and Penns Manor senior J.T. Horwat, both of whom are making their second trips to Hershey. Also on the boys’ side, Purchase Line junior Dan Learn qualified for the first time.
Leading the area girls are three-time qualifiers Heather Paynter (Homer-Center) and Hannah Fulton (Marion Center). Paynter will try to follow up last year’s performance, when she finished 24th at the PIAA meet and medaled as a sophomore. The top 25 finishers earn medals.
Marion Center is the only other school that will be sending more than one runner. In addition to Fulton, freshman Taya Whitfield will also represent the Stingers. Marion Center has had a freshman qualify for the state meet each of the past two seasons. There will be another freshman making her PIAA Championships debut: United’s Ryleigh Ludwig.Also on the girls’ side, Northern Cambria senior Allyson Kopera qualified for the second straight season.