Zaun, Bower pace Parkland at state XC meet
In just her first year running cross country, Parkland’s Maddie Zaun nearly tasted what the PIAA cross country meet was all about. She was one place shy of earning a trip to states a season ago.
But since that moment, she mad a promise to herself to reach Hershey in her second season. She came through on that promise last weekend.
In the biggest race of her career, on the most coveted stage for high school runners, Zaun capped a junior season in impressive fashion. She ran a time of 20:13 to pace the Parkland girls runners, placing 73rd out of the Class 3A 212 participants.
“I told myself last year that I was going to be here this year, and I worked literally all year for this,” said Zaun. “So, it’s extremely gratifying to have that moment finally happen for me.
“My goal today was top 100, so I really broke into that. My time was at the top of my time range that I wanted. I was impressed. I thought I had a really good race today.”
Zaun, a junior, was intimidated a bit with the hilly portions of the course before Saturday’s meet. It’s a course unlike any other that she, or the rest of the Parkland runners, has run this year.
But after a slow start due to the crowded starting line, Zaun and her teammates were able to settle in nicely.
“I was definitely intimidated last year seeing this course with all of the hills,” Zaun said. “But running it today, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It’s definitely difficult, but I felt good on the course today.
“Today we actually got buried; we could have gotten out better. I think partly it’s our first time here. We probably could have gotten out better, but we tried to recover as best as we could.”
As a team, the Parkland girls placed 15th. Freshman Ava Bendetti (110th), senior Kiley Krasely (134th), sophomore Julianna Elsesser (161st), sophomore Lily Goense (186th), sophomore Emma Garchinsky (186th) and senior Erin Wood (199th) rounded out the Trojan finishers.
In the final race of the day, a number of Parkland boys had impressive performances. Juniors Nicholas Bower (71st, 17:00) and Riley Williamson (92nd, 17:09) led the way for the Parkland boys and their 16th-place finish as a team.
Other finishers for Parkland include Jacob Ringer (130th), Matthew Santacoloma (160th), Mathew Zager (174th), Ethan Warren (198th) and Nate Reimer (216th).
“I think as a team we put a good effort in,” Bower said. “We did our best. A lot of the guys are proud of what they did.”
Like most of the runners at states, Bower and the Trojans haven’t faced a course as challenging or demanding as Hershey’s during the regular season or at leagues or districts.
“The hills are really brutal,” Bower said. “It’s a lot of concentration, a lot of people also clustered in a tight area. There is a lot of bumping and a lot of friction. I think our guys are really tough; there’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
“The only course that comes slightly closest is the Parkland course, our home course. This course is easily one of the hardest that we run.”
Bower, who has been to states in each of his three seasons, has improved tremendously each time. He placed 176th as a freshman, improved that to 100th as a sophomore, and then this year moved up nearly 30 more spots.
“I was doing good until the last 200, and the last hill kind of threw me off a little bit,” Bower said.