CARLISLE — Noah Affolder has more reason than most runners to look forward to the cross country postseason.
The Mid-Penn Conference, District 3 and PIAA events give the top competitors the opportunity to chase championships and see where they stack up against the best.
Plus, when those races arrive, Affolder won’t have to worry about his wisdom teeth anymore. They come out Oct. 21.
Those molars and the rest of the runners posed few problems for the Carlisle High School senior Saturday when he extracted the gold medal in the boys’ PUMA Challenge at the 24th annual Carlisle Invitational. Affolder finished in 14:47, 12 seconds ahead of District 3 Class 3A champion Nathan Henderson of McCaskey and 30 seconds in front of Sam Affolder, Noah’s brother and a Thundering Herd sophomore.
Noah Affolder said two of his wisdom teeth have broken through the skin, and they are affecting his eating but not the way he runs or his training. Running with the rest of the team at practice keeps his mind off of everything else, he said.
Ironically, that wasn’t the case when he dominated the final event of Saturday’s invitational in outstanding running conditions. He had little company.
“It was a little different from what Coach and I talked about before the race,” Affolder said. “When I got out front, from hearing people’s breathing behind me, I knew I was going to be running alone when I wanted to.”
The Herd have a couple of big meets the next two weekends. Then comes a little lull in the schedule that will allow time for dental surgery.
Affolder wanted to schedule it so it would interfere as little as possible with the season. The plan seems to be working.
“Three miles every weekend,” he said. “That’s all I have to worry about. If I can keep that up, I don’t have to worry about the wisdom teeth.”
The race unfolded differently than his brother expected it to as well.
Sam Affolder said he dreamed about it Friday night.
“Then I woke up really early this morning and I kept replaying the race in my head,” he said, “where I would be at every mile, at every part of the course.
“Of course, I also pictured coming across the finish line first.”
Still, he and his brother helped the Thundering Herd to a second-place showing in the team standings. Isaac Kole added a 13th-place finish in 15:50 as Carlisle accrued 141 team points. Don Bosco Prep of New Jersey, which had three finishers in the top 12, won with 111 points.
Sam Affolder, whose time of 15:17 demolished his personal best, said the team’s inability to win the title took away from the feeling of a top-three finish. But Carlisle has been running well in the early season, and maybe it will help to deal with a little disappointment.
“It’s kind of good that we came back down to reality,” Sam Affolder said, “but I didn’t really want to come down.”
Another Mid-Penn runner came home first in the boys’ Champions race.
Red Land senior Nate Romberger finished in 16:05, giving him a 12-second victory over Blaine Doyle of Cornwall.
“I started a little farther back than I wanted to,” Romberger said. “I just made my way to the outside, and I started picking guys off. Then I just ran a faster last mile.”
Lydia Olivere of Padua Academy in Delaware won the girls’ PUMA Challenge in 17:22. Cheyenne Hansen of Garden Spot took the girls’ Champions race in 18:44.