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Cross Country: Local runners fight through crowded course, draw from cheering crowd at Carlisle Invitational

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Carlisle Cross Country 3

Kevin Shank heads towards the finish line as he competes in a Mid-Penn Commonwealth dual meet against Central Dauphin Sept. 7 at Carlisle High School.

The final ounces of energy in Kevin Shank’s reserves spilled out over the finish line Saturday at the end of the Boys Challenge Race of the Carlisle Invitational. Conquering his home course in 16 minutes, 14.2 seconds, and fending off Hershey’s Dillan O’Shell (16:14.9) and McCakey’s Benjamin Blough (16:15.5) for 22nd place, the junior swayed under the midday sun and stumbled forward

“It’s always in about the last half mile where my limbs just become dead weight,” Shank said minutes later. “I don’t have that strong of a sprint, so whenever I’m not feeling strong at the end, people usually pass me, but I was holding on as long as I could.”

Shank posted the low time among local runners Saturday on a Travis Trail course that was warm under the September sun, wet from heavy midweek rain, packed in with footprints from hundreds of competitors over the day’s seven races and loud from an energetic crowd that echoed shouts across the 3.1 miles from late morning through early afternoon.

Carlisle’s Ray Bondy joined Shank on the medal stand for the challenge race, finishing 26th at 16:24.1. The Thundering Herd placed sixth as a team with five runners clocking in under 18 minutes.

In the undercard Champion-division Boys race, Trinity’s Jasper Burd took third place (16:46.7) among the boys, leading the Shamrocks to a fourth-place finish. East Pennsboro’s Elijah Mickell finished sixth (16:59.0). The Panthers’ Andrew Namatka added a medal with an 11th-place finish (17:12.6), and the ig Spring duo of Blake Wenger and Trevor Richwine finished ninth (17:09.5) and 15th (17:23.3), respectively.

Cross Country: Local notes from the Ben Bloser Bulldog Invitational

Medalists in the Champion Girls race included Trinity’s Lila Shore (ninth, 20:09.4) and Northern’s Allie Engle (18th, 20:36.0).

“There was a lot of motivation,” Shank said, “having all those people. You kind of start out really, really fast. But there’s also a problem with that many people because going around turns gets really slow.”

Shank fought through the crowded field through the first two miles, navigating the course’s hairpin turns and intersecting streams of water. By the end of the second mile, the pack thinned out. Larry Josh Edwards, from Univrsity High in Morgantown, West Virginia, pulled away for the win at 15:11.4. With his limbs leaking energy, Shank drew from the roar of the crowd lining up along the green and white pennants marking the course’s boundaries.

“With all these people cheering you on constantly,” Shank said, “I wanted my form to look good. I wanted to look fast and strong. It definitely helped me go a little bit faster.”

While Shank crossed the finish line, swaying and stumbling, Bondy had built some separation from a pack just behind him. He turned his head to check his positioning as he barreled down the slight hill leading to the finish line.

“I was just checking where I was,” he said, “seeing if I needed to kick, because I just wanted to get that over with at the end.”

Andrew Diehl (36th, 16:35.8), Briar Thompson (72nd, 17:04.8) and Ryan Brody (142nd, 17:50.1) also broke the 18-minute barrier.

“The rest of the team,” Bondy said, “did really well.”

Burd had the goal of breaking 17 minutes Saturday in the Champion Boys race. Upper Dublin’s Matt Castronuovo and Gus Platt took it out fast, finishing first (16:22.5) and second (16.25.7) and pulling the rest of the field with them.

“Seeing them just motivated me,” Burd said. “It kept my pace up. I tried my best to stick with them and keep them in sight. They were a lot of help.”

After Burd took third place, Will Chapman of Reservoir (Maryland) finished fourth at 16:54.7, and Central Cambria’s Aiden Lechleitner (16:58.8) and McKell (16:59.0) jostled for sixth and seventh place.

“I’m not going to lie,” McKell, a senior, said. “If my dad didn’t say, ‘go,’ I wasn’t going to go. I’ve got to give props to my dad. He definitely helped me with that last push.”

McKell also fought through the late-morning heat.

“I thought the heat was going to get to me,” he said, “but I survived it.”

Earlier in the day, the heat wasn’t as much of an obstacle during the Champion Girls race.

The puddles were.

“They almost dragged you down a little bit,” said Shore, the Shamrocks freshman. “But it was a good obstacle. It challenged you to improve your time and yourself as a runner. I had a good time.”

Shore tried to follow the pace set by Caroline Gregory of Frederick (Maryland), who won the race in 19:27.6.

As more runners converged on the finish line, Engle, who’s been working her way back from injuries in the spring and summer, worked her way toward medal contention.

“I feel like my first two miles are there, pace-wise,” she said. “I just think, without having the base, the last mile’s not there yet.”

HS Cross Country: 10 local runners to watch this season

Engle summoned the strength she needed down the final hill at Travis Trail, though, holding off the runners behind her as she picked up speed.

“When you have people starting to come up on you,” she said, “and the finish is so fast there, you’ve just got to get them. Finishing there is really fun because you can just fly down the hill.”

Cumberland Valley’s Kate Vonah led local runners in the Girls Challenge race, finishing 40th at 20:07.1. Thais Rolly of McLean (Virginia) won the race at 17:58.0. Carlisle's Vanessa Alder did not run in Saturday's race.

Tim Gross is the sports editor at The Sentinel and cumberlink.com. Email him at tgross@cumberlink.com and follow him on Twitter at: @ByTimGross

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