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One-time golfer Poole has lofty goals for St. Vincent cross country team

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

He came to St. Vincent with just one year of high school cross country experience.

Three years later, Chansler Poole is one of the most decorated runners in Bearcats history, and he hopes to end his college career with an individual conference title.

It's been quite an about-face for a young man who aspired to be a golfer. Poole grew up loving the game, and his goal when he entered Penn-Trafford High School was to make the Warriors' golf team. Though he was a talented middle-distance runner in track, he never gave cross country a thought.

Poole never made the golf team. Finally, in his senior year, his track coach became Penn-Trafford's cross country coach and persuaded Poole to give it a try. He wound up finishing 27th at the WPIAL Class AAA championship, good enough to qualify for the PIAA meet.

“I was still very new to the idea of racing longer distances,” said Poole. “I was pretty much just used to racing the mile in track. Even going into freshman year coming in here, I was still very new to the concept of it.”

New or not, Poole showed an immediate flair for cross country. Perhaps not coincidentally, Poole's arrival in Latrobe began what has become a string of three straight Presidents' Athletic Conference titles for the Bearcats. Their first title in his freshman year — the first year St. Vincent became eligible for PAC postseason — ended Grove City's 20-year stranglehold on the title.

Individually, Poole has placed fourth twice and second (last year) and qualified for the NCAA Division III meet twice. He also holds the school record for a five-mile race at 25 minutes, 15 seconds.

“We knew he had potential, but we never could have imagined he would blossom like this,” said coach Andy Herr.

Poole still has a couple items on his to-do list despite his litany of accomplishments. He wants to win the elusive individual PAC title and earn all-America status at the NCAA meet.

To achieve those, Poole said he put in more mileage over the past summer than any previous year. He said it will help him have more endurance, which he believes was what hurt him in the past.

The results already are evident. In the season-opening Duquesne duals, competing against mostly Division I runners, Poole placed sixth overall and covered the course in 26:29 — a time he said is more than a minute better than he had run this early in the season at any point in his college career.

“I don't want to come off as being too overconfident,” said Herr, “but I really think, watching Chansler run right now, I think he's got a great shot of winning conference.”

Poole's stiffest competition figures to come from Grove City's Arleigh McCrae and Thomas More's Matt Wurtzler, who placed fourth and fifth, respectively, at PACs last year.

Of course, Poole's not focused solely on individual accolades. There's a fourth PAC team title and a berth in the NCAAs to think about. The Bearcats have never been to NCAAs, missing out by one spot at regionals during Poole's freshman year.

“I honestly think this is the best team we've ever had,” he said, “so I definitely think we can get the fourth. I wasn't expecting our team to kind of take control of the PAC and start like a dynasty,”

Poole still has the golfing bug. He spent four summers working at a golf course, and he does get out to play on occasion. Just for fun, of course.

“Now I can just go out and try and beat my dad,” he said.

Chuck Curti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at ccurti@tribweb.com.

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