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Southmoreland boys cross country has high expectations

| Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, 11:59 p.m.
Southmoreland runners (from left) Maria Garlowich, Rikki Brown and Ryan Allem hope to lead the Scotties to a successful cross country season (Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier)

Southmoreland cross country coach Don Gilpin hopes his team's experience can help it meet its high expectations.

Five returning lettermen will suit up for the boys, which will compete in Section 4-AA along with Ford City, Freeport, Greensburg Central Catholic, Elderton, Kittanning, Riverview, Shady Side Academy and West Shamokin.

“I thought we'd have a good team with the amount of returning lettermen we have back,” Gilpin said. “The kids want to win the section and take a team to the state meet; that's our ambition. That's what we're striving for.

“If the kids stick together and nobody gets hurt, I think we can accomplish that.”

The boys lineup includes seniors Josh Dei and Ryan Allem, juniors Mike Garlowich and Phil Weiman, sophomore Sage Guynn and freshmen Ben Bickerton and Brandon Hernley.

Dei, Garlowich and Weiman play soccer, as well.

“If they get hurt, the team is in trouble,” Gilpin said. “(Playing another sport) helps and hurts them. It's challenging to try to get them at practice every day. Another hard part is when we have a home meet and they have a soccer match later that night.”

Gilpin hopes his team can draw on its experience during close meets.

“We lost to Central Catholic by a couple points, and we lost to Shady Side Academy by three or four points,” Gilpin said. “Then, we lost to Riverview when the meet had to go to the sixth runner.”

On the girls side, a low turnout could make for a challenging season.

Seniors Rikki Brown and Maria Garlowich, juniors Cynthia Severi, Sarah Brown and Jamie Ellenberger, and freshman Riley Bistel make up the lineup.

“I don't know how competitive we're going to be with just six girls,” Gilpin said. “I thought we were going to have a good team, but we didn't get a lot of runners out, and one of the better runners we thought we'd have back is hurt.”

Senior Jessica Suhan, who competed at the state meet as a sophomore, is recovering from knee problems and will miss the season.

“It's very hard,” Gilpin said. “When you have only six kids, if somebody gets hurt, then you're down to five, and you have to have five runners to be able to win a meet. If someone else gets hurt, you can't win, even if your runners finish 1-2-3-4. Some of these schools we face will have close to 20 boys and 20 girls on their teams.

“I don't know why we can't get kids out for cross country. We're the only sport at Southmoreland that's won a WPIAL championship. The girls have won two and the boys one. We've had some really good runners, but now, we can't seem to get kids involved.”

Dave Stofcheck is a freelance writer.

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