The Lancaster-Lebanon League cross country season officially kicked off Thursday. And although there are limits on runners, and runners wearing face coverings up until the starting line in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, things didn’t feel much different than they would normally. At least that’s how it felt at Lampeter-Strasburg, where the Pioneers hosted Lancaster Catholic and Garden Spot.
“I don’t like that there are less runners,” fifth-year L-S coach Mari Cunningham said. “That’s always something I liked about cross country.”
In an effort to prevent and limit any spreading of the coronavirus, parameters are in place this fall in L-L cross country to limit each team to 12 runners per event. For an L-S boys team with 26 runners, that resulted in Cunningham purposely scheduling an additional high school boys race, as an exhibition, so the Pioneers’ 14 extra boys runners could get a run in.
“So having our boys run at a different time is not where I would want things to be,” Cunningham said.
Meanwhile, the Lancaster Catholic boys have 16 high school runners this season, which led longtime Lancaster Catholic coach Tim Simpson deciding to keep his four extra runners at home. Garden Spot didn’t have an issue with numbers since it only has a combined 20 total boys and girls high school runners.
“Though, we’re all just really glad that we’re having a season,” Cunningham said.
The future is bright for L-S considering Pioneers’ freshmen Collin Whitaker and Jaclyn Martin won the boys and girls races, respectively.
“It felt the same,” Whitaker said afterward. “Competition is all I care about. It’s a workout and you’re racing another team.”
Boys: In his first year competing in cross country last fall, Whitaker won the 2019 Iron Bridge Invitational at Lancaster Mennonite for middle-school boys, which is basically considered a de facto L-L junior high championship race.
the 2019 L-L junior high boys champion as an eighth-grader.
“My dad got me started,” Whitaker said. “He was a runner when he was in high school at McCaskey. I did track in seventh grade and did pretty good. So then I did cross country (as an eighth-grader).”
Whitaker won Tuesday’s race in 16 minutes and 20 seconds, nearly 30 seconds in front of second-place finisher and teammate Parker Stoner, a sophomore who crossed the end-line in 16:49.
The defending L-L Section Two champion Pioneers had seven runners in the top-10, ultimately topping Lancaster Catholic, 17-44, and Garden Spot, 15-48.
Crusaders’ senior Daniel Myers, who last year placed 41st in the L-L championship race, finished fourth on Tuesday in a time 17:01. Garden Spot sophomore Zane Kauffman placed ninth in a time of 17:39. The Crusaders beat the Spartans, 22-35.
Cross country: Lampeter-Strasburg freshman Collin Whitaker, last year's L-L boys junior high champ, wins Tuesday's opener in 16:21.— John Walk (@JWalkLNP) September 24, 2020
Here are the final 2 minutes of the race vs Garden Spot, Lancaster Catholic @LSPioneers @lshspioneers @section_ls @LancasterSports @CentralPARunner pic.twitter.com/ADhyRo6uHu
Girls: Martin, who has been running competitively since she was a first-grader and has already completed a half-dozen 5Ks in her career, won the girls race in 21:07. She won by a wide margin over second-place Ellie Bomberger, a Lancaster Catholic junior who placed 61st at last year’s L-L championships. Bomberger crossed the end-line in 21:35. Garden Spot senior Cloe Martin placed fifth in 22:33.
A year ago, Martin placed 22nd at the Iron Bridge Invitational for middle school girls runners. She’d also suffered a sprained ankle in August after stepping on a tree walnut. It’s why she was surprised by her outing Tuesday.
“Yeah. I beat my main PR of a mile. I got to the mile marker and I was like, ‘Whoa,’” Martin said. “After that it was pretty easy.”
Last year’s L-L Section Two runner-up, L-S topped Lancaster Catholic, 24-31, and Garden Spot, 19-37. The Crusaders beat the Spartans, 20-35.
Cross Country: future is bright at Lampeter-Strasburg w/ freshmen winning both races vs Lancaster Catholic + Garden Spot in Tuesday's L-L League opener.— John Walk (@JWalkLNP) September 24, 2020
Here's final minutes of girls race won by Jaclyn Martin in 21:07@LancasterSports @CentralPARunner @LSPioneers @lshspioneers pic.twitter.com/8SwK4hTYjQ