The expected favorites to win the 2021 Lancaster-Lebanon League girls and boys cross country championship meets did just that Tuesday at Ephrata Middle School. But both races came with drama in what was sunny conditions with temperatures hovering in the 60s.

McCaskey sophomore Isabella Shertzer remained unbeaten this season with a winning time of 19 minutes, 47.2 seconds.

She was with the front of the pack of five runners at the midway point when the group took a wrong turn around a flag before being notified of the blunder about 20 yards after the fact, and thus had to play catch-up.

“It took me a second to realize it,” Shertzer said. “We kept on going. ...it was hard after that to sprint back to the front. It took a little bit of energy.”

Hempfield junior Aidan Hodge, the boys runner-up at this event last year, picked up his eighth win of the season Tuesday with a championship time 16:11.5. Though, runner-up Colin Whitaker of Lampeter-Strasburg (second, 16:18) was on Hodge’s heels almost the entire way.

“It means a lot,” Hodge said of capturing the league crown. “Especially with all the other guys I was with, like Colin, Caleb Hershey, Tyler Stevens, the Cedar Crest guys. ...they’re all pushing you. It means a lot to be unbeaten in this league.”

Girls: Shertzer became the fifth McCaskey girls runner to win the league crown since 1983, and the first to do it since 2014. 

For most of the afternoon, she ran alongside Manheim Township freshman Elena Barrall (second, 19:51) and sophomore Ava Shirk (third, 20:04), Warwick sophomore Ella Hartel (fourth, 20:07), McCaskey junior Milana Breuninger (fifth, 20:08) and Annville-Cleona senior Braetan Peters (11th, 20:46). The runners often took turns as the lead until Shertzer created separation over the last third of the course.

“Just doing what I’ve been doing all the other races,” Shertzer said of her strategy. “Which is stay with the top girls and kick at the end.”

Manheim Township won the girls league team crown with 54 points, thirty points in front of runner-up McCaskey.

“We’ve learned how to build more of a family atmosphere,” fourth-year Manheim Township coach Kevin Stover said. “I saw the unity starting to build more in 2020, even though it was an usual year. This year we did the same process. ...then we added a couple runners coming up through.”

Girls team, top 25 individual results

Boys: Hodge is Hempfield’s fifth boys runner to win a league crown, the first since 2017 (that’s not including Jeff Bradley’s 1969 Lancaster County title). Keep in mind Hodge also ran with a target on his back all year as the league’s top returning runner.

“I was definitely nervous with all the expectations this year of going undefeated and running super well all season and it all coming down to this race,” he said.

The Black Knights tallied 47 points to the Blue Streaks’ 58 to snag the boys league team championship.

“They’re like a family,” fourth-year Hempfield coach Craig Rogers said. “They work together every single time. And they do stuff on their own. They organize. They get together. It’s kind of like a democracy as a team. Aidan is the No. 1 runner but everybody has a say.”

Boys team, top 25 individual results

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