PIAA CROSS COUNTRY: Mount Carmel's Hoffman earns state medal
HERSHEY - Coming down the stretch Saturday, Cory Hoffman had a hard time believing what he was seeing - or doing.
The Mount Carmel senior saw several runners who had beaten him at the District 4 meet, including district runner-up Tyler Vella of Danville, struggling a little. Then he saw Vella and Mifflinburg's Quincy Amabile, who makes a habit of running on Vella's shoulder, in his internal rearview mirror, passing them on the way to a 25th-place finish and a medal as he led the Red Tornadoes to an eighth-place finish in the team race at the PIAA Class AA state championships at the Parkview Course.
"I was just running as fast as I could and I saw Quincy coming up, and then I passed him, and I went, 'Whoa'," said Hoffman, who closed out a solid senior season by running the course in 17 minutes, 14 seconds. His performance was the best of a bunch of solid ones by the Red Tornadoes, who used their good grouping to finish with 192 points. Four of
Mount Carmel's seven runners finished in the top 100 out of 226 finishers, including a 35th-place by Tommy Moser, who was 121st last year as an individual qualifier and also beat Amabile and Vella. His time of 17:26 beat his 2012 time by 35 seconds.
The Red Tornadoes' other finishers were Nate Bartos (55th, 17:38); Ciaran Fisher (99th, 17:59); David Fletcher (163rd, 18:42); Mackenzie Greco (175th, 18:52); and Alex Mrozek (225th, 20:58).
Tunkhannock Area won the team title, edging Pottsgrove, 101-105, and District 2 also had the individual champion and runner-up in Dallas' Dominic Deluca (16:21) and Lake-Lehman's Dominic Hockenbury (16:36).
Mount Carmel head coach Ben McConnell couldn't have been more pleased with Hoffman and the rest of his team. At the one-mile point, the Red Tornadoes were running fourth as a team, and they were still tied for fifth at the two-mile mark.
"I wasn't quite sure we'd finish that high, because a lot of places change coming into the finish," McConnell said. "But I was confident we could do well down here. Our goal was to get our top three kids in the top 20. That was pretty tough but I thought if they ran that kind of pace, we'd have a chance to do well and the other guys would group as best they could.
"Cory had a run for the ages. He's been getting better every week for us but he had a setback before districts when he sprained a tendon in his foot. But he just battled through it at districts (where he was ninth) and today he did even more. He's a good kid and a tough kid. He was limping last night (Friday) after our workout. But when I saw him pass Vella about halfway through, I knew he was going to finish strong. He just battled harder."
"It was a hard run," Hoffman said. "I'm glad I came down here with the rest of the team instead of as an individual, because we didn't want to let each other down. Just to be here is great and now to medal."
Moser, although he didn't medal, was very pleased at his showing his second time on the course.
"Last year I just came down here as an individual and I just wanted to run my race," the junior said. "This year I wanted to run harder because of the team. It was a fast, fast race."
"When you come as a team, you come with a different intensity," McConnell said. "You're together at the hotel the night before and nobody wants to let anybody down. It's like being on a relay in track; you don't want to be the slow guy."
Mount Carmel's Lauren Hause. the final District 4 qualifier in the girls A race, did herself proud as well, finishing 116th overall in a field of 221 finishers with a time of 22:25. Marianne Abdalah, a freshman from Vincentian Academy won the race by a 56-second margin in 18:24. and District 2 went one-two in the team race in that class, with Holy Cross topping Elk Lake, 64-99.
"The start down here is insane," Hause said. "There are so many girls and everybody is good. I'd have liked to have beat 22 minutes but I had some trouble on the hill in the middle and I was just trying to keep up."