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Fay-West 5 take on state’s best runners

On Saturday morning, the best cross country runners in the state will meet to see who is Pennsylvania’s best in the PIAA championships in Hershey.

Five local runners will get their shot against some of the top striders in Pennsylvania.

Mt. Pleasant senior Eric Porter, Southmoreland senior Robert Smith, Geibel senior Anthony Speeney and Frazier junior Sawyer Palonder will run in the Class AA boys race at 11 a.m. Southmoreland sophomore Jessica Suhan will compete in the Class AA girls race at 9 a.m.

Of the five, only Porter has competed in the state meet; Porter qualified in 2008 and ’09.

“I’ve ran the course a few times and I know the competition, so I know what to expect,” he said. “My goal is to medal. I go into every race wanting to win, but if that isn’t possible, I definitely want to medal.”

The top 30 runners in each classification earn a medal.

Porter (16 minutes, 59 seconds) finished sixth at the WPIAL final last week. Smith (17:11) was 11th, followed by Speeney (22nd, 17:39) and Palonder (23rd, 17:41).

“It’s a great accomplishment for me, and I’m happy to make it,” Smith said. “I finally get to see what it’s all about. I’m looking forward to the competition. I’d like to medal, but if I don’t, I’d like to finish in the top 50.”

Speeney will be trying for a medal as well but is thankful that his dedication to the sport yielded a trip to the championships.

“It’s nice to know all the hard work and the time I gave up was worth it,” Speeney said. “Time-wise, I’d like to run under 17:30, but I just want to feel good and run hard from the start and know that I left nothing in the tank.”

Porter, Smith and Speeney will conclude their high school cross country careers tomorrow, but Palonder and Suhan have future opportunities.

“I definitely want to finish in the top 100 and be able to run 17 (minutes) on that course,” Palonder said. “But it’s a tough course. Ideally, hopefully I can finish in the top 50. I don’t want to say this is a practice run for me, but it will give me a good gauge of where I need to be next season.”

Suhan (20:57) finished 20th in the WPIAL Class AA girls race. She said she does not know what to expect, but she is excited about the opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to getting the experience for future seasons, if I make it again,” she said. “I know all the top runners will be there. I’ll just try to do my best.”


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