Knoch runners savor opportunity |
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Knoch junior Emilee Hertweck paced back and forth, unaware of her fate in last year’s WPIAL cross country meet at Cooper’s Lake Campground in Slippery Rock. She was around the time needed to qualify for the PIAA race, but she had to wait a couple of agonizingly long seconds for the official results.

But the wait didn’t bring the news she was hoping for.

Knights coach Wess Brahler came over and said, “Are you sure you want to know where you finished?” Hertweck said she knew at that moment she had missed the cut.

After hearing the news that her 31st-place finish was three seconds away from qualifying, she broke down in tears.

Eight months later when she started training in June, all Hertweck wanted was redemption.

And she got it, qualifying for Saturday morning’s PIAA Class AAA meet in Hershey.

“I was working to qualify for the state race all summer and fall,” Hertweck said. “I knew that if I kept working that I was capable of qualifying.”

Hertweck finished 17th in the WPIAL with a time of 19 minutes, 43 seconds.

Saturday’s Class AA girls race starts at 9 a.m., the Class AAA girls at 10 a.m., the Class AA boys at 11 a.m. and Class AAA boys at noon.

“I was shocked when I made it after how things went last year,” Hertweck said. “Missing last year brought me down a bit, but my coach told me if I stuck to my race strategy that I’d be alright.”

Hertweck qualified for states as a freshman when the Knights qualified as a team.

Knoch also had two boys qualify for PIAAs — seniors KJ McCrea (16:47, 26th place) and Van McCarren (16:53, 31st place).

McCarren and McCrea, much like Hertweck, had close calls last season. McCrea finished one spot from qualifying, while

McCarren is excited about Saturday’s opportunity.

“Toward the beginning, I wasn’t doing as well as I hoped,” McCarren said. “But I think the big difference for me this season was that we ran smarter. We raced harder in the bigger races.”

Additional Information:

PIAA Cross Country Championships

Saturday, Parkview Cross Country Course, Hershey

Schedule: Class AA girls, 9 a.m.; Class AAA girls, 10 a.m.; Class AA boys, 11 a.m.; Class AAA boys, noon.

Local runners: Girls • Emilee Hertweck (Knoch), Morgan Kiebler (Kiski Area), Kayla Zboran (Freeport); Boys • Sam Griffith (Plum), Richard Lednak (Kiski Area), Van McCarren (Knoch), KJ McCrea (Knoch), Trevor Weis (Fox Chapel).

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