Youth excites Quaker Valley girls cross country
After a third place finish at the PIAA Class AA girls cross country championship Nov. 1 at Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey, the Quaker Valley girls team has plenty to be excited about.
All five of the Quakers’ top runners — junior Hannah Bablak, sophomores Bearett Tarris and Anna Pawloski and freshmen Lucie Kubinski and Audrey Durbin — will be returning next year,
“I think it was a good trial year,” Bablak said. “For four of our top five it was the first time they’ve ever run at the state course. It was a good way to get everyone some experience on the course. Hopefully next year we can come back even more confident.”
Despite many of the girls running their best times of the season, Kubinski thinks they could have performed even better if given another chance at the race, she said.
“It gave us a good idea on how we can improve, because I know some of us didn’t have our best races,” Kubinski said. “We were prepared for them, but we have good days and bad days. Some of us weren’t very strong there, and I think that might have been nerves.”
While some might view the Quakers’ season as a success in spite of their youth, Bablak sees the youth as a reason for the team’s success.
“It’s been a really interesting dynamic, because the past few years that I’ve been running it was an older team,” Bablak said. “With a younger team, everyone is open to trying new things and learning.”
In their first varsity seasons, Kubinski and Durbin faced a much harder workload than they did as members of the middle school team, but their effort in training was influential in building the team culture.
“Coming from middle school, I think that there was just a lot more pressure that we had to do well as a team,” Kubinski said. “The workouts were always longer and harder. I don’t know how it was last year, but some of the sophomore girls talked about how this year was harder than last year because they felt like last year they didn’t try as hard and weren’t as committed, but I think that changed this year.”
Kubinski and Bablak are the team’s top performers and finished twelth and fourteenth individually at the state meet, but the Quakers proved this year that it takes a lot more than individual efforts to contend as a team. Of the top-10 individual finishers, only one — Claire Brown of Class AA champion Villa Maria — competed for a medal-winning team.
“It felt like a real team effort this year,” Bablak said. “Even though people think of cross country as an individual sport, that’s not how it is for us. It’s hard sometimes going into a race and knowing it’s not going to be fun, but to have so many people around you helping to support you makes it a lot better.”
Although the team is young, it didn’t lack for leadership, especially when it came to helping the freshmen acclimate to the high school level of competition.
“They told us what to expect and what we needed to do as a team,” Kubinski said. “It was a really good experience because they all were willing to teach us what to do. It was a close group of people and they taught us what they’ve experienced.”
Senior Caroline Westwood was the team’s captain this year, and having her available to learn from throughout the season will be a big help to Bablak as she takes over the captain duties next season, she said.