Hampton’s Holmes runs ‘victory lap’ at PIAA cross country meet

Thursday, November 14, 2019 | 5:20 PM

Josh Holmes had been chasing a state cross country qualification for a long time. All it took was a little bit of patience.

Holmes finished with a time of 17:15 at the WPIAL Championships at California University, easily qualifying for the state meet in Hershey to top off what has been a successful senior season.

“He was consistent all year,” coach Dean Longwell said. “There wasn’t one race we can look at where he didn’t run well. Occasionally, kids have a race where they didn’t have it that day.”

That wasn’t the case for Holmes, who came into the season with a goal of cracking the 17-minute mark. He accomplished it on his first race of the season at the Red, White and Blue Invitational at Schenley Park.

It set the tone for a season that came down to trust and patience at the California course, where he paced himself out of the gate in preparation for a challenging hill in the middle of the course.

“I went into that race with a defined strategy that I wanted to take the first couple miles,” he said. “I ended up sticking to that strategy, but it made me a little nervous. That race was incredibly fast and there were a lot more guys in the top pack than I thought. But it ended up paying off after the first mile and I ended up picking guys off one by one.”

Longwell watched his star runner execute his strategy to perfection. He was admittedly nervous as well as he watched him round the mile mark in the mid-to-high 20s. But Holmes worked his way up, eventually.

“This is something we’ve tried with him the last couple of years, was him trying to start out a little slower,” Lomgwell said. “He would start out too fast. … Cal U is that type of course if you go too fast, it’s going to catch up in the middle. We took that strategy to Hershey, too.”

Holmes finished 57th out of 227 runners at the state meet with a time of 16:52.80. Longwell saw him again work his way up the pack near the end, going from the 80s to the 50s. According to Holmes, the trip was all gravy at that point.

“It was a great experience,” said Holmes, who made the trip last year with senior qualifier Joey Cafaro but did not participate. “Getting the chance to run this year was an amazing experience and one that I’ll never forget. It was a fun race and super muddy. I just had fun with it. At this point, it’s almost like a victory lap.”

Holmes plans to run for a club cross country team at whichever college he chooses.

As for Longwell, he will look to place a third straight state qualifier next year, a prospect seemingly more attainable the announcement last week Hampton will likely be moving down from Class AAA to AA.


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