Hempfield cross country teams looking to end season with strong finishing kick

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Monday, October 4, 2021 | 10:03 AM


Hempfield cross country coach Jeff Mayo came into the season with lofty expectations for the boys and girls teams.

But, after a 4-2 start for both squads, Mayo is feeling simultaneously let down and encouraged.

“My girls group was undefeated (in the section) last year, so I was kind of hoping for the same,” said Mayo, in his sixth season as coach. “The boys, I had seven juniors returning out of the top eight last year. I was expecting a lot from them, too. I was expecting both of them to be, hopefully, undefeated.”

Mayo acknowledged injuries have played a role, especially to the boys team.

Now that the boys are getting healthier, it appears that unit might be rounding into form at the right time, picking up a pair of wins over local rivals Norwin and Latrobe on Sept. 28.

As sophomores in 2020, Tyler Miller, Antonio Tuttoilmondo and Owen DeMatt were the Spartans’ top three finishers at the WPIAL championship. They have carried that momentum into this season.

“That large group of (junior) boys, it happens sometimes with that when you have a class with a lot of kids,” Mayo said. “They were thrown to the wolves last year.

“All three of them have had strong seasons so far, and they’re getting better at the right time of the season. Owen DeMatt has really taken off this year.”

DeMatt, also a lacrosse player, is the son of former Greensburg Salem runner Amy Mears DeMatt, who recently was inducted into the Washington and Lee Hall of Fame and, like Mayo, ran for a local high school cross country coaching legend in Steve Snider.

DeMatt finished with a time of 18 minutes, 22 seconds and placed 78th at the PIAA Foundation XC Invitational on Sept. 25. He finished 24th at the Cal (Pa.) Marty Uher Invitational earlier in the month.

On the girls side, Cydney Blahovec leads what Mayo calls a “four-headed monster.”

Blahovec is also a junior, and is one of a set of triplets competing in athletics at Hempfield.

Her sister, Abby, runs cross country and joins Cydney on the competitive cheer squad, where they are coached by their mother. Each Friday, the girls root on their brother, Ben, who plays football.

“(Cydney) is an amazing athlete,” Mayo said. “She’s not your traditional cross country runner. She’s very compact and muscular. She is extremely strong and has the ability to push through with her strength.”

Lily Murphy, a senior, finished second overall in the Sept. 28 meet with Norwin and Latrobe.

Julia Snider and Alicia Weimer, who was injured last season, are also top runners for the girls team.

“Those four have been our strong point of the season,” Mayo added.

While the last couple of weeks have brought some disappointing losses for both teams, Mayo believes a more complete effort could bring big results.

“If we can get them all to run good in one race, especially if it’s the county meet (Oct. 13), then we could vie for a championship,” Mayo said. “That’s the goal.

“I’m extremely proud of my teams. We have some unfinished business and, hopefully, we can finish up on a high note.”

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