Pair of Shaler Area runners advance to PIAA championship meet

Thursday, November 1, 2018 | 7:39 PM

Dalton Kalbaugh seldom runs as far as his dad, Tom, does. The Shaler Area junior cross country runner has watched his dad tackle ultramarathons.

Having such a strong influence helped Dalton get into distance running himself.

“When I was in primary school, he was signing up for 5Ks,” he said. “That’s when I got into running. My dad got into running after he was in the military.”

Kalbaugh’s persistence with the sport paid off at the WPIAL Class AAA championships Oct. 25 at Cal (Pa.). After missing the PIAA meet last season by three spots, Kalbaugh finished in 16 minutes, 51 seconds to place 10th and earn a spot at states.

Along with freshman Samantha Hennen, who finished in 20:14 to place 18th on the girls’ side, the Titans had their first two state qualifiers since Brianna Schwartz won the PIAA title in 2014.

Shaler coach Justin Eskra was impressed with Hennen’s demeanor throughout the year.

“She has a cool, calm, collected composure,” Eskra said. “She’s very attentive. She doesn’t overthink things. Sam just goes out and runs hard.”

As a team, the Shaler boys finished 15th and the girls came in 22nd. Freshmen Ryan Paris (66th) and Tyler Paszkowski (79th) also placed in the top 100 for the guys, while Danielle Eshelman finished in 52nd place for the Titans.

Eskra said he knew Kalbaugh would put in the work to advance after their exit interview following WPIALs last season.

“We talked about increasing mileage, overall strength and endurance,” Eskra said. “He runs with his dad, who is a marathoner, and his dad’s friends. Dalton has a good support system in the running community. We would talk about where he is and what kind of workout to do today. He’s very open about how he feels.”

In training, Kalbaugh upped his mileage from 45 a week to 60. As the championships got closer, Kalbaugh focused on tapering down and taking extra rest to protect his body.

By race time, Kalbaugh was focused on taking advantage of the new course. He came up with a game plan and wanted to pace himself by running with Mars’ Zachary Leachman, who finished 14th.

“Hearing from some of the coaches, they thought it was going to be hillier,” Kalbaugh said. “I like running hilly courses. I knew the big hill was on mile two, which was good for me. Knowing kids might be dying by then helped. I made my move up the hill and tried to hang on.”

Kalbaugh found a way to hang on.

That earned him an opportunity to compete with the state’s best.

“I haven’t run out there before,” Kalbaugh said. “I’m looking to go out with best guys and run hard, make improvements and my senior year and strive for placing next year.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.


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