Penn Hills runners deal with injuries, illness

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Thursday, October 11, 2018 | 11:27 PM


For a team with limited runners, the one thing Penn Hills cross country couldn’t afford was injuries or illnesses.

That’s exactly what happened to the Indians as their top runners on the boys and girls teams fell victim to a bug.

The boys team recently lost sophomore Jonah Silverman to a quad injury he suffered while playing for the Indians’ soccer team. Silverman was unavailable to run in the Section 4-3A meet Oct. 3 at Northmoreland Park.

Silverman started the season with a 47th-place finish (21:04) at the Gateway Invitational on Sept. 1. In the next meet, Silverman ran a 19:48.6 to earn 199th place at the Red, White and Blue Classic on Sept. 8. Prior to his injury, Silverman finished 103rd with a time of 20:24.5 at the Kiski Area Cross Country Invitational on Sept. 15.

On the girls side, senior Caroline Webb has missed time due to illness, and coach Lee Zelkowitz hopes to have her back to finish the remainder of the season. With only four runners on the girls team, the Indians have had to forfeit dual meets.

Webb finished 69th with a time of 30:05 at the Gateway Invitational, and was 191st in the Red, White and Blue Classic (25:23.8). In the Kiski Area Cross Country Invitational, Webb finished 70th with a time of 26:36.3.

“Having this low numbers is really tough. If one goes down there is no one to replace. Even with the guys, we have a few to play with but still we have a limited number to play with,” Zelkowitz said.

“It really helps if you have some numbers not only to put someone in when someone goes down, but it helps them practice too because they start competing against each other and really improves everybody. It’s hard to work like that. That is something I need to improve on for next year.”

Heading into the season, Zelkowitz was hoping to have Webb’s services during the cross country season as she prepares herself for the her final track season.

“Hopefully, she can get healthy enough to get back to finish cross season and maybe she’ll have a healthy indoor and outdoor season and finish strong for her senior year,” Zelkowitz said.

“It’s frustrating as a coach, but it has to be frustrating for her. I feel really bad for her because she can’t catch a break.”

In Silverman’s absence, Zelkowitz has been pleased with the development of senior Brennon Williams-Howard and junior Darien Mallory. The duo led the Indians in the section meet with times of 20:42.6 (51st place) and 21:06.9 (56th place).

On the girls side, the Indians were paced by senior Kristina Hilko, who was 54th with a time of 29:53.1.

“They’re really good kids. I really enjoy them. Even the seniors, they are really new to the sport. You’re treating as first-time runners even though this will be their last year running cross country,” Zelkowitz said.

“They bought into our system and are training hard, but you just have to set your goals the way it is. I’m hoping they go out on a good note.”

The Indians will look to end the cross country season on a high note when they compete in the WPIAL Class 3A meet Oct. 25 at Cal (Pa.).

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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