Pine-Richland cross country teams have season to remember

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Saturday, November 14, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Pine-Richland’s cross-country program had its best season since joining Class 3A in 1998 with the boys team finishing fifth at WPIALs and the girls being runners-up to North Allegheny.

Victor Williams, Meredith Price and Angelina Hunkele also individually qualified for states despite less available spots available due to covid-19 restrictions.

“It’s been a great, great season for the boys and the girls teams,” coach Mark Hunkele said. “The boys team finished higher than it ever has in 3A, and with the girls team, we wanted to win the WPIAL. We came up a little short, but we’re so happy and proud of everyone for doing the best they could. We know next year will be the best team we’ve ever had.”

Williams led the boys team with a 11th-place finish at WPIALs.

He ran the White Oak course, which was muddied due to heavy rainfall, in 16 minutes, 30 seconds. Williams finished 29th in the PIAA race.

“I’ve been looking forward to the WPIAL race all summer and since the quarantine,” Williams said. “Going to states is kind of the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae.”

He was followed by Joseph London, who lost a shoe near the WPIAL race’s midpoint, in 34th place and Kevin McLoughlin in 39th place. McLoughlin was the second-fastest freshman in the race.

Anthony Hartwick, George Nix, Chris Fisher and Nick Labuda finished in 49th, 50th, 52nd and 53rd.

The boys’ fifth-place team finish was a nine-spot leap from last year’s WPIAL race.

“I’m so happy for the guys because we all ran great races,” Williams said. “We put the work in over the season and represented when it came time for WPIALs. We put maximum effort in and pulled through. I’m so happy with the way we finished.”

Price led the girls team with a fourth-place finish in 18:38, advancing to Hershey for the second consecutive season.

Angelina Hunkele, a freshman, had a photo finish for the last state qualifying position. She earned the spot by a half-second faster than the next runner in 19:12.

“I wasn’t in position to qualify for most of the race, so when it came down to the last 200 meters, I knew I had to catch people,” Angelina Hunkele said. “I knew I could do it, and I had to make up for a slow start otherwise I wouldn’t have been too happy with myself. It means a lot to me under the conditions with covid-19 (causing) less runners to qualify.”

Elizabeth Hunkele placed 23rd, Audrey DeKunder was 29th, and Natalie McLean, who recently returned from an injury, finished in 31st. Breanna Franchak was 44th, and Elizabeth Shaffer was 66th.

A second-place finish as a team would normally qualify the girls for states.

“I couldn’t be prouder for my team,” Price said. “We’re disappointed we aren’t going to states together, but being a runner-up in WPIAL is pretty unbelievable. Not only am I proud we did well, but I know everyone gave everything they had.”

Price placed 10th at states, and Angelina Hunkele was 25th.

The Rams will return their top nine girls runners next season.

“We expect to have a really strong team again,” Mark Hunkele said. “We’re confident (the girls) can go after the WPIAL title again next year with everyone coming back.”

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