Shaler cross country trying to peak at right time

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Friday, September 20, 2019 | 8:46 AM


Justin Eskra has tried to carefully build up several Shaler Area athletes to make a run for qualifying for the PIAA Class AAA championships.

By altering training, entering new races and setting up specific workout plans, the school’s cross country coach wanted to make sure everyone was on the right pace.

That’s why he signed up as early as possible for the 13th PIAA Foundation Invitational on Sept. 21 at Hershey Parkview cross country course.

It provides an opportunity for the Shaler athletes to get an early taste of what the state championship course is like.

Two of the Titans’ runners — Samantha Hennon and Dalton Kalbaugh — qualified last season.

“Outside of states, this is the biggest, most competitive meet in Pennsylvania,” Eskra said. “That’s what we’ve been training for. We didn’t want them to taper off before the Red, White & Blue and not have a period where they weren’t in a heavy training mode for the foundation meet. We had two meets at our home course and they felt good running. I’m excited for this weekend.”

Danielle Eshelman, Ryan Paris and Tyler Paszkowski also will compete in the event for the Titans.

Eskra has had a tough go of things early in the season.

Two of his top five runners on the girls side have been sidelined with injuries.

On the boys side, Shaler has opened 1-2 in dual meets with the win coming by a 29-30 score over North Hills.

Kalbaugh, Paszkowski and Paris finished first, second and third in the meet against the Indians.

At the Red, White & Blue Classic at Schenley Park, the Titans boys finished 22nd.

“Our training was heavier,” Eskra said. “We wanted to be ready for the foundation meet. I was OK with how they raced at the Red, White & Blue. Pacing-wise, we have to work on race strategy for this year.”

Most important for Shaler will be getting healthy.

The Titans don’t have the depth in their program that many of their larger competitors do.

“One of the biggest concerns I have from a coaching perspective is having a training program for each of the kids based on their ability and talent,” Eskra said. “We are trying to fill a full squad and have a healthy team year after year. We have five guys, and with two girls hurt, we are down to eight 100% healthy runners.”

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