Shaler cross country wants to continue program’s growth

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Thursday, August 29, 2019 | 6:00 PM


Years of rebuilding the middle school cross country program started to show progress at the varsity level for Shaler Area last season.

After a five-year absence, the Titans had two runners — Samantha Hennen and Dalton Kalbaugh — reach the PIAA Class AAA championships.

While neither earned a medald, Hennen, a sophomore who finished 48th, and Kalbaugh, a senior who placed 36th, will return to take another shot at continuing their progression.

Shaler coach Justin Eskra hopes to see another step forward when the Titans tackle the Red, White, and Blue Invitational on Sept. 7 at the Schenley Oval.

Eskra hopes Hennen and Kalbaugh provided the proper motivation.

“A lot of our kids went to states to watch with their parents,” Eskra said. “A lot of them said, ‘That’s an experience I want to have myself.’ We’re hoping to get three boys and two girls to states. Last year, our guys went from dead last in teams at WPIALs to 14th. … Having those experiences made the other kids want those for themselves.”

Danielle Eshelman, a junior, will be one runner pushing to reach the same level as Hennen and Kalbaugh.

Over the summer, Hennen and Eshelman went to a running camp at the University of Colorado to gain more knowledge.

“Identifying training techniques, putting workouts together and having the right nutrition will be a big help,” Eskra said. “Also to add flexibility and mobility, it will help her be a better runner.”

Eskra believes the Titan girls will make an impact.

“On the girls’ side, the full expectation is Sam and Danielle will be at states this year,” Eskra said. “(Danielle) is fully healthy, and Sam will be healthy. It will be a strong 1-2. Now, the rest of the sophomores and juniors will have to fill in the three-four-five gaps. They will have a major improvement. They are older and strong.”

On the boys’ side, other than Kalbaugh, Tyler Paskowski and Ryan Paris will help give the Titans depth. Rounding out the bottom of the top five will determine how successful the team will be once districts roll around.

“We don’t have the runners on the guys’ side to be a dominant team,” Eskra said. “We are still picking up the pieces here or there.”

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