Shaler runners build to strong postseason

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Sunday, November 21, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Tyler Paszkowski and his Shaler cross country teammates started the season slow by design.

As the year wore on, the Titans wanted to utilize a strong taper to build toward sending as many athletes to the PIAA Class 3A championships as possible. Shaler’s strategy paid dividends for seniors Samantha Hennen, Ryan Paris and Paszkowski.

Hennen earned her third trip to states, Paszkowski his second and Paris his first.

“I think it helped because at the beginning of the year, we started slow,” Paszkowski said. “As we started cutting miles, we started getting faster.”

The return to the PIAA meet was especially sweet for Paszkowski, who finished in 46th place with a time of 17 minutes, 1.6 seconds in Hershey. Last season ended with a disaster for Paszkowski.

During the WPIAL meet at White Oak Park, Paszkowski was tripped, fell twice at the beginning of the race and was unable to make up ground on the field. Bad luck coupled with the pandemic limiting the number of qualifiers out of the WPIAL left Paszkowski on the outside looking in.

When the weather conditions at WPIALs were also bad for the race at Cal(Pa.) this year, Shaler coach Justin Eskra was nervous.

“When the race started and we saw the conditions at Cal U and how awul it was coming up and down the hill, I was biting my lip,” Eskra said. “I, and the other coaches, were hoping we could get out of this with no one slipping and tripping up my kids. We wanted to just run to place and get out of here alive.”

Paris and Paszkowski, who placed 10th and 11th at WPIALs, weren’t tentative despite the sloppy conditions. They wanted to work together to try to pick off their competition.

“We decided to work neck-and-neck and work off each other instead of trying to play chase,” Paszkowski said.

Hennen also had a strong race at WPIALs, placing 10th with a time of 19:59.5. At states, she finished 21st with a time of 19:18.90.

“The seniors provided leadership for all the kids in the program,” Eskra said. “They laughed because I got to be the bus driver for the season. Every kid rode out on the bus and came back on the bus. They had a lot of fun being able to share the experience with each other.”

Paszkowski, who plans to run in college, was pleased to have one more opportunity at the state’s biggest stage.

“It was fun running since middle school and getting closer and closer each year,” Paszkowski said. “We started talking and hanging out more this year. It was fun to all go out together at states.”

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