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Cross Country Fielding a Young Team
Written by Ernie Quatrani Correspondent
2014-09-03

Upper Perk and Quakertown girls take off from the starting line during a scrimmage last Wednesday. The event, originally slated to be a non-league meet, was, designated a scrimmage because of the intense heat on the day of the race. 

        Cross country coach Todd Niemann begins his twelfth season at Upper Perk with a young squad bolstered by two veteran runners who both qualified for states last season.

        Senior Jake Keiper will lend his experience to the boys team while senior Rachel Landis will be the elder statesperson for the girls.

        Keiper was a Pioneer Athletic All-Conference selection last year and recorded his best time, 16:20, in a tri-meet against Boyertown and Pottstown in 2013.

        One of four seniors on the boys team, Keiper is ready to lead by example and help maximize the team's daily preparation, including "how to work hard day in and day out."

        As most of the team did, Keiper subjected himself to hard summer workouts and high mileage. "I feel a lot more ready for this season than I have in the past," said Keiper, who is determined to place at states.

        His coach has noticed. "Jake has looked really good," Niemann said.

        Other returnees include seniors Jack Donahue and Ryan Dockery. Landon Detweiler, who was a revelation as a freshman last year, is also back.

        They will be joined by six freshmen, giving Niemann one of his deepest boys teams in years.

        "We have some really good freshmen who will contribute right away," Niemann said, singling out Cameron Junk and Evan Hanney.

        Donahue is splitting his time with soccer and will miss most of the PAC-10 meets, but will be around for invitationals and the postseason.

        Last week's scheduled non-league meet against Quakertown was, by mutual agreement, designated a scrimmage because of the intense heat on the day of the race. It was still beneficial, however.

        "I was pretty pleased with both myself and the team," Keiper reported. "We had some really good performances from some of the younger guys."

        On the female side of the team, Rachel Landis ran 21:36 at states last fall after posting a 20:22 at the District I championship. During the regular season in 2013, Rachel ran a personal best, 20:13, in a dual meet against Boyertown and Pottstown.

        Despite her slower time at States, Landis found value in participating at the highest level of competition, an adventure she called the highlight of her cross country career so far.

         "It was a good learning experience," Rachel said. "It was good for me to go and actually participate. I enjoyed it."

        And it has helped Landis to set her goals for this season. "I would really like to break 20 (minutes) in the 5K. Of course, there's always going to states," Landis said.

        There is less depth on the  10-member girls team, always a factor in the PAC-10 races, and states will be harder to get to because the Phoenixville girls team has jumped to AAA, eliminating five invitations in AA.

        Juniors Hayley Martin and Jamie Weeks and sophomores Lauren Weeks and Sam Hannon also return from the 2013 squad. They will be supplemented by three freshmen including Leanne Markhalter who did very well in the Upper Perk Middle School program.

        Both teams will be battling some elite squads. The PAC-10 is very strong in cross country, boasting teams like Pottsgrove which Niemann touts as the best AA team in the state.

        "It's just hard to compete with numbers.  Spring-Ford has like 110 kids.  Our focus the last two years has been on invitationals and the district race," Niemann said as his teams prepared to run their opening PAC-10 meets against Pope John Paul yesterday (Wednesday).

        "The league is out of reach for us at this point, but we have some really good young runners, so, hopefully, in a couple of years we'll be a contender for the PAC-10 title."

        Niemann also noted that it is never too late to join the team. "It is a great sport for staying in shape," said Niemann who likes to add fun touches, such as a trip to Shady Maple this Saturday after the Twin Valley meet.


 

 

 

 

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