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Virus Cannot Stop Successful UP Cross-country Teams
Written by Ernie Quatrani, Correspondent
2020-10-28
Natalia Curley Blandin Conklin Donnie Miller


            With the cross-country season winding down, Coach Todd Niemann is ecstatic about how the girls and boys teams have performed this year and grateful that the squads have mostly side-stepped the obstacles presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

            But, he is also left wondering what could have been.

            "This is one of the best boy's teams I have ever had," Niemann said. "I believe we would have won the small school division this year but the league didn't split into divisions."

            The girls team, with 19 runners, was the largest Niemann has had in his 18 years as Upper Perk's coach. "We would have had close to 25 if not for COVID," he said.

            "We had to cut out a lot of the fun team activities because of the restrictions. Even so, it was still a positive experience for the kids."

            Those positive experiences will continue for some of the runners.

            The boys (3-4) will be represented at districts by junior Donnie Miller and senior Blandin Conklin and the girls (3-4) Natalia Curley, a senior, also qualified.

            Under the qualifying rules in effect this year, only the top three teams in the league advanced to districts which, for the first time in three decades, will not be held at Lehigh University. Tyler Park in Bucks County will be the venue.

            In Monday's final regular-season meet against Methacton, which was rescheduled after a COVID-scare for some Methacton runners, 10 of the 12 Upper Perk boys in the race set personal bests and Miller (16:47) finished first in a 24-36 loss. Conklin was third in 17:22.

            In the girls race, won by Methacton 17-40, Curley (22:10) placed fifth, followed by teammates Lauren Donahue (sixth/22:28), Abbie Fox (eighth/22:58) and Alexa Guerrero (ninth/23:00). Methacton's Molly Thomas won the race with a time of 21:36.

            "Natalia ran very conservatively because we knew we were going to lose and we are saving her for districts," Niemann said.

            Against Owen J. Roberts last Friday, the boys fell 24-32 and the girls lost 20-36.

            Owen J. Roberts Andrew McGonigle won the boys race in 16:27. Miller (16:41) and Conklin (17:14) finished in the next two spots while Hunter Alsberger (18:25) and Jon Carnesi (18:29) were the other two UP runners in the top ten.

            Miller, the owner of the Upper Perk course record, has had an outstanding year, winning several of Upper Perk's races. Last season he was only four seconds away from qualifying for states, but this year will be tougher because just 13 runners will move on, instead of 25.

            "The girls' race wasn't as close due to OJ being one of the best teams in District 1, we are not at that level but we are moving in the right direction," Niemann said.

            Curley (22:01) was the top Upper Perk finisher in the girls race, finishing fourth behind the Wildcats Claire Zubey (19:37). Upper Perk's Donahue (22:28), Fox (23:00) and Maggie Milkowich (23:14) finished sixth, seventh and eighth.

            "We improved greatly this year with the addition of two freshmen girls (Donahue and Milkowich) and first-year junior Abby Fox," Niemann said.

            "Alexa Guerrero and Ava Reil also have been tremendous. Our middle school girls look great too so the future is bright."

            The Upper Perk teams were very careful about maintaining safety protocols during the season. Early in the year a couple of runners had to quarantine after being exposed to the coronavirus and missed significant training time. Team members have also been absent from practice and/or meets because their parents had symptoms.

            "We have a protocol we have to follow, which the kids have been great following," Niemann related. "It can get annoying and it's certainly a lot of extra work but I am extremely thankful that we had a season."

            The teams only participated in dual meets. There were no invitationals nor PAC championships.

            "The season was still fun even though it was more stressful and nerve-racking with the virus out there. I hope we don't have to do this again next year," Niemann said. 


 

 

 

 

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