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Mount Cobb – The challenge for the Elk Lake girls' cross country team used to be just being a "team."
Blessed with some of the top individuals in the area, including multiple state-medal winner Jessica Squier, the inability to keep at least five runners in action kept Elk Lake from being able to compete as a team.
Those problems are over now.
In their first full season competing as a full team, the Lady Warriors captured the District 2 Class AA championship Wednesday at Scranton Municipal Golf Course.
The victory followed up an unbeaten Lackawanna League champion season for Elk Lake and highlighted another impressive district effort by Susquehanna County girls.
Elk Lake and Blue Ridge finished 1-2 in the team standings to earn both teams a trip to the state meet.
Montrose's Tara Chiarella led the list of eight county girls in the top 17 spots in the 161-runner field and used her second-place finish to qualify for the state meet as an individual along with teammate Samantha Cudo.
The Elk Lake girls, however, stole the show. Their 64-95 lead over second-place Blue Ridge gave them the largest margin of victory of any of the four varsity races.
"This is the first Elk Lake varsity team to make it through a season," coach Will Squier said. "This is very satisfying.
"I'm so happy for these girls that they came up here and did what they were capable of doing."
That capability first showed three years ago when the same group combined to win the first of two straight junior high district titles.
"We knew the talent was there as long as they were willing to do the work at the next level," Squier said.
Juniors Ellen Squier and Rachel Owens and sophomore Kim Caines all finished in the top 10 to lead Elk Lake to the title.
Squier finished third in 20:16, placing behind only Chiarella and individual champion Alexandra Hackett of Wyoming Seminary.
Owens was eight seconds behind Squier in fourth place.
Caines took 10th in 21:02.
Lake Lehman was the only other team with more than one girl in the top 10, but coach Squier knew the Lady Warriors would need their depth to come through in order to hold off Blue Ridge.
Lisa Ruppert, who also plays soccer in the fall, was working her way back from a knee injury that had slowed her down recently. Ruppert came up with a 15th-place finish in 21:27.
Laura Nulton, one of three freshmen to fill the fifth through seventh spots in the Elk Lake lineup, sealed the win when she finished 33rd in 6:48.
"The real question mark was Ruppert," coach Squier said. "She ran very well. The last time we ran with Blue Ridge at Delaware Valley, they got five girls in ahead of her. This time, they only got two ahead of her.
"That was a huge difference."
Ruppert's performance gave Nulton some breathing room.
"I knew our fifth girl would probably get beat (by Blue Ridge's fifth)," Squier said. "It was her job to keep close."
Blue Ridge and Elk Lake ran together in each league meet as part of the Lackawanna League's cluster scheduling.
Squier said he was not surprised to see the Lady Raiders finish second.
"They've given us tough competition," he said. "They've been on our heels every race in our cluster."
Freshman Vikki Hartt led the way for the Lady Raiders, taking seventh in 20:53.
Maegan Lewis was 13th while Janelle Collins, Beth Stone and Megan Kliner all finished in the top 29.
Scranton Prep was the third state qualifying team with 104 points.
Montrose took eighth with 183 points. Susquehanna was 19th and Mountain View was 21st out of 22 teams.
Brenda King took 46th to give Montrose three runners in the top 50.
Christine Biegert finished 93rd to lead Susquehanna.
Two county sophomores qualified for state berths in the District 2 Class AA boys' race.
Elk Lake's Ryne Carney finished 20th in 18:12 and Susquehanna's Connor Frietag was two seconds behind him in 21st to reach the state meet.
The top three teams and the best 15 individuals who are not on those teams qualified for states.
Scranton Prep beat Lake Lehman for the team title, 77-86. Bishop O'Hara was third with 149 points.
Elk Lake was the top county team in sixth place with 206 points.
Mountain View, Montrose, Blue Ridge, Susquehanna and Forest City finished in order from 18th through 22nd place out of 26 teams.
Tad Koneski and Brent Salsman finished 30th and 31st, each missing a state berth by less than 10 seconds, for Elk Lake.
Forest City's Kent Corey also just missed with his 28th-place finish.
Montrose freshman Jimmy Baker was 51st in the 179-runner field.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Top-seeded Mountain View moved within two wins of its third straight District 2 Class A championship when it pounded St. Gregory's Academy, 6-1, in a boys' soccer playoff quarterfinal.
The Eagles racked up a 29-5 shot advantage and got three goals from Joe Scanlon.
Nick Stoud added two goals while Chad Lasher had a goal and an assist.
Forest City's perfect season came to an end in another Class A quarterfinal when the Foresters dropped a 2-1 decision to Bishop Hoban in double overtime.
Jonathan Chesnick scored for Forest City on a penalty kick.
In girls' soccer, Montrose needed a strong finish just to get into the playoffs then continued its surge with a 2-0 District 2 Class AA quarterfinal victory at Carbondale.
Caitlin Ely made 14 saves in the shutout win.
Autumn Ely scored off a Raina Upright assist in the first half. Brittany Ely added her 13th goal with 19 minutes left in the game.
Mountain View also advanced when it beat Bishop O'Hara, 3-1.
In high school football, Montrose came up short on a late two-point conversion attempt and lost at Bishop O'Hara, 7-6, Friday night.
The Meteors controlled play in the second half and finished with more first downs and rushing yards than the Bruins.
Levi Tiffany scored on a six-yard run with two minutes left to set up the try for the winning score.
Susquehanna's game was postponed from Saturday to Sunday and the Sabers eventually lost, 24-6, to Carbondale.
Laura Carden, a sophomore from Montrose, is a reserve forward on the Mansfield University field hockey team.
Carden has appeared in six games and has one shot on goal. She played in nine games last season and also had one shot.
Mansfield, a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II team, is 11-9 overall and 7-7 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Mansfield has suffered four of its losses in overtime.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The PIAA cross country state championship meet is scheduled for Saturday at the Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey.
The strong contingent of county girls will get started early, running in the first race at 9 a.m.
The Class AAA girls' race is scheduled for 10, the Class AA boys' race for 11 and the Class AAA boys' race for noon.
In high school football, the county's only two teams meet in the season finale when Susquehanna (0-4 in the division, 1-8 overall) plays at Montrose (1-3, 4-5) in a Lackawanna Football Conference Division III game.
Our high school football predictions for last week were 8-2, bringing our season record to 76-21 (78.4 percent).
This week's predictions, with the home team in CAPS: MONTROSE 16, Susquehanna 6; Abington Heights 49, NORTH POCONO 0; VALLEY VIEW 41, Honesdale 7; SCRANTON 27, Wallenpaupack 7; DELAWARE VALLEY 45, West Scranton 14; Lakeland 42, SCRANTON PREP 10; Mid Valley 30, WESTERN WAYNE 14; DUNMORE 17, Riverside 14; OLD FORGE 14, Bishop O'Hara 13; LACKAWANNA TRAIL 20, Carbondale 14.
In girls' volleyball, at least one county team will be in Thursday's District 2 Class A championship match.
The winners of the semifinals, which were scheduled for Tuesday at Susquehanna, will meet on a neutral court. Blue Ridge and Mountain View were playing in one semifinal while Bishop O'Reilly and the top-seeded Lady Sabers were scheduled for the other.
In boys' soccer, Mountain View was scheduled to play Wyoming Seminary Tuesday for a shot at Thursday's 6 p.m. District 2 Class A championship game at Scranton Memorial Stadium.
In girls' soccer, Mountain View and Montrose were each scheduled to play semifinals Monday in an effort to try to reach Wednesday's District 2 Class AA final at Scranton Memorial Stadium. Montrose was playing Dunmore and Mountain View was facing top-seeded Lakeland in the semifinals.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
STEWART Wins, Chase Tightens Up, Hampton, GA – Tony Stewart put on a dominating performance Sunday on the way to winning the Bass Pro Shops 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his fourth Nextel Cup victory of the season.
Tony Stewart celebrated his Atlanta win by climbing the flag stand.
Stewart, who is not in this year’s Chase, led 142 laps and finished ahead of Chase drivers, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Matt Kenseth. Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Joe Nemechek, and Robby Gordon rounded out the top 10.
The last caution came out on lap 309 of the 325-lap race, and involved Mark Martin, Kenny Wallace, Dale Jarrett, and Sterling Marlin.
Stewart, who was leading, pitted for fresh tires along with most of the leaders. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who was running second, elected to stay on the track.
When racing continued on lap 311, the leaders were Earnhardt, Carl Edwards, Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, and Jeff Gordon.
Stewart easily got by Edwards, and Earnhardt and pulled away. Two laps later, Johnson passed Earnhardt and began to slowly reel in Stewart, but at the finish line, it was Stewart over Johnson by several car-lengths.
“This is the first time we’ve had a good chance at winning in awhile,” said Stewart. “The car was awesome all day. It’s just a coincidence that it ran better after the sun went down.
“I didn’t have any worries on that last pit stop. I knew with four new tires we would be able to pass those other guys that didn’t pit, or just took two.”
In just three races, Johnson has jumped from eighth to second.
“I’m not disappointed in our performance at all,” said Johnson. “When the sun was out we had about a tenth-place car, but the guys gave me good pit stops that allowed me to get good track position.”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished third after not taking on fresh tires during the last caution.
“I thought it was the right thing to do, because my tires didn’t have all that many laps on them,” he said. “We hung on and I don’t think we would have run third if we hadn’t stayed out. Those guys were pretty good.”
Earnhardt moved from sixth to fourth in the Chase.
Matt Kenseth came back to finish fourth after over-shooting his pit stall early in the race, and still maintains the points lead.
“We got lucky today, because it didn’t run well at all on Saturday during practice,” said Kenseth. “It feels good to get a good finish. I just wish we could have run with Tony and Jimmie, so we’ve still got to get our stuff tuned up a little bit better.”
Kevin Harvick was the biggest Chase loser. He finished four laps down and dropped from second to sixth in points.
While Stewart was applauded by most of 130,000-plus fans, many of them were focused on the drivers that are in this year’s Chase. The scenario is just what NASCAR officials hoped for when they instituted the plan, but who is the driver to beat? With three races remaining, the top-five drivers all have a shot at winning.
Top-10 Chase Contenders: 1. Kenseth-6008, 2. Johnson-5982, 3. Hamlin-5943, 4. Earnhardt-5924, 5. Burton-5924, 6. Harvick-5887, 7. J. Gordon-5862, 8. Martin-5807, 9. Kahne-5798, 10. Kyle Busch-5759.
Kevin Harvick, the winner of Saturday’s Busch Series race at Memphis has already claimed the Busch Series title.
MIKE BLISS Wins Atlanta Truck Race – The top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders after 22 of 25 races: 1. Bodine-3285, 2. Benson-3199, 3. Reutimann-3095, 4. Musgrave-3014, 5. Crawford-3006, 6. Starr-2944, 7. Hornaday-2913, 8. Sprague-2867, 9. Cook-2863, 10. Bliss-2861.
CAR OF TOMORROW Is On Schedule – NASCAR has asked teams if they'd be interested in running the Car of Tomorrow in an exhibition race at Daytona next February – possibly the Budweiser Shootout – as a warmup for its October (restrictor plate) debut at Talladega Superspeedway.
The car is bigger, boxier, safer, yet slower than the current models allowed by NASCAR. Ryan Newman said the car is not drastically different from current cars and believes some of the hype over safety features are exaggerated.
“If it’s a better change in safety then it’s worth it, but it’s not all that it’s made out to be at this point,” he said.
“It does have some different aerodynamic characteristics and some things that we’re going to have to get used to because of the hole that it punches in the air compared to what we have now. It’s a bigger hole, which I think is going to make racing a little more difficult.”
The COT will be phased in next season, starting with the spring race at Bristol. The car was tested at Talladega the second week of October, and NASCAR would like another on-track session with restrictor plates before running it in an actual race.
Many crew chiefs support the idea. Although the idea makes sense, many car owners are against it because of the additional costs it would require to prepare two regular plate cars for use in the Daytona 500, and another two COT models for an exhibition race.
According to industry estimates, it costs nearly $300,000 to build and prepare each Cup car.
Series officials have also ruled out running the COT in Talladega's spring race. That means its first plate race will be during the 2007 Chase for the Championship. There has been speculation, that due to its boxy style, restrictor plates might not be necessary to keep speeds below 190 miles per hour.
In 2007, the COT will be instituted in 16 races, consisting of: Bristol (2 races), Martinsville (2), Phoenix (2), Richmond (2), Dover (2), New Hampshire (2), Darlington, Infineon Raceway, Watkins Glen, and Talladega (fall 2007).
The car will be utilized in 26 races in 2008, and all of the 2009 races.
Television Statistics Breakdown – Here are some of the commercial statistics for the October 22, Subway 500: Total number of commercials: 143; Number of companies or products advertised: 72; Additional brief promos of services/products: 30; Restarts missed due to commercials: 2; Total minutes: 241; Minutes of racing: 173; Minutes of commercials; 68; TV ratings were down 5.7 per cent from 2005.
All three of NASCAR’s major series will be racing this weekend at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, Ft. Worth, TX.
Friday, November 3, Craftsman Truck Series Silverado 350k, race 23 of 25, 147 laps, 9 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Saturday, November 4, Busch Series Texas 300, race 33 of 35, 200 laps, 2 p.m. TV: TNT.
Sunday, November 5, Nextel Cup Dickies 500, race 34 of 36, 334 laps, 2:30 p.m. NBC.
Racing Trivia Question: What year did Bill Elliott win the Winston Cup championship?
Last Week’s Question: How many Toyota teams will Michael Waltrip Racing field in 2007? Answer. MWR will field three teams. They will be driven by Michael Waltrip, Dale Jarrett and Wayne Reutimann.
If you have any NASCAR questions, e-mail them to: email@example.com.
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