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MOUNT COBB – The Elk Lake and Blue Ridge girls' cross country teams have had their eyes on each other all season.
How could they not?
Paired together as traveling partners in the Lackawanna League's cluster meet format, they have been at the same course, running against the same opponents every week. Only one of their gatherings was officially against each other, but both teams have been aware of the presence of runners from the other school in what often is the best competition for the two strong teams.
The field expanded Wednesday from the usual half dozen or so to 18 full teams and runners from five other schools.
The extra schools may have crowded Scranton Municipal Golf Course with 132 runners, but the competition never changed.
Once again, it was Elk Lake leading and Blue Ridge chasing.
The two Susquehanna County rivals finished in the top two spots, using the meet to take two of the three District 2 Class AA berths in Saturday's Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association championship meet.
"They wore us out," Elk Lake coach Will Squier said after his Lady Warriors edged the Lady Raiders, 61-67, to follow up an unbeaten regular season by successfully defending their district title. "We run every single race with them.
"They're not scored (officially), but everyone is scoring it. It's tough for our girls to handle that with someone so close to them."
In mythical dual meet scoring, Blue Ridge has come as close as one point, but has not gotten past Elk Lake this season. The six-point margin in such a large field is not much different.
"They've never beat us, but they've been within one point in one of the races as an unofficial score," Squier said. "You know it's in their mind all the time.
"It's in our girls’ heads, too. If you slip, they're going to catch you."
Blue Ridge's top four finishers are underclassmen and its seven-runner lineup featured two freshmen and two sophomores.
Elk Lake's top three runners are seniors and the fourth is a junior, all returning from the fifth-place team in the state a year ago.
Blue Ridge freshman Allison Hall finished the 3.1-mile course in 20:03 to finish second to Hanover Area senior Alyssa Namey by seven seconds.
"Alison had a great race," Squier said.
Hall was 27 seconds, but just one place in front of Elk Lake's Rachel Owens.
Blue Ridge's fifth runner finished nine places ahead of Elk Lake's fifth.
That left it up to Lisa Ruppert, Ellen Squier and Kim Caines to make up at least 10 points. They handled the task with room to spare by taking fifth, 10th and 12th places.
"Our 2-3-4 girls carried us," coach Squier said.
Ruppert stayed with Owens as long as she could, finished 23 seconds later, then watched as the win was locked up behind her.
"I wasn't really thinking about the score," she said. "I was just making sure all my teammates were coming in OK. I was not paying attention to the other teams, so I couldn't tell for sure.
"It's tough. Every race we're in, it's pretty much Blue Ridge that is our main competition."
The top three teams and the best 15 individuals from other teams earn state berths.
Montrose's Samantha Cudo finished 20th to join the Blue Ridge and Elk Lake teams at states.
Montrose was seventh with 188 points, losing the sixth-runner tiebreaker to Lake-Lehman for sixth place. Susquehanna was 13th with 384 points, and Mountain View was 18th with 551.
Montrose freshman Samantha Abbott was 29th.
In the boys' race, the Elk Lake team made it to the state meet by finishing third with 108 points.
Squier said the Warriors concentrated on chasing first-place Scranton Prep (59 points) and Holy Redeemer (75) rather than Holy Cross (fourth with 125) or Dunmore (fifth with 138).
"I told them the best way to assure states is to race to beat the number-one team, Scranton Prep," Squier said. "You have a better chance if you're trying to beat them than somebody who is behind you."
Ryne Carney led the Warriors, taking fifth in 17:46.
Brent Salsman was 14th, Tyler Williams 19th, Bryan Grosvenor 28th and Cory Benscoter 42nd.
Montrose was 16th with 393 points, followed by Forest City with 440, Susquehanna with 447 and Blue Ridge in 19th with 473. There were 22 teams plus individuals from two other schools.
Before the Lady Warriors won their district title, both Elk Lake junior high teams swept to impressive district championships.
The Elk Lake boys took the top three spots while rolling over Holy Cross, 28-82.
The Elk Lake girls took the top two spots and three of the top five while beating out Dallas, 46-59.
Michael Bedell finished the 1.8-mile course in 10:30. He was followed by Will Bennett in 10:47 and Sean Carney in 10:51.
Jeff Horvath placed ninth and Luke Jones was 13th.
Montrose was 10th with 273 points, Blue Ridge was 11th with 290, Mountain View 13th with 319 and Susquehanna 15th with 391. There were 19 full teams and three partials.
Montrose's Ryan Martin was 14th.
Seventh-grader Kirsten Hollister won the girls' race in 11:59, followed by Maria Trowbridge in 12:14.
Kati Vanetten was fifth, Abby Zdancewicz 15th and Emily Williams 26th.
Emily Carmody of Susquehanna was 16th.
Forest City had 186 points to place seventh in the race, which featured 16 full and six partial teams.
Blue Ridge was 11th with 273 and Montrose was 14th with 359.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Rob Volk made the most of three completions and the Montrose defense picked off five passes Friday night as the Meteors posted their win of the Lackawanna Football Conference season, 21-15, over Holy Cross.
Andy Burgh made his third interception of the game, in the end zone as time ran out, to clinch the win.
Volk threw touchdown passes of 80 yards to David Colvin in the first quarter for an 8-0 lead and 61 yards to Jeff Liddick in the second quarter for a 15-7 lead.
Volk's 22-yard pass set up Jared Fowler's three-yard touchdown run with less than two minutes left to break a 15-15 tie.
Sean McGowan carried 38 times for 240 yards and two touchdowns for Holy Cross.
Liddick also had an interception.
Susquehanna's game at Carbondale was postponed from Friday to Saturday when the Chargers beat the Sabers, 43-20.
The Sabers, however, could be in line for a forfeit win.
District 2 officials are looking into a situation where Mid Valley reportedly used an ineligible player in three victories. The Spartans could be forced to forfeit those wins, including one over Susquehanna.
According to a source, a student attended Bishop O'Hara as a freshman in the fall of 2003. That same student then transferred to Mid Valley where he enrolled as a freshman in 2004 and continued to play sports through 2007, which would be his fifth year of high school sports.
In girls' soccer, Montrose's Julie Koloski scored on an assist from Chelsea Lunger, and Meghan Butler made 10 saves as the Lady Meteors knocked off Mountain View, 1-0, in a District 2 Class AA quarterfinal.
Mountain View lost, 2-1, to Lakeland earlier in the week in the Lackawanna League North Division championship game.
In boys' soccer, three-time defending champion Mountain View was the only one of three Susquehanna County teams to get through the quarterfinal round of the District 2 Class A tournament.
Jordan Davis scored on a penalty kick in the first half and David Corbin made seven saves to lead the Eagles to a 1-0 victory over Holy Cross.
Mountain View, which competes in Division I of the Lackawanna League, won two play-in games just to get into the district bracket.
St. Gregory's shut out Montrose, 5-0, and Wyoming Seminary eliminated Lackawanna League Division III champion Forest City, 5-2.
Division I was the last to finish in the Lackawanna. The final standings were: Abington Heights 14-0, Scranton Prep 8-5-1, Delaware Valley 8-6, North Pocono 7-7, Wallenpaupack 6-7-1, Scranton 6-8, Honesdale 3-10-1 and Mid Valley 2-11-1.
In professional hockey, the Binghamton Senators climbed to the .500 mark when they won their first meeting of the season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 4-2, in Wilkes-Barre Saturday night.
Denis Hamel had a hat trick and an assist to lead the win.
In professional football, Montrose graduate Chris Snee was in action when the New York Giants brought the National Football League to London, England.
The Giants won their sixth straight, beating the winless Miami Dolphins, 13-10.
Snee, the starting right guard, continued to lead New York's dominant ground game, which averaged more than five yards per carry. The Giants rushed for 189 yards on 37 carries.
Joe Scanlon, a freshman from Mountain View, helped Misericordia University finish the soccer regular season with a 12-4-1 record.
Misericordia went 7-0-1 in the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference.
Scanlon was the team's fourth-leading scorer with five goals and two assists. Two of his goals were game-winners. He played in all 17 games, making 14 starts.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Montrose is at Susquehanna Saturday at 1 p.m. in the final football game of the season for both teams.
Both teams are 1-8 overall. Montrose is 1-3 in Division 3 of the LFC while Susquehanna is 0-4.
Our high school football predictions were 8-2 (80 percent) last week, bringing our season record to 78-18 (81.3 percent).
This week's predictions, with home team in CAPS are: Montrose 28, SUSQUEHANNA 27; WEST SCRANTON 30, Delaware Valley 23; Scranton 20, WALLENPAUPACK 19; Valley View 25, HONESDALE 24; Dunmore 23, RIVERSIDE 22; LAKELAND 34, Scranton Prep 14; MID VALLEY 48, Western Wayne 19; Lackawanna Trail 35, CARBONDALE 17; Old Forge 31, HOLY CROSS 21; ABINGTON HEIGHTS 30, North Pocono 6.
In girls' volleyball, the District 2 Class A championship is set for Wednesday.
Blue Ridge entered Monday's semifinals against Susquehanna as the top seed. Mountain View was also in the field.
In boys' soccer, the District 2 Class A championship game is scheduled for Wednesday. Mountain View was scheduled to play in the semifinals Monday.
In cross country, the state meet is Saturday in Hershey at the Parkview Cross Country Course, beginning with the Class AA girls' race at 9 a.m. Squier expects Elk Lake and Blue Ridge to battle it out one more time there.
"I've got to think the two of us could be in the top five at states," Squier said. "I've got to believe that."
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
Tire Strategy Pays Off For Johnson, Hampton, GA – Pit strategy and a caution on the green/white/checkered finish gave Jimmie Johnson his second win of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and the eighth of 2007.
Jimmie Johnson, winner of Sunday's Pep Boys 500 Nextel Cup at Atlanta.
“I got a good start on the last restart, and I knew I was in pretty good shape,” said Johnson. “Today wasn’t the best day for this car, but it was decent. It was the way that circumstances worked out there at the end that gave us the win.”
His win coupled with Jeff Gordon’s seventh place finish moved Johnson to just nine points behind Gordon, his teammate.
Johnson’s victory in the Nextel Cup Pep Boys 500 gave Hendrick Motorsports their 16th win in the last 33 races.
With 12 laps to go, fuel, or the lack of it came into play for most of the cars. But during lap 318 of the 325-lap race, Johnny Sauter blew a tire on his No. 70, bringing out a caution. Most the leaders pitted for fuel and tires.
Denny Hamlin, driver of Gibbs Racing No. 11 was one of the few leaders to remain on the track.
Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and the Reed Sorenson team elected to take on only two tires, while the remainder of those who pitted got four fresh ones.
When green flag racing resumed, Hamlin was the new leader, followed by Johnson, Carl Edwards, and Earnhardt, Jr.
Hamlin had run out of fuel while running the four caution laps, and could not get his car up to speed on the restart. There was a melee of piled up cars at the start/finish line as cars stacked up behind him.
Kyle Busch, who had led for much of the race, was one of the cars involved.
NASCAR threw another caution to sort out the mess of bashed up cars.
It was to be a green/white/checkered finish, with Johnson, Edwards, Earnhardt, Sorenson, Jamie McMurray, and Jeff Burton leading the others.
Johnson got a good jump over Edwards on the restart. The left rear wheel flew off Dale Earnhardt’s No. 8, as he entered turn-2, sending him into the outside wall, and collecting Jamie McMurray.
Since NASCAR only makes one attempt at a green/white/checkered finish, the field was frozen, and the victory went to Johnson.
Edwards finished second, followed by Reed Sorenson, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, and Brian Vickers.
“Man, I would have given anything for those last two laps to have gone green,” said Edwards, who out dueled Johnson for the 2005 Atlanta win. “It would have been a heck of a race.”
Matt Kenseth finished fourth after starting last.
“It wasn’t a really great performance for us today,” said Gordon. “We struggled for the middle part of the race. It’s all about sticking with it, and we did. The car was awesome there at the end.”
Tony Stewart and his No. 20 team missed the setup and he struggled throughout the entire 325-lap race. During lap 195, Stewart pitted after his oil gauge reading dropped to zero. He thought the engine was about to blow, but it was only a faulty gauge.
Chase Contenders with three races to go: 1. J. Gordon-6201, 2. Johnson-6192, 3. Bowyer-6090, 4. Edwards-5940, 5. Kyle Busch-5882, 6. Stewart-5879, 7. Harvick-5809, 8. J. Burton-5801, 9. Kurt Busch-5782, 10. Hamlin-5777, 11. Kenseth-5753, 12. Truex Jr.-5688.
Top-10 Busch Series leaders: 1. Edwards-4364, 2. Reutimann-3833, 3. Leffler-3606, 4. Harvick-3523, 5. Ragan-3464, 6. Hamilton Jr.-3313, 7. Leicht-3203, 8. Ambrose-3152, 9. Biffle-3136, 10. M. Wallace-3083.
Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders: 1. Hornaday-3547, 2. Skinner-3543, 3. Kvapil-3227, 4. T. Bodine-3139, 5. Benson-3139, 6. Crawford-3076, 7. Musgrave-2754, 8. Crafton-2666, 9. Starr-2610, 10. Sprague-2602.
OTHER RACING NEWS
While Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have been getting most of the headlines because they are the Chase leaders, there is plenty of other news among teams and in the garage area.
HAAS CNC Racing announced Jeremy Mayfield would replace Jeff Green in the No. 66, beginning with Atlanta. HAAS announced earlier that Scott Riggs, currently with Gillette/Evernham Motorsports would replace Green or Johnny Sauter, driver of the No. 70 in 2008. It was not announced which car Mayfield will drive next season.
Mayfield has been driving for Bill Davis Racing, but has qualified for only 13 of the 32 races going into Atlanta. His season-best finish was 22nd in September at Kansas. He is currently ranked 48th in the standings.
Mike Skinner and Johnny Benson, who drive for BDR in the Craftsman Truck Series, will alternate in the seat vacated by Mayfield.
According to the Associated Press, Sauter is receiving mixed signals about his future at Haas CNC Racing, but believes the overriding message from the team is clear. “The word put to me is, we're not going to tell you that you have a job, we're not going to tell you that you don't,” Sauter said. “They haven't said I'm going to be released, but yet they're saying I should be out there looking for something.
“That means I need a job, you know what I mean? The fact that I've been told to look strongly suggests that I should start beating the bushes. I've never been in limbo quite like this before.”
The three-time winner in the Busch Series would like to continue in the Nextel Cup series, but the prospects seem dim because most of next season's rides have been filled.
If released, Sauter might be headed to Robby Gordon Motorsports. Gordon has said he will add a second Nextel Cup team in 2008 and that Sauter is a candidate, provided he can bring sponsorship.
Gordon said his shop is ready to integrate a second team and have nine Cars of Tomorrow completed. All they need is a second sponsor.
Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti tested for Chip Ganassi Racing last Wednesday at Kentucky Speedway in preparation for Saturday’s Busch Series race at Memphis.
The race was the third stock car race for the reigning Indy-Car champion, who will become a regular for Ganassi Racing in 2008. Franchitti has competed in one ARCA Re-Max Series event and one Craftsman Truck race.
The 2007 NASCAR season is winding down. There are only four more races left. This weekend the Nextel Cup and Craftsman Truck teams are at the 1.54-mile Atlanta Superspeedway, while the Busch Series races on the 0.75-mile track at Memphis Motorsports Park.
Saturday, October 27: Craftsman Truck Series Easycare Vehicle Service Contract 200, race 22 of 25, 130 laps, 12:30 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Busch Series Sam’s Town 250, race 32 of 35, 250 laps, 3 p.m. TV: ESPN2.
Sunday, October 28, Nextel Cup Bass Pro Shops 500, race 33 of 36, 325 laps, 1 p.m. TV: ABC.
Racing Trivia Question: He was nicknamed, “The Taxi Cab Driver From Detroit,” because he listed it as his occupation on his NASCAR race entry forms. Who was this former series champion?
Last Week’s Question: His first and middle name is Robert Glenn. What is the last name of this former, old-time NASCAR racing great? Answer: Red Byron, the 1949 NASCAR Champion.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at email@example.com.
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