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Graber, Mueller compete at States
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
For two miles last Saturday, Ben Mueller’s goals were still within striking distance.
Knowing he faced tough odds to win a medal at the PIAA State Triple-A Boys Cross Country Championships, the Warwick senior went into his final race hoping to improve his time from Districts on Hershey’s Parkview course.
His two-mile split was 10:58, just 10 seconds slower from the previous week.
In the end, however, Mueller didn’t have as much left in the tank over the third mile and he placed 152nd overall out of 219 finishers in a time of 17:44. That turned out be 38 seconds slower than his finish of 17:06 at Districts.
"Last year, I came into (States) and I was just kinda happy to be here," Mueller said. "I just ran the race to run the race. This year, I came in and I had some goals. It was more just ending the season on a good race … It wasn’t what I wanted. I was kinda disappointed."
Warwick’s Amanda Graber also competed on the State’s biggest stage, and although her sights were set on a faster time, the Lady Warriors’ sophomore was content with her finish of 21:23, placing her 161st out of 217 runners in the girls Triple-A race. Her task was made a little more difficult by an unfortunate collision with another runner just a half mile into the race.
"I was hoping to beat my time from last week (after completing the District race in 19:03). Looking back, it was somewhat of a good goal," Graber said, "but I think it was a little bit more unrealistic than I wanted it to be. The finish last week was flat, but this week, it was a big uphill. So it makes sense that my time was slower. But once realizing that, I didn’t want my time to be too much slower, so I think I got right around where I wanted to be."
Mueller was about where he wanted to be after the first mile, running a split (5:07) which was on par with his time at Districts (5:06).
But with the hills fast approaching and Mueller struggling to breathe with a cold, his pace began to slow a bit over the second half of the race.
"I kinda just tried to run it the same way as Districts — get out good, don’t get caught back," Mueller said. "I went out in pretty much the same time for the first mile. But then I was just worn out, tired and just kinda fell off."
Unlike the previous week, when Mueller was able to find a groove over the third mile, that never happened for him on Saturday. He placed 37th overall among District Three finishers and 9th in the field of L-L runners. Cumberland Valley senior Alec Kunzweiler, who won the District title, placed 21st in 16:28.
"I was kinda just holding on (after the second mile), just trying to get to the finish really," Mueller said. "… It wasn’t what I wanted. I was kinda disappointed. But it’s tough to come back from running that course at Districts and run it again. It just wasn’t as good a race as I wanted."
Still, Mueller was able to look back on his senior season with fond memories.
"I’ve had a lot of fun," he said. "It wasn’t exactly the year I wanted for my senior year. It was kinda up and down, but I went out on a good note. I ran pretty well at Leagues, I ran really good at Districts. So, no regrets or anything. I’m looking forward to track with all the guys coming back out. It should be fun."
While Mueller wrapped up his high school cross country career last Saturday, Graber put the finishing touches on a solid first season as a member of the varsity squad. Certainly, things could have been more positive if Graber hadn’t fallen after getting her legs tangled with another competitor early in the race.
"That affected me mentally, but I got back up and kept going," she said. "I felt like I was playing catch-up and I didn’t want it to happen again and I wanted to fight through it, but I sorta was holding back a little bit more because I didn’t want to fall again."
As it was, Graber still managed to run a first-mile time of 6:01, just three seconds slower than her split at Districts (5:58). The adrenaline and excitement of States was evident with the leaders from the get-go, as Triple-A girls champ Courtney Smith of Unionville ran an average mile pace of 5:54 en route to crossing the finish line in 18:16.
"The start was a lot faster. That hit me hard," she said. "I took off and went out fast with them and I think that hurt me in the end."
It no doubt took its toll on the hills as well, as Graber passed the two-mile point in 13:11.
"It definitely was slower going up the hills than I would have liked to be," she said.
At the finish line, Graber was 37th among District Three finishers and 5th on the list of L-L runners. District Three Triple-A champ Mady Clahane, a Cumberland Valley freshman, placed fourth overall in 18:40.
"My time wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but I was just happy to be here," Graber said. "And it wasn’t a bad time. So I was happy with it."
The Warwick sophomore credited her teammates for playing a big part in helping to make the experience a positive one.
"It was such a great season this year — it was just a great way to start my time on varsity," Graber said. "I was the only one who qualified for States, but every single day, the other girls were out practicing with me and keeping me motivated and they were in the van with me this morning coming up. Me getting here, I owe most of it to them because I wouldn’t have wanted to come if they weren’t with me." More STATES, page B-6