Mueller moves on to PIAA Championships

By on November 2, 2011

By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer

Photo by Preston Whitcraft
Warwick's Michael Urban (left) and Ben Mueller (right) push forward at the District Championship Meet last Wednesday.Photo by Preston Whitcraft
Warwick's Michael Urban (left) and Ben Mueller (right) push forward at the District Championship Meet last Wednesday.

Ben Mueller saved his best race this season for the perfect time.

Executing a well-planned strategy, the Warwick junior placed 24th at the District Three Triple-A Championships in 17:08 at Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey.

That not only earned him a District medal, but also punched his ticket to the PIAA State Championships, set for this Saturday, Nov. 5.

"Ben had the race of his season," Warwick coach Jenny Sassaman said. "I’ve been waiting for this one all year. He needs a bigger summer base and he’s just going to be a threat to the League title next year — that’s my prediction — if he has his homework and he has a fabulous track season."

Sophomore Michael Urban nearly advanced as well, taking 39th place in 17:22. Cedar Crest sophomore Daniel Neiswender, who finished 37th in 17:21, claimed the final State berth in the boys’ Triple-A race. There were 357 finishers in the race.

"Two lousy places … one second," Sassaman said. "But I said, ‘You can either hang your head and feel sorry for yourself or you can remember this because you’ve got lots of chances. You’re not a senior. The next race you have, just remember that feeling’ … He’s our super soph. He’s awesome. He’s still learning how to race and he’s still not totally off his bike. He loves cycling, but he’s starting to learn running more."

The Warriors actually had a goal to go to States as a team, and they almost accomplished that as well. Needing to finish in the top five, the Warwick boys took seventh overall with 304 points. Lower Dauphin (287) clinched the final berth, followed by Hempfield (301) and then the Warriors.

"They were very disappointed," Sassaman said. "We didn’t have Carlos (Rivera), we didn’t have Alex, we didn’t have Austin Minnich, but the guys that we did have, I really raised the bar for them very high and they’re capable of it. But they would have all needed to have an A-plus game for that day. There was no margin for error and that’s a lot to ask."

In the girls race, Warwick, led by sophomore Amy Wood’s 90th-place finish in 21:26, took 30th out of 46 teams with 788 points. There were 337 finishers in the girls’ Triple-A race.

Mueller and Urban, meanwhile, were tied in a pack of runners for 40th place at the one-mile point in a split of 5:05. But they remained strong throughout the race, particularly on the hills on a very demanding 5K course.

Mueller placed seventh among L-L runners, behind Solanco’s John Ausel, Penn Manor’s Harrison Schettler, Ephrata’s Tyler Sensenig, Elizabethtown’s Nate Kreider, Manheim Township’s Joey Warner and Cedar Crest’s Bryce Ebersole. Urban finished 11th among L-L League runners.

"You’ve got to go out with the big boys," Sassaman said. "(Ben) ran a brilliant race. His goal was definitely to make it to States and he’s a very instinctive runner. You can’t really teach a whole lot of that — you either know it or you don’t. He didn’t sprint the hills. Michael was right with him the whole time. They were exactly where they should have been by the mile point, and they did not sprint up the hills. They didn’t ease the hills, but they stayed in traffic, so to speak, and then the 20 to 30 meters at the top, you get back right into your race pace and they passed gobs of people."

Behind Mueller and Urban, senior Bryson Long was 53rd in 17:35, followed by junior Matt Lefever in 98th place in 18:05.

"Matt and Bryson, all year, have been our meat and potatoes guys," Sassaman said. "They’ve been solid as a rock. Bryson, we’re going to miss him next year, but Matt, he had a great summer mile and he is just solid. He does not have bad races."

Senior Phil Headland rounded out Warwick’s top five in 112th place in 18:14, while juniors Daniel O’Conor and Connor Smith were 142nd and 152nd in 18:25 and 18:30, respectively.

Turning to the girls, the Lady Warriors will lose five of their top seven runners to graduation, including senior Kristi Reidenbaugh, who placed second for the team — and 130th overall — in 21:47.

Behind Reidenbaugh included senior Ruth Ann Long in 192nd place in 22:31, senior Brittney Bomberger in 195th place in 22:33, sophomore Monika Roschel in 217th place in 22:47, senior Emily Heckman in 286th place in a time of 23:49 and senior Megan Eyer in 315th place in 24:39. More WHS RUNNERS, page B-10

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