Shields & Martin win State medals

By on November 7, 2018
Warwick senior Connor Shields (left) and Noah Martin (right) are shown with their State medals after last Saturday’s PIAA Meet. Photo by Bruce Morgan

Warwick senior Connor Shields (left) and Noah Martin (right) are
shown with their State medals after last Saturday’s PIAA Meet. Photo by Bruce Morgan

Warrior boys place 10th as a team

In the moments after Connor Shields and Noah Martin crossed the finish line last Saturday, they found themselves playing a waiting game.

The top-25 finishers at the State Cross Country Championships would get medals, and the two Warwick seniors knew they were close.

Official results still hadn’t been released when Martin said, “We were right around 23rd to 30th, so we’re not really sure where we placed.”

Turns out, the news was even better.

In the final cross country race of their high school career, Shields and Martin took 20th and 21st, respectively, both in a time of 16:54, at the PIAA Triple-A Boys Meet at Hershey’s mud-filled Parkview Course.

As Shields noted, it was the culmination of a lot of hard work and summer mileage paying off.

“There’s a lot of top guys up here,” he said, “so it’s great to get up there with the top competition, and especially with what’s happened back home (with the tragic automobile accident), it’s nice. It’s something to celebrate. You try to do it for them.”

“Just phenomenal. I mean, (Connor and Noah) ran a super race,” Warrior coach Matt Bomberger said. “They ran with such confidence. The meet was so much of a mental game because of the weather and conditions, and they just rose to the occasion.”

As a team, the Warriors certainly answered the bell too, earning a solid 10th-place finish out of 19 teams with 273 points, getting a big boost from five juniors behind Shields and Martin. Parker Keares was 131st in 17:56, followed by Jeremy Bell (139th, 17:58), Marcus Wachira (188th, 18:27), David Bach (206th, 18:43), and Jeremiah Hendrix (221st, 19:04). North Allegheny, of District Seven, won the team title with 90 points, while Mount Lebanon junior Patrick Anderson claimed the individual gold in 16:03.

In the week leading up to the State Championships, Bomberger and coach Martin compared season PRs among the runners on all of the teams competing in Triple-A. Based on that data, Warwick would have ranked 14th.

“So (finishing) 10th was a pleasant surprise,” Bomberger said.

The Warriors’ boss took it a step further, noting that after all results had been merged, if all 56 Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A in Hershey last Saturday had competed in the same race, his Warwick boys would have finished 12th.

“I think that’s even more impressive to look at that because Triple-A is so strong,” Bomberger said.

With heavy rains overnight pummeling the hilly 5K course, muddy conditions — not to mention strong winds — slowed the runners. But Shields and Martin were both prepared mentally.

“The course was pretty sloppy, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a fast race,” Shields said. “I knew it was going to be more tactical. So I wasn’t looking for time. I was just trying to run for place.”

At the first-mile marker, Shields was 25th in 5:00 even, while Martin was just 11 seconds behind in 77th place in a time of 5:11.

“I was happy with that,” Shields said. “I was ready to keep going and feeling good.”

Added Martin, “I started out more conservative than (Connor) did. I knew I had to pull people back. And then I found that whenever I saw a coach or anyone, they’d tell me my place and I was moving up a little bit. I think I ran the way I run best — conservative and then move up.”

Martin and Shields were competing for Warwick at States for the second year in a row, and including Martin’s sophomore campaign with Veritas Academy, this marked his third year at PIAAs.

“(The experience) definitely helped,” Martin remarked. “I knew what I was coming through with those hills and I knew you can’t over-think that middle part. You’ve just got to work hard through there and you can pass a lot of people.”

Warwick’s two medalists each have a different relationship with the hills.

Unlike Shields, Martin welcomes the elevation rises and tries to use them to his benefit.

“I know my strong suit as a runner is to just run hard and maintain a pace,” he said. “I don’t have the kick that (Connor) does obviously with his track times, so I have to use the hills to my advantage and just push through them.”

That’s exactly what Martin did, as he moved up to the 44th spot at the two-mile point in 10:53, and then overtook another 23 runners before the finish.

“Kids go out really fast in this race, and you’re going to be packed in there,” Martin said, “but if you move up, you can pass a lot of kids that are falling.”

Shields — between the first and second miles — dropped five spots to 30th in 10:48, but then used a solid kick over the final mile to pass 10 runners.

“I tried to just work the hills, kinda take a second or two at the top to recover, and then keep going and pull those guys in,” Shields said, “because sometimes, people like to sprint up the hills and I try not to waste that energy. I say, ‘Alright, they’re going to gap me a little here, but I’m going to pull them back at the top and then really take the downhills hard.’”

Ultimately, Shields and Martin were two of five L-L runners who took home medals in the boys Triple-A race, joining Manheim Township’s Evan Dorankamp (7th, 16:36) and Ian Miller (13th, 16:45), and Ephrata’s Andrew Foster (19th, 16:54).

“I felt like I put myself in a pretty good spot the first mile,” Shields said. “I just tried to hang in there with those top guys, and I tried to let the pack pull me along and close hard. I might have fallen back a little too much, but I’m happy with the way I closed and I’m looking forward to track.”

Keares and Bell had every reason to be happy with the way they closed as well, finishing 131st and 139th, respectively.

“All season long, I’ve called them the meat and potatoes of the team,” Bomberger said. “They’re always there, they’re always right where they need to be and coming through.”

Not far behind was No. 5 runner Wachira to clinch Warwick’s 10th-place finish

In the Warriors’ final regular-season meet, Hendrix was fifth for the team to help them put the Section One title in the books.

Then at the L-L Meet, which Warwick won, and at Districts, where the Warriors placed runner-up, it was Bach who stepped up as the fifth runner.

Last Saturday, it was Wachira’s turn.

“Our fifth runner has been kind of a revolving door where a (different) guy has picked up the slack every time,” Bomberger said. “Any cross country team is nothing without the number five, and I’ve just been impressed with how those guys have pulled together. It’s been awesome.”

Looking ahead, Bomberger is excited about the future for both the boys and girls teams at Warwick.

“Missing Noah and Connor will be big next year, but I feel that guys are ready to step up and make another trip to States,” he said. “And don’t sleep on the girls team too if things develop well. We have some good junior high runners that want to come up. So I think the future is bright for both sides.”

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