DIMOCK — Ally Rome had to wait an extra three days to defend her District 2 Class 2A title and officially land a spot in Hershey where she will try to defend her state championship.
The weather-related move to Saturday proved to be worth the wait.
“I was excited that it didn’t look like Wednesday up here,” the Dallas senior said.
Rome took advantage of nearly ideal conditions to produce the fastest time ever run by a Class 2A girl at the District 2 Cross Country Championships, repeating her individual title by completing the 3.1-mile course at Elk Lake High School in 18:29.
The first time Rome ever ran at Elk Lake, extreme muddy conditions made it a challenge just for runners to stay on their feet in the 2012 race. The course was mostly dry Saturday, temperatures were cool and wind was calm until late in the day.
The often-demanding course was no match for a state champ.
“This is definitely the best weather I’ve ever had on a district day – no rain, no snow or whatever,” Rome said. “I wasn’t thinking about time going into the race just because this is kind of notoriously a hard and slow course, so I wasn’t thinking I could run a great time.
“But, it kind of worked itself out. For this course, I’m really happy with that time.”
The time was historically significant at Elk Lake or anywhere else.
Hanover Area’s Teresa Dennis, at Kirby Park in 1998, had run the fastest previous 2A girls race in the district, finishing in 18:48.
Ally Rome’s second district appearance at Elk Lake was two years ago when her sister, Regan Rome, was winning a fourth straight district gold and running what had been the fastest 2A race in six years of championships at Elk Lake.
Not long after Regan finished second in the Colonial Athletic Association Championships for nationally ranked William & Mary Saturday, Ally was wiping her 19:03 from the district record books while giving the family its sixth straight title.
“I felt comfortable the whole way,” Ally Rome said after her 29-second victory. “I couldn’t believe I ran as fast as I did.
“I was not expecting that time. I’m really excited about it.”
Rome’s performance was just one of the Wyoming Valley Conference girls highlights Saturday.
Tara Johnson from Pittston Area matched Rome’s accomplishment of a fourth straight state qualification while winning the District 2-4 Class 3A Subregional title by 27 seconds.
The Hazleton Area girls won the 3A team title while the Dallas team earned the district’s second state berth in 2A.
Pittston Area also finished second in 3A, but only one team qualifies there because of the smaller field.
Johnson led a group of eight WVC girls who qualified as individuals to run, along with the Hazleton Area and Dallas teams, in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Championship Meet Nov. 7 at the Hershey Parkview Course.
Pittston Area’s Johnson wins 3A title
Johnson worked her way up through the ranks on the district level.
After placing ninth as a freshman, fourth two years ago and second last season, Johnson claimed her first district title.
Johnson moved into the lead at the midway point and then began to pull away two miles in against Wallenpaupack’s Alyssa LaFave, who beat her by 18 seconds last year in the same race.
“I knew I just didn’t want to be tired,” Johnson said. “I figured I could be tired later.”
The title was a reward for a deeper commitment from Johnson, who was a state medalist as a sophomore when Pittston Area was a 2A school. Comparatively, her times slipped slightly in some races last year.
Cutting out junk food and becoming more serious about the sport were part of the preparation for becoming a champion as a senior.
“I really did all my summer mileage,” Johnson said. “I worked really hard in the summer and then I just made sure I was doing everything I was capable of in my workouts.”
Johnson can now head to Hershey trying for a second state medal.
“It’s a little bit tougher (in 3A), but I want to do it,” Johnson said.
Hazleton Area team champions
Mary Everdale returned from missing some time with an injury, the next three Hazleton Area girls ran personal bests and freshman Sarah Myers responded when the team suddenly needed more from her in the middle of the race.
It all added up to Hazleton Area avenging two earlier losses to Pittston Area and taking the subregional 3A team title by a 54-60 margin.
“Mary had been dealing with a little bit of a foot issue,” Hazleton Area coach Jason Smolinsky said. “It obviously helps having your number one back.”
Everdale finished fourth in 20:57.
The team race was just beginning to unfold at that point.
Stephanie Yanochko, Kiera Feeley and Katie Johnson each ran their personal-best times to finish eighth, 11th and 12th.
The Cougars lost one runner to an illness during the race, meaning that instead of being their sixth runner, Myers became the fifth and final one to count in the team score.
Hazleton Area had trailed Pittston Area by six points through the top three runners, but the combination of Johnson and Myers (19th) coming in before any other team’s fourth runner locked up the title.
“Our grouping was just better,” Smolinsky said. “It’s not like anyone ran a minute faster than usual, but they each ran a couple of seconds better than their PRs.”
Teammates to join Rome in Hershey
Abington Heights put five runners in the top 13 to win the Class 2A team title with 45 points.
That left Scranton Prep and Dallas, two of the top five teams in the state last year, to battle for the district’s second state berth.
Dallas knocked off the unbeaten Lackawanna League champions, defending district champions and returning state runner-ups, 66-81.
Rebecca Balara came in fourth, then Riley Oremus, Katie Grose and Grace Jarden finished within 17 seconds of each other to take 20th, 21st and 23rd.
“Our girls have been really turning it on lately,” Dallas coach Matt Samuel said. “It was nice to see them really step up to the challenge.”
Kupsky sisters among qualifiers
In addition to the state team qualifiers, the top 10 girls in 2A and 1A earned trips to Hershey along with the top five in 3A.
Johnson was the only WVC individual to make it in 3A.
Sisters Tara and Paige Kupsky from Wyoming Seminary finished eighth and 10th and freshman Ava Baur was 15th to give Wyoming Seminary the only three WVC girls to make it in Class A.
The Kupskys were the first two individual qualifiers as the only runners from schools other than team qualifiers Holy Cross and Elk Lake to crack the top 10.
Tunkhannock’s Maggie Toczko, a seventh-place state finisher last year, finished fifth in 2A, one spot in front of Holy Redeemer’s Lyndsey Williams.
Lake-Lehman’s Jade Fry finished eighth and Berwick’s Sam Dyer took the last available individual spot by finishing 17th.