DIMOCK — Wallenpaupack Area arrived at Elk Lake High School Wednesday morning with high hopes and serious expectations.
The Buckhorns disembarked in rain-soaked Dimock after a 2-hour busride focused on one thing: Bringing home a team title from the District Two Cross Country Championships.
However, just beneath the surface of that confidence ran a current of doubt. Unknown to nearly everyone, Paupack's top runner was nursing a pair of injuries ... a fact that would become painfully obvious to everyone even before the Class AAA race began.
Why? Well, just a quick glance at the grounds told a frightening tale.
Following nearly two solid days of drenching rain, one of the region's most challenging courses had been reduced to a muddy mess. Standing water three inches deep in places and hills more suited to slip & slides than distance running transformed Elk Lake into a cross country nightmare.
Every stride would prove to be an adventure, every weight shift a challenge, every change of direction a calculated risk. Runners lost shoes to the oozing mud. They slipped and fell on the treacherous hills, then skidded precarioulsy through a serpentine forest path.
No one felt it more than Corey Schmalzle.
A tall rangy senior and Paupack's top runner, Schmalzle trained all fall in anticipation of this day. Corey arrived on the scene with two goals in mind: Team medals and a trip to States.
Sadly for local fans, neither of those goals would be realized. Thanks to a high ankle sprain and a broken toe, Schmalzle had to drop out of the race near the 2-mile marker. With him went any hopes Paupack had for a D-2 title.
"I feel bad for all of our boys, but I really feel bad for Corey," Coach Dan Nalesnik said. "To work so hard and come all this way, only to come up short because of an injury ... I don't have any words. He gave it a valiant effort, but he just couldn't do it."
To add insult to injury (so to speak), another top runner also went down and couldn't finish. According to Coach Nalesnik, Bryan Rose was being treated on-course by medics for exhaustion and dehydration. His elimination meant that any flickering hopes Paupack still entertained of a Top Five finish were dashed.
The Bucks staggered home in 6th place overall ... a highly respectable showing ... but, nowhere near attaining their lofty goals.
"The boys left everything out there and we're leaving here with no regrets," Coach Nalesnik said. "That's all I can ask. These kids gave it everything they had and I'm incredibly proud of them."
Hazleton Area took home the Class AAA team title with a total of 59 points, good for a razor-thin one point win over Abington Heights (69 pts).
Page 2 of 2 - North Pocono wound up 3rd (88), while Williamsport Area (89) and Wyoming Valley West (109) rounded out the Top Five.
By the Numbers
With Schmalzle out of the mix, Paupack still managed to place six runners in the Top 50.
Robert Segalla led the way. A hard-working junior, Segalla stepped into the void created by his teammates' absence. He covered the quagmire course in 20:52, good for 17th in the overall standings and a district medal.
Kyler Chern was next in for Paupack. A battle-tested senior, Chern finished 21st overall in 21:02 and earned himself a D-2 medal.
"I'm very happy for them," Coach Nalesnik said of his two medalists. "Both those guys really stepped up for us today. They did a great job in the face of some serious adversity."
Rounding out the Buckhorns scoring were: Sean Duncan (32nd, 21:37); Matthew Sein (34th, 21:41); Michael Henry (42nd, 22:11); Justin Schantz (50th, 22:35); Jacob Wacker (53rd, 22:54).
While Paupack was digesting a difficult loss, Honesdale and Western Wayne were duking it out in the boys Class AA race.
In years past, the Hornets have dominated their Varden counterparts in nearly every cross country meet. However, on this particular day, Coach Justin Collins' lads got the better of the battle.
The Wildcats finished 8th in a competitive 15-team field with 230 points. The Hornets were one spot back in 9th (286).
"We had a good day despite the conditions," Coach Collins said. "I think the future is looking bright for our cross country program. I like the direction we're moving in."
Adam Vaccaro paced the 'Cat attack. Just a sophomore, Vaccaro slogged his way to a 35th place showing in a time of 20:57.
Western Wayne's front five consisted of: Vaccaro; Andrew Davidson (37th, 21:09); Christian Sauter (47th, 21:42); Adam Curtis (55th, 22:13); Zach Curtis (56th, 22:16).
Also contributing to the cause were Billy Schumacher (75th, 23:27) and Brian Devito (90th, 24:26).
Honesdale was led once again by Mark Tetonis. A junior who's been at the front of the Hornets swarm all season, Tetonis fought his way to a time of 20:38 and finished 27th.
Greg Senft (51st, 22:07); Logan Miller (53rd, 22:09); Thomas Wolfe (68th, 22:47); and Tommy Figura (87th, 24:10) rounded out the Red & Black scoring.
Senior Timmy Freda (96th, 25:45) and sophomore Warren Oldham (100th, 27:42) also completed the waterlogged course.