Wallenpaupack Area's boys varsity cross country team copped the Class AAA crown
DIMOCK — It wasn't so long ago that Wallenpaupack Area was among the first teams mentioned when discussing possible title contenders for the District Two Class AAA boys cross country title.
With Hall of Fame coach John Tintle calling the shots, Buckhorn runners were a familiar sight atop the leaderboard on the podium and among PIAA state qualifiers.
When Tintle retired after more than 30 seasons at the helm, it understandably took Dan Nalesnik a few years to re-build and implement his own ideas.
Now, though, the wait is over and Paupack has made a triumphant return to the top of the charts.
On a typically gray day at Elk Lake High School in Dimock, the Bucks battled perennial powerhouse Abington and a scrappy North Pocono squad right down to the wire before finally emerging victorious.
All seven of Coach Nalesnik's lads finished in the Top 25 and the first five all grabbed places among the overall Top 15.
This trademark "pack running" technique allowed Paupack to total just 47 points in edging out the Comets (54 pts) and Trojans (99) for the Class AAA title.
"I'm so incredibly proud of these boys," said Coach Nalesnik after the results were made official.
"We knew exactly what we had to do coming in here today. Every one of our runners had a job and they all did it perfectly. This was a total team effort. Everyone played a part."
With this exhilarating win, Paupack has qualified for a trip to the PIAA State Championships.
The Bucks will travel to Hershey on Saturday, Nov. 2 to compete in the race.
"It's obviously a great honor to go to states," said Coach Nalesnik.
"We're going to take a little while to enjoy this accomplishment and then we'll start working hard for states. I'm excited for the boys. It's going to be a great experience."
Brian Rose has been at the forefront of the Paupack attack all season long.
The Buckhorn senior finished first at nearly every regular season event, but on Wednesday, Rose found himself chasing teammate Patrick Johnson around the brutal Elk Lake course.
Still just a sophomore, Johnson has been coming on like gangbusters during the second half of the Lackawanna League campaign.
"Patrick has proven time and time again that he's just a clutch runner," said Coach Nalesnik. "It's definitely an exciting thing to see a young runner do so well on our most important day of the season."
Johnson crossed the line in a time of 17:33. That was good for sixth place in the overall standings and a D-2 medal.
Meanwhile, Rose managed to exorcise some personal demons in the wind and rain at Dimock.
"Historically, Brian has really struggled on this course," Coach Nalesnik said. "He wasn't even able to finish last year. But, this time around Brian dug down deep and came up huge for us."
Rose was Paupack's second runner home, posting a time of 17:43 and finishing seventh.
Fellow senior Sean Duncan also cracked the Top Ten, stopping the clock at 17:44 and earning himself a medal by winding up eighth.
One of Paupack's true "feel good" storied of the day came courtesy of Anthony Guerrieri.
A senior who returned to the cross country world after a two-year hiatus, Guerrieri experienced ups & downs this season.
However, when it mattered most, Anthony delivered a stellar effort. He battled his way to a time of 17:53 and wound up 11th.
"Anthony had been our seventh runner pretty much all season long," said Coach Nalesnik. "And, just two weeks ago, he wasn't even able to finish this course.
"So, to see him rise to the occasion like he did today is pretty amazing."
Matt Sein shut down the Buckhorns' scoring, jetting home in 17:59 and ending up 15th overall.
Also contributing crucial performances were senior Robbie Segalla (22nd, 18:24) and sophomore Jacob Wacker (24th, 18:30).
"We're a very deep team," Coach Nalesnik said.
"We have strong runners from the top to the bottom of our line-up. And, they all left it out there on the course today. I've very proud of all our boys."