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Holy Redeemer, Dallas’ Rome Top The 2A Field

October 25, 2018

SCOTT TWP. — Bryce Zapusek and Lukas Volpetti listened to the cheers around them and knew a championship was in reach.

The Holy Redeemer seniors didn’t just hear parents and coaches yelling for them mid-race, but also for teammates like George Strish, Chris Hine and Nick Pikul. The rest of the Royals clearly weren’t far off their pace.

“Wow, this is looking really good,” Zapusek described his reaction.

When Volpetti finished running, he looked back to see Strish, Hine and Pikul all coming through the chute only seconds behind. If the runners weren’t exhausted, they might as well have started celebrating right then.

Zapusek took second place in 17 minutes, 29.6 seconds, and Pikul’s 10th-place run in 17:59.7 gave the Royals five top-10 finishes in Wednesday’s District 2 Cross Country Championships at Lakeland. The team’s tight grouping gave Redeemer the Class 2A boys team championship and the largest margin of victory of the entire afternoon, 27-78 over fellow state-qualifier Abington Heights.

“As soon as I saw George and Chris Hine right behind me, and I saw Pikul fall right next to me,” Volpetti said. “I said, ‘What did you take?’ He said 10th, and I was like, ‘All right, we won this.’”

Dallas senior Mitchell Rome won the race in 16:46.4.

The Royals’ seniors had to wait their entire varsity careers for this moment while Rome and the Mountaineers won three straight D2 titles — and two PIAA championships — from 2015-17. But this season’s undefeated Wyoming Valley Conference champions weren’t letting anything in their way in one last try at districts.

Senior Volpetti took fourth in 17:30.3. Classmate Strish, who took eighth in last week’s WVC championships, improved a few seconds and places to fifth in 17:47.4. Hine, a sophomore, was sixth, 2.5 seconds behind.

“That was my last districts ever,” Strish said. “I looked up before Mile 1 ... and I saw way too many Scranton Prep kids in front of us. I’m like, ’I’m not letting this happen in my last districts. So, I ran to catch up with them, and I caught up to Chris Hine.”

It’s the third consecutive year the Royals head to next weekend’s state meet as a team.

“There couldn’t be a better feeling than this,” Zapusek said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. All of our work that we put in has been leading up to this, for the most part.”

Rome, meanwhile, won his first District 2 title a week after winning his first WVC championship.

That, plus last week’s cold and muddy course, was a warm-up to what he called an even bigger victory this time. He’s the second straight Mountaineer to win gold, following Jack Zardecki last year.

“I feel like we’ve had a long tradition of good running, ever since I’ve known,” Rome said. “When my sisters (Regan and Ally) started, it seems like the team was good then, and we were good last year. I feel like I took on what Jack was doing, got my own district title.”

A 2017 state medalist, Rome heads back to Hershey for a fourth and final time and next week and said top-five is a good goal for him.

He’s one of six individual state qualifiers from the WVC. The top two teams and the top 10 remaining individuals moved on in Class 2A, while the team champion and other top five individuals did the same in Class A and 3A.

Along with the Royals and Rome in 2A, Tunkhannock’s Peter Sayre (11th, 18:01.6), Lake-Lehman’s Chandler Longstreth (14th, 18:08.8) and Hanover Area’s Joey Rowley (15th, 18:16.9) advanced to the PIAA meet. Sayre gives the Tigers a representative in Hershey for the first time since 2016, Longstreth snapped a two-year drought for the Black Knights, and Rowley became the first Hawkeyes boy to run at states since 2008.

In Class 3A’s District 2-4 subregional, Hazleton Area’s Bobby Earley (seventh, 18:08.6) and Zach Keiner (eighth, 18:10.2) snagged the final two individual qualifying spots in a tight finish. The two raced down the chute with Wallenpaupack team-champion member Nick Lancaster 0.4 seconds behind Keiner — and Delaware Valley’s Adam Kanterman 1.4 seconds away.

“I came very close my sophomore year, was one position away,” Earley said. “I owe it all to my team. I owe it to my coaches, I owe it to my parents. ... It’s truly a dream come true.”

It’s the 10th straight season the Cougars will have a boy run at states.

Contact the writer:

eshultz@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2054;

@CVEricShultz on Twitter.