DOWNINGTOWN -- Barring a tie -- which is not that common in a cross country dual meet -- one of the teams in Wednesday's Avon Grove-Bishop Shanahan boys' meet was going to step out of the cellar and escape from the ranks of the winless.The Red Devils and the host Eagles each entered the meet with three previous losses in their last three Ches-Mont League American Division meets. Avon Grove's Josh Smith crossed first and three of his teammates finished in the top-five to propel their team to a 20-41 winIn the girls' meet, the Eagles were also looking for their maiden win after three prior attempts. But, it was Avon Grove's deep team that prevailed. The Red Devils swept the first three places and won the meet 17-45 to improve to 2-1 in the National Division.Avon Grove's Kara Fickinger finished first with a time of 20:33 followed by Caroline Keegan, who was runner-up at 20:54, and Emily Castle, who was third at 21:06. "We went out at a normal pace -- our group of four and the Shanahn girl,' said Fickinger, a senior. "Carolie (Keegan), Emily (Castle), Molly (Jacobs) and I were running together and then I started to pull away after the first mile.
"The first mile felt good -- not fast, not slow -- we were on our normal pace. In the second mile, I just maintained my pace. My second and third miles were pretty consistent. But, it was hard to stay focused because you run the same route twice.'
Keegan said, "I ran well -- other than my time. The Shanahan girl (Bracken) went out fast with the four of us right with her. A quarter-mile in, we took the reins and then it spread out from there. I could have gone harder in the middle but my finish was strong.'
Bishop Shanahan broke up Avon Grove's monopoly on the top spots when Emily Bracken crossed fourth at 21:52.
The Red Devils then accounted for the next three places -- Molly Jacobs, who was fifth at 21:54; Samantha Knapp, who was sixth at 23:05, and Lindsay Smyth, who placed seventh at 23:17. Shanahan's Kathleen Wirshup was eighth at 23:39 while Avon Grove's Emily Gray (ninth, 23:52) and Lauren Jones (10th, 24:13) rounded out the top 10.
The boys' meet had two levels -- Avon Grove's Josh Smith on one and everyone else in the race on another. Smith came through with a winning time of 17:15 -- 27 seconds faster than anyone else in the race."It was nice out today,' said Smith, a senior. "I stayed with the pack for the first half-mile. Then, I started pulling away and running my own race. The course was flat but it had a very rough surface and that slowed me down. I think I hit two holes out there today.
"By the mile, I had a 30-second lead. In the second mile, I just stayed relaxed and got to the right pace and then kept that pace for the third mile. I hit the cruise button and just went.'
Smith's closest challenger was Bishop Shanahan's Jake McGranaghan who was runner-up with a clocking of 17:42.
"I felt good today,' said McGranaghan, a junior. "In the beginning, there was a pack with three Shanahan guys and three Avon Grove guys. Around a mile in, Josh (Smith) sprinted hard and opened up a 50-yard lead.
"About two-thirds through the race, I moved up to the front of our pack. Then, the pack got spread out. The Avon Grove guy (Wheeler) and I were neck-and-neck until the last half-mile. Then, I just went all-out in the last half-mile.'
Avon Grove's Joe Wheeler was right on McGranaghan's heels and finished third with a time of 17:46.The Red Devils then accounted for five of the next six runners to cross the finish line -- Nate Howard (fourth, 17:57), Jake Ilgenfritz (fifth, 18:00), Shamus O'Haire (seventh, 18:19), Joe Budd (eighth, 18:20) and Ryan Blair (ninth, 18:21). Shanahan's Chris Kolimago broke up the Red Devils' pack when he placed sixth with a time of 18:07.
Avon Grove 17, Bishop Shanahan 45
1. Fickinger (AG) 20:33, 2. Keegan (AG) 20:54, 3. Castle (AG) 21:06, 4. Bracken (BS) 21:52, 5. Jacobs (AG) 21:54, 6. Knapp (AG) 23:05, 7.Smyth (AG), 8. Wirshup (BS) 23:39, 9. Gray (AG) 23:52, 10. Jones (AG) 24:13.
Avon Grove 20, Bishop Shanahan 41
1. Smith (AG) 17:15, 2. McGranaghan (BS) 17:42, 3. Wheeler (AG) 17:46, 4. Howard (AG) 17:57, 5. Ilgenfritz (AG) 18:00, 6. Kolimago (BS) 18:07, 7. O'Haire (AG) 18:19, 8. Budd (AG) 18:20, 9. Blair (AG) 18:21, 10. Allan (BS) 18:24.