Palmyra s Miranda Salvo breaks the tape at the finish line to win the Class AA girls  race at the District Three Championships in Hershey on Wednesday.
Palmyra s Miranda Salvo breaks the tape at the finish line to win the Class AA girls race at the District Three Championships in Hershey on Wednesday. Salvo helped the Cougars to a second-place team finish in the process. (Jeremy Long - Lebanon Daily News)

HERSHEY - The Palmyra girls' cross country team needed no introduction at the starting line Wednesday afternoon. Still, junior Miranda Salvo and the Cougars stuck around for the "Alohas" before running away from the field.

Salvo's gold-medal stride set the pace for Lebanon County on an up-and-down day at the District Three Cross Country Championships at Hershey's Parkview Course. The junior pulled away from the pack in the girls' Class AA race after conquering a series of hills -- nicknamed the "Aloha Hills" -- to give the Cougars an opportunity to defend their state crown at the PIAA State Championships on Nov. 2.

Palmyra will not be alone for the season's final 3.1 miles, either.

Annville-Cleona's boys, Cedar Crest senior Willy Bragg and Palmyra junior Ezra Daniel also booked a trip to Chocolatetown for next Saturday's championships. The three-time defending district champion Dutchmen earned an invitation with a third-place tiebreaker over Conrad Weiser in the AA-boys' field. Bragg bolted to 12th place in the Class AAA jaunt, highlighting a lackluster performance for the Lancaster-Lebanon League champion Falcons. Daniel captured the final spot in the boys' AA race in 17:30.

"It was a good day for Palmyra," said Cougar coach Barb Mellinger. "Miranda ran a great race. She's a very patient runner, and you can just sense she always has a little something left and is biding her time coming off the hills.

Annville-Cleona s Jeff Inman (5) battles Dover s Gabe Lloyd at the finish line Wednesday. Inman took eighth in the Class AA race to help the Dutchmen win a
Annville-Cleona s Jeff Inman (5) battles Dover s Gabe Lloyd at the finish line Wednesday. Inman took eighth in the Class AA race to help the Dutchmen win a third-place tie-breaker and qualify for states as a team. (Jeremy Long - Lebanon Daily News)

As a unit, the Cougar girls finished second in the team standings, trailing York Suburban by 15 points in final calculations (91-106). Palmyra placed five runners in the top 40, including Salvo (19:15), freshman Kelsei Bixler (20:16, 12th), senior Devin Strynkowski (21:07, 33rd), sophomore Lizzy St. Clair (21:44, 47th) and junior Leah Hollowell (22:05, 55th).

"We should have won last year. This year it was a totally different team," added Mellinger. "We only had two runners out seven that ran this course. When you look at it that way they ran a great race."

Last season, Palmyra beat York Suburban 49-72 in districts before besting Dallas 91-94 to win the program's first state championship. The Cougars took the course Wednesday without defending district champ Maria Tukis, a junior who fractured her foot in September.

"My main goal was for the team to make it to states. That was our goal this year," said Salvo. "It was tougher without Maria here. I knew I would have to be top-three. I also knew there was a chance I could win, but it wouldn't be easy."

Salvo sizzled down the homestretch, crossing the line 25 seconds ahead of Greencastle-Antrim's Caroline Schemel (19:40).

"I knew I had to stick with her. There were a few girls I had in the back of my mind; you're never alone," said Salvo. "Coach Mellinger always tells us to run scared. There's always someone behind you. I knew that last mile I really had to push it. That's where you have to start pulling away."

Salvo appeared to have plenty in the tank at the end.

"We have to read a book in English class, and it says, 'Runners are all misers.' We each have tokens that we want to evenly distribute throughout the race," she said. "You always want to have something left at the end, but you don't want to have too much left. I always feel like I'm going to die crossing the finish line."

As for the A-C boys, the 2010, 2011 and 2012 district champions used a sixth-place tiebreaker over Conrad Weiser to pin down the third and final AA berth. A-C made its first district appearance without the Class of 2012 mainstays Shawn Wolfe, Ben Mason and Mark Bachman.

"We knew it was going to be tough, but these guys really wanted it," said A-C's rookie coach Ben Rhoades. "About halfway through the season, they were struggling on the hills. I said, 'That's it. Hill work.' I think I drilled them for the next five weeks. It paid off today."

The Dutchmen received another stellar showing from junior Jeff Inman, who is quickly becoming a PIAA Championship regular. The state wrestler finished eighth in 17:19, followed by Garrett Bosworth (17:52, 28th), Jon Zechman (18:09, 46th), Anthony Frattarole (18:11, 48th), Matthew Darok (18:34) and Michael Darok (19:10).

"We picked it up," said Inman. "A lot of people didn't believe in us because we lost everybody. We proved to everyone that we can step up and do what needs to be done."

As for Cedar Crest, the Falcons never found their form -- with the exception of Bragg.

"We know there are some good teams in District Three, but we were ready to come out here and give it our all to make states -- we didn't," said Bragg. "Today didn't turn out to be our day. That happens to everybody. It just wasn't our day."

Bragg stayed in the lead pack throughout, crossing one second off from his personal record (16:39). His 12th-place finish secured his first-ever entry into states. Yet, he downplayed his personal accomplishments. The Falcons came in 10th as a team behind Lower Dauphin and eight other AAA schools.

"(The last) three years we haven't reached our potential as a team," said Bragg. "It's just a team energy. You can feel it before the race when you're standing there with your teammates. You can feel who's ready to go and who's not. You could just feel that some people weren't ready to go today."

Reigning league champ Daniel Neiswender struggled after the opening mile, settling for 39th place (17:15). Classmate Chad Bomgardner ran banged up, crossing 251st out of 260 challengers. Crest coach Brandon Risser expected to finish in the top four after running the table in the regular season at 21-0.

"It was a tough day. I saw it in their eyes. I saw it in their body language," Risser said. "Fourth would have been good, not great. So 10th is not great."

The Falcon leader still found a silver lining in Bragg's all-out approach.

"Willy Bragg embodies what Cedar Crest cross country is all about," added Risser. "From the day we got him out his sophomore year. He's been all about the team. He's done the little things. He's one of the best leaders we've had in the program. I'm just so proud of him."

In other county action, the Annville-Cleona girls' finished second in Class A, while the Palmyra boys' took fifth in the AA field, missing a state spot by 12 points.

Notes >> The PIAA Championship Meet is Saturday, Nov. 2, at Hershey's Parkview Cross Country Course at the following times: Girls A "" 9:30 a.m., AA "" 10:15 a.m., AAA "" 11 a.m. Boys A "" 11:45 a.m., AA "" 12:30 p.m., AAA "" 1:15 p.m.

Class AAA
Team results - 1. Lower Dauphin 122, 2. Carlisle 128, 3. Cumberland Valley 158, 4. Twin Valley 228, 5. Dallastown 240. 10. Cedar Crest 333. 34. Lebanon 888.
Individual results - 1. Patrick Reilly, Dallastown, 16:00. 2. Zach Brehm, Carlisle, 16:09. 3. Aaron Gebhart, New Oxford, 16:23. 4. Cole Nissley, Lower Dauphin, 16:25. 5. Jacob Connors, Wilson, 16:28. 6. Zach Seiger, Red Land, 16:28. 7. Brian Delany, Manheim Township, 16:29. 8. JD Groff, Central York, 16:30. 9. Mitch Coakley, Central Dauphin, 16:36. 10. Jon Carroll, Carlisle, 16:38.
12. Willy Bragg (CC) 16:39, 39. Dan Neiswender (CC) 17:15, 44. Jarrod Cruise (CC) 17:22, 86. Matthew Royer (CC) 17:56, 139. Derin Klick (LEB) 18:30, 140. Linus Morales (LEB) 18:31. 156. Jordan Cruise (CC) 18:37, 175. Zach Miller (CC) 18:48, 183. Daryl Werni (LEB) 18:56, Ethan Arnold-Paine (LEB) 19:10, 251. Chad Bomgardner (CC) 20:18, 255. Jamie Montalvo (LEB) 20:36.

Class AA
Team results - 1. York Suburban 130, 2. Manheim Central 198, 3. Annville-Cleona 201, 4. Conrad Weiser 201, 5. Palmyra 213. 25. Northern Lebanon 647. 28. Elco 665.
Individual results - 1. Daniel Green, James Buchanan, 16:23. 2. Kyle Shinn, Wyomissing, 16:39. 3. Jacob Thomas, Susquehannock, 16:55. 4. Jonathan Goodson, Boiling Springs, 17:02. 5. Jack Di Cintio, Wyomissing, 17:13. 6. Dan Filler, Gettysburg, 17:14. 7. Danty Pagan, Dover, 17:17. 8. Jeff Inman, Annville-Cleona, 17:19. 9. Gabe Lloyd, Dover, 17:19. 10. Donovan Mears, York Suburban, 17:24.
28. Garrett Bosworth (A-C) 17:52, 29. Jonathon Garcia (ELCO) 17:52, 31. Tyler McFeaters (NL) 17:53, 36. Evan Kovacs (PAL) 18:01, 41. Jason Robinson (PAL) 18:04, 46. Jon Zechman (A-C) 18:09, 47. Jared Harnish (ELCO) 18:09, 48. Anthony Frattarole (A-C) 18:11, 59. Max Perry (PAL) 18:27, 64. Dale Lingle (PAL) 18:28, 74. Matthew Darok (A-C) 18:34, 79. Kevin Cole (PAL) 18:41, 104. Paul Kudlanov (NL) 18:59, 118. Michael Darok (A-C) 19:10, 120. Matthew Brandt (PAL) 19:10, 138. Tyler Carpenter (A-C) 19:27, 143. Eugene Kudlanov (NL) 19:32.

Class A
Team results - 1. Camp Hill, 45. 2. Veritas Academy, 47. 3. Biglerville, 55. 4. Delone Catholic, 97. 5. York Catholic, 137. 6. Fairfield, 147. 7. Columbia, 182
Individual results - 1. Brady Wilt, Biglerville, 16:54. 2. Blake Behney, Camp Hill, 17:19. 3. Seth Spykstra, Veritas Academy, 17:22. 4. Cooper Leslie, Camp Hill, 17:27. 5. Aaron Martin, Veritas Academy, 17:57. 6. Clayton Bender, Veritas Academy, 17:59. 7. Victor Solalinde, Biglerville, 18:08. 8. Leonard Zinda, York Catholic, 18:12. 9. Matt Barninger, Harrisburg Christian, 18:23. 10. Owen Bender, Veritas Academy, 18:23

Class AAA
Team results - 1. Chambersburg, 152. 2. Wilson, 153. 3. Cumberland Valley, 171. 4. Manheim Township, 186. 5. Daniel Boone 193, 20. Cedar Crest 568.
Individual results - 1. Mady Clahane, Cumberland Valley, 18:36. 2. Greta Lindsley, Penn Manor, 18:59. 3. Ella Breidenstine, Lower Dauphin, 19:12. 4. Courtney Group, Chambersburg, 19:19. 5. Laura Barnes, Cumberland Valley, 19:26. 6. Alison Willingmyre, Wilson, 19:29. 7. Kelly Moyer, Governor Mifflin, 19:37. 8. Natalie Holder, Chambersburg, 19:38. 9. Kara Mueser, Elizabethtown, 19:44. 10. Sophia Guglielmi, Daniel Boone, 19:44.
47. Mackenzie Shiner (CC) 20:55, 89. Michelle Kiss (CC) 21:28, 121. Kyla Waldron (CC) 22:01, 122. Molly Foster (LEB) 22:22, 126. Kelsey Lyter (CC) 22:23, 194. Maddy Hartman (LEB) 23:08. 211. Anna Moffitt (CC) 23:28

Class AA
Team results - 1. York Suburban, 91. 2. Palmyra, 106. 3. Susquehannock, 119. 4. Wyomissing, 160.
Individual results - 1. Miranda Salvo, Palmyra, 19:15. 2. Caroline Schemel, Greencastle-Antrim, 19:40. 3. Leanne Weaver, Boiling Springs, 19:44. 4. Karlie Heistand, Hamburg, 19:50. 5. Kierra Zack, Northern York, 19:51. 6. Cassidy Kuhn, Wyomissing, 19:53. 7. Devi Jagadesan, Wyomissing, 19:54. 8. Rachel Banchiere, Susquehannock, 19:55. 9. Angel Barber, East Pennsboro, 19:57. 10. Kirsten Lebo, Conrad Weiser, 20:01.
11. Miranda Salvo, (PAL) 19:15, 33. Devin Strynkowski (PAL) 21:07, 47. Lizzy St. Clair (PAL) 21:44, 55. Leah Hollowell (PAL) 22:05. 63. Emily Bliemeister (PAL) 22:13, 78. Abby Dundore (ELCO) 22:47, 81. Kayla Harnish (ELCO) 22:51, 83. Juliana Kerper (PAL) 22:52. 88. Charly Darkes (NL) 23:00. 121. Libby Foelker (ELCO) 24:07. 131. Kaitlin Dolan (NL) 24:22, 139. Kayla Smith (NL) 24:41.

Class A
Team results - 1. Delone Catholic 53, 2. Annville-Cleona 71, 3. Camp Hill 74, 4. Veritas Academy 75, 5. York Catholic 76.
Individual results - 1. Leigha Martin, Veritas Academy, 20:02. 2. Zoe Mathern, Camp Hill, 20:25. 3. Kate Mowrey, Delone Catholic, 21:04. 4. Hannah Martin, Veritas Academy, 21:35. 5. Ali Herr, Camp Hill, 21:51. 6. Amanda Falvey, York Catholic, 21:52. 7. Lindsey China, York Catholic, 22:06. 8. Alyssa Alberghini, Delone Catholic, 22:19. 9. Kara Martin, Veritas Academy, 22:29. 10. Andrea Resciniti, Delone Catholic, 22:43.
11. Tiarra Helman (A-C) 22:55, 12. Emily Rooney (A-C) 23:04. 13. Michelle Rudd (A-C) 23:06. 16. Melissa Casiotti (A-C) 23:44. 19. Monica Hilbert (A-C) 24:03.