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Eastern York girls look for cross country breakthrough

RYAN VANDERSLOOT
505-5403/@ydsports

It's been quite a while since the York Suburban girls’ cross country team hasn’t been atop the division standings at the end of a York-Adams League season.

To be exact, it happened seven years ago (2009), when West York took the Division II crown.

Eastern York's Maddie McLain has broken six course records this season. She's favored to win the York-Adams All-League Run on Tuesday at Gettysburg High School.

While the Trojans are always the favorite to continue their reign, they will face a stiff challenge this season. The York-Adams League regular season starts Thursday.

Eastern York returns nearly all of its top talent from a season ago in 2016. And after dropping a 28-31 battle against the Trojans last September, the Golden Knights are eager to gain a degree of redemption when they face off once more on Tuesday, Sept. 20, in a five-way meet at Northeastern.

“I would assume so,” Eastern coach Joel Jacobs said, when asked if the season will boil down to his Knights vs. the Trojans on the girls’ side. ”West York beat us last year, but that was early in the year and we didn’t have everybody healthy. But it should be us and them.”

The Knights likely would have captured last year’s event had it not been for Suburban’s exceptional depth. The Trojans were able to pack several girls between Eastern’s No. 3 and No. 4 runners.

“We just wish we had a four and a five last year,” Jacobs said. “That’s our weakness there. If we had a (competitive) four and five we probably win the meet and have a team that is state-caliber.”

The Knights figure to be better equipped this year. With three returning state qualifiers back in juniors Maddie McLain and Madison Nalls, as well as sophomore Olivia McLain, Eastern will be a threat to sweep the top three positions at any given meet.

Maddie McLain, who finished runner-up at the York-Adams League Championships last year, was third at the District 3-AA meet and 16th overall at the PIAA event. She figures to again be the leader of the Golden Knight pack. Nalls took fifth at the league meet, 18th at districts and qualified for the state meet. Maddie’s younger sister, Olivia, was seventh at the league event, 10th at districts and ran at the state meet as well.

“So far, from what I’ve seen, Olivia and Maddie are definitely stronger than they were at this time last year,” Jacobs said. “Madison (Nalls) is a swimmer, so she just finished swimming at the national meet and she’s just trying to get her running legs back.”

When does he expect that to happen?

“The plan is by Sept. 20,” he said. “That’s when we run Suburban.”

Against a deep squad such as Suburban, however, the Knights will need to find a No. 4 runner who is capable of at least a top-15 finish to prevail. Fortunately Jacobs feels he has three new girls who can fill that void.

One of them is Katie Myer, a girl who ran with the top three in junior high before stepping away for a few years.

“She ran as an eighth grader in our junior high team,” Jacobs said. “And she ran track. So she’s kind of been around the whole time. I’m not sure (why she left), but I know she’s a competitive horseback rider and she wanted to focus on that a bit. I’m not so sure she enjoys the pressure of competition, but we’re getting her there I think.”

Notes: Suburban may have lost its only state qualifier from a year ago in Olivia Gettle, but the strength of its team is its depth. The Trojans again figure to be deep this season.

Jacobs also figures that Dallastown is a team to watch out for this year. While the Wildcats are in Division I, they have a handful of strong runners coming up from their junior high program.

Delone figures to have a challenger to throw into the ring for the York-Adams League individual title. Leanne Sneeringer finished eighth at the league meet last year as a sophomore. Interestingly enough, she too will run in the meet at Northeastern on Sept. 20.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.