S. ABINGTON TWP. — The Abington Heights boys and girls cross country teams were both tasked with replacing standout runners from last year’s teams.
That hasn’t tempered the expectations for Comets coach Mike Ludka.
“We always have the same goal of winning a district championship and, at the very least, I believe they are both going to be the conversation,” Ludka said. “We have a lot of new faces in new places. Even people who have been on the team are now in different roles. I think we’re going to improve as the year goes on.”
Katie Dammer, who is now running at Georgetown University, placed sixth and fourth in the PIAA Class 3A Championship during her last two seasons at Abington Heights.
Two other starters, Emma Marion, who placed 11th at districts last year, and Erika Beahan, who was 14th at districts, also graduated.
Sophomore Abby Marion, who placed fourth at districts, senior Hannah Hughes, who was eighth, senior Sarah Bath, who finished 11th, and senior Modupe Osuntokun, who was 25th, return as starters.
Freshman Allison Dammer, who finished in the top 15 in the first two races this season, freshman Ellie Saunders, sophomores Sabriya Seid and Kristin Lipkus, and seniors Emma Arbuckle, Jane Mecca, Suzanna Brock, Carlee MacPherson and Alexa Boersma are among the other girls competing for starting spots.
“We always had Katie up in the front and that was such a luxury,” Ludka said. “Now, it’s a different style team, but we’re still pretty effective. We have four or five girls who are interchangeable parts in a way. They practice and race together in a pack. We had three in particular who were right up in the front and the gap to four and five was small.”
Kyle Burke, who is now running at Lehigh University, and Dan Uhranowsky, who now runs for the University of Pittsburgh, placed second and third at districts last season.
Senior Ryan Siebecker, who placed 14th at districts last season, senior Stephen Haggerty, who was 15th, junior Damon Martin, who finished 23rd, junior Reid Mattox, who was 40th, and senior Ethan Mattox, who placed in the top seven in the first two races this season, return as starters.
Seniors Sloan Seid, Luke Brauer, Conor Kryeski and Cameron Pettinato, junior Sam Traweek, sophomores Adin Hopkins and Tyler Petty and freshman Gavin Ross are among the boys competing for the other starting positions.
“We had some front runners and now we have to do it with a little more grouping,” Ludka said. “Ethan Mattox has been part of our top five for a couple years. He has jumped up and and competed with the big guns.”
Ludka has been impressed with the depth toward the bottom of the boys and girls lineups.
“Any day, it could be somebody different (contributing),” he said. “A lot of people stepped up and really jumped into the new spots.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.