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NL’s Pender goes back-to-back

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    Northern Lehigh’s Reagan Pender won Thursday’s Colonial League title. For a video visit www.tnonline.com. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    Northwestern’s Cole Chukoskie placed 15th in the CL boys race. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    Palmerton’s Natalie Mosier finished 10th in the CL girls race. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    Northwestern’s Angelina Klein finished fourth in the CL girls race. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published October 18. 2019 06:25PM

CENTER VALLEY – Reagan Pender is right where she wants to be.

The Northern Lehigh senior captured her second straight Colonial League title Thursday at DeSales University, winning the girls race with a time of 19:28, nearly a minute ahead of runner-up Jenna Groeber of Southern Lehigh (20:25).

It’s a performance that continued the strong form Pender has shown throughout the season — and is a clear indication that she’s ready to make a run at even more postseason success.

“Last year at leagues I just broke under 20:00, so I was happy that I was able to come out even with the win … but it’s really self-assuring to know that I’m able to do better, and maintain and build.”

Pender easily eclipsed last year’s winning time of 19:57.

“It’s awesome, because she’s just been super consistent. She never has a bad race,” Bulldogs head coach Dave Oertner said of Pender. “And that goes back to last year. Her freshman year she had some injuries, and kind of struggled. There were a lot of girls in this race that were beating her as a freshman.

“As a sophomore, she started to come around; and then last year, she had a really nice year, and she’s running even better this year.”

And she’s delivered some of her best performances in the biggest moments.

“We’ve had six invitationals over the last two years, and she’s been second in every one of them,” said Oertner. “So she’s just there every race. She’s never had a bad race. She’s consistent as can be. She’s been super strong for two years.”

Palisades’ freshman Thomas Smigo won the boys’ race in 16:21 ahead of defending champion Alexander Kane of Southern Lehigh (16:29).

Pender’s victory highlighted a day that saw the Northwestern boys and girls place second in the team standings.

Southern Lehigh swept the boys and girls team championships. The Spartans topped the Tigers 32-76 in the girls standings, and 39-92 on the boys side.

The sweep capped undefeated regular seasons (24-0) for both the Southern Lehigh boys and girls programs.

“We were gunning for Southern Lehigh,” said Northwestern head coach Chris Stitzel. “We thought we had nothing to lose today; we knew we weren’t the favorites, and that we were the underdogs. On a day like today, you figure it’s up for grabs … and we thought we’d go for it.

“I know we’re going to be here next week for districts, so this was a chance to get a good race in and see how we need to run it.”

As the focus for some shifts to next week’s District 11 Championships, Pender was able to take a moment to reflect on another accomplishment in what has already been a remarkable career.

“It really means a lot,” she said. “It’s weird that I’m a senior now, so it’s kind of (my) last hurrah. It was really special to be able to do it.

“With every race, I tend to put a bit more pressure on (myself) more than I probably should. But, it’s a lot more now that I’m a senior because it’s the last chance I have, and I really want to be able to prove myself.”

It’s that mindset that always keeps Pender pushing forward. It’s that same focus that has her primed to repeat as district champion.

“We take one week at a time,” said Oertner. “Don’t get me wrong, with a kid like that, states is on your mind from Day 1. And that’s your primary goal, but you want to win a league championship, which is taken care of. Now, we’ll worry about districts next week and take care of that.”

But Pender, who was sixth at states a year ago, won’t take any of it for granted.

“I said something to her about, if you get an award next week, because of the way the schedule is, there might not be anybody there to see you get it, because I’ll be chasing the boys,” Oertner said of districts. “And she said, ‘I have to do it first.’

“I love that attitude about her. She realizes there’s a lot of work to do there. Even though she’s the favorite, you have to come through, and she does. She’s mentally prepared every meet.”

While Pender continued to prove herself as the best in the league, Northwestern took another step toward showing it can compete with Southern Lehigh.

“I wish we had a better start for the boys,” said Stitzel. “It seemed like they started back a little too far, but they made up a lot of time to still finish second. That’s what we did all year.

“And the girls, we’re finally getting healthy … and that’s really going to help us next week at districts; that’s closing our gap now, which is really going to help. I’m excited for next week. They both ran well today.”

A pair of freshmen paced the Tigers. Angelina Klein ran to a fourth-place finish in 20:37 in the girls race, while Samuel Bower finished 10th in the boys race with a time of 17:49.

Klein led five Tigers, who were 20-4 during the regular season, in the top-25 in the girls race. Allison Costa (21:30) and Kailyn Jones (21:32) were 13th and 14th, respectively, while Molly McGorry (22:05) placed 20th and Maci Fisher (22:21) 25th.

“As a team, I think we did extremely well,” said Klein. “I think we all were really motivated today; we really wanted that league title. And even though we didn’t get it, I think we’re all still really proud of getting second, and the way that we did.

“I knew there was going to be a lot of competition in this race, but I knew that I had raced against everyone before, so I just had to stay strong mentally, and know that I can run with all these girls, even being a freshman. I just had to keep pushing ahead.”

Bower was the first of four in the top-20 for Northwestern, which went 22-2 during the season. Cole Chukoskie (18:12) was 15th, Matthew Santana (18:22) 18th and RJ Zack (18:24) 20th.

“I ran better than I thought I would,” said Bower. “I was just trying to get a top-20. I just started off faster, and then I kept that going through the race.

“Our top three is normally pretty close, and we try to push each other as much as we can during practice, and in the meets, too.”

Palmerton freshman Natalie Mosier also medaled, running to a 10th-place finish in the girls race with a time of 21:09.

“It really wasn’t what I was expecting,” said Mosier. “I didn’t expect to get top-10 since there are so many great runners. I was really nervous, and just didn’t think I would medal or anything.”

But Mosier adapted, and hung tough on a windy day and a difficult course. Now, she’s ready to come back even stronger next week.

“I just want to thank my team,” said Mosier. “Because if I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t be here at all.”

2019 COLONIAL LEAGUE

CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS

AT DESALES UNIVERSITY

GIRLS

TEAM SCORES AND LEGEND

1. Southern Lehigh (SL) 32, 2. Northwestern (NW) 76, 3. Notre Dame Green Pond (NDGP) 93, 4. Wilson (W) 123, 5. Palisades (Pali) 144, 6. Catasauqua (C) 161, 7. Moravian (M) 173, 8. Palmerton (Palm) 211, 9. Northern Lehigh (NL) 214, 10. Saucon Valley (SV) 229, 11. Bangor (B) 267.

Individual top 5

1. Reagan Pender (NL) 19:28, 2. Jenna Groeber (SL) 20:25, 3. Grace Medei (NDGP) 20:36, 4. Angelina Klein (NW) 20:37, 5. Jillian Pote (W) 20:45.

Other locals in the top 50

10. Natalie Mosier (Palm) 21:09, 13. Allison Costa (NW) 21:30, 14. Kailyn Jones (NW) 21:32, 20. Molly McGorry (NW) 22:05, 25. Maci Fisher (NW) 22:21, 40. Alexis Vennera (NW) 24:16, 41. Emma Martinez (Palm) 24:20, 44. Claire Costa (NW) 24:26, 45. Ali Lorah (NL) 24:29, 48. Kira Houser (Palm) 24:59, 49. Madison Santana (NW) 25:12, 50. Carly Mikulski (NL) 25:15.

BOYS

TEAM SCORES AND LEGEND

1. Southern Lehigh (SL) 39, 2. Northwestern (NW) 92, 3. Palisades (Pali) 97, 4. Notre Dame Green Pond (NDGP) 115, 5. Moravian (M) 155, 6. Pen Argyl (PA) 166, 7. Saucon Valley (SV) 188, 8. Bangor (B) 193, 9. Palmerton (Palm) 226, 10. Wilson (W) 229, 11. Salisbury (S) 294, 12. Catasauqua (C) 356.

Individual top 5

1. Thomas Smigo (Pali) 16:21, 2. Alexander Kane (SL) 16:29, 3. Matthew Chaikowsky (SV) 16:52, 4. Anthony Coppolella (PA) 17:01, 5. Shane Artis (S) 17:10.

Other locals in the top 50

10. Samuel Bower (NW) 17:49, 15. Cole Chukoskie (NW) 18:12, 18. Matthew Santana (NW) 18:22, 20. RJ Zack (NW) 18:24, 30. Joseph Chukoskie (NW) 18:43, 33. Michael Noyola (Palm) 18:46, 36. Jared Thomason (NL) 18:54, 37. Owen Hibell (Palm) 18:55, 38. Joseph Pleban (NW) 19:01, 41. Nathan Vincent (NW) 19:03, 43. Matthew Boushell (NW) 19:07, 44. Brance Fronheiser (Palm) 19:08, 48. Joshua Heilman (NW) 19:17.

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