Although the Freedom Patriots boys cross country team was expected to win its second consecutive district title last week, nothing was taken for granted at the District XI Class AAA Cross Country Championships at the Bethlehem Municipal Field.
"There were a lot more people in the beginning. It made me kind of nervous at the start because I knew there was a lot of work to do," said Freedom captain, Chris Kelly.
Easton's Colin Abert won the district championship in 15:43, but right behind the Red Rover were several Patriots.
Freedom High School cross country runners, Shaina Palmer and Olivia Salerno, clinched berths for the PIAA State Cross Country Championships after qualifying at the District 11 Class AAA meet last Wednesday at the Bethlehem Municipal Field.
Salerno placed sixth in 19:44.
"I felt pretty good because I beat my time and place from leagues. I pulled away at the last mile-and-a-half. I just knew I had the energy to keep up with the other girls, and they started to pull away, and I didn't want to hold back," Salerno said.
Palmer placed tenth in 20:00.
Bethlehem Catholic cross country runner Kassi Yocco worked out the kinks on the hills at the Bethlehem Municipal Field to place eighth in the District 11 Class AA Cross Country Championships last Wednesday.
"I had more preparation for the hills, and I knew where to start pumping extra hard," Yocco said.
The Becahi sophomore finished the race in 20:38.
"I like running in the rain. What motivated me was that I could get to Hershey. I was trying to pace myself off some Northwestern girls and some Wilson girls. I passed three girls right at the end," said Yocco.
For the second consecutive year, Freedom's undefeated cross country season led to a Lehigh Valley Conference Championship on Tuesday at the Bethlehem Municipal Field.
The Patriots won with 33 points, while runner-up Parkland had 66 points. Easton was third with 95 points, followed by Liberty with 105 points, and Bethlehem Catholic had 210 points, finishing in seventh place.
Maybe it was the heat, and maybe it was the hills, but the Lehigh Valley Conference Girls Cross Country Championship Meet was a slow race by most standards last week at the Bethlehem Municipal Field.
"Usually, they go out really hard. It was a strange start. The top ten were together for a good part of the race," said Freedom junior, Shaina Palmer, who placed seventh in 20:33.
Also in the top ten was Freedom freshman, Olivia Salerno, who placed eighth in 20:41.
Freedom's number one singles player, Flannery Johnston, shared third place honors with East Stroudsburg South's Kaitlyn Poje after the District XI Singles Tennis Tournament last week at West End Racquet Club in Allentown.
Unlike in years past, a consolation match was not played for third place.
"I'm happy I made it as far as last year," Johnston said.
Johnston had lost to eventual winner, Brittany Poje of East Stroudsburg South, in the semifinal 0-6, 3-6, but the Patriot junior was realistic about the outcome.
In the final rivalry game of boys soccer season, it was pay back time as Freedom defeated Liberty 2-1 last Thursday, in return for a loss earlier this year to the Hurricanes.
Freedom midfielder, Nigel Long, scored the winning goal on an assist by Jarrett Clymer in the second overtime for the Patriots.
Liberty had a 1-0 lead at the half, after Stelios Koutsoumbis scored on a penalty kick in the first period. Freedom's Mezen Abdulla tied the game on an assist by Quinn Ackerman in the second half.
Revenge was sweet for Freedom's number three doubles tennis players, Corrine Marchese and Kaitlyn Swint, who captured third place and the bronze medal in the Lehigh Valley Conference Tennis Championships on Sept. 30 at Parkland High School.
After defeating Allen's Mary Gilbert and Karina Mendez 8-0, the Patriots then defeated Whitehall's Shadimon Navarro and Amanda Endy 8-1.
A lineup change during overtime resulted in a winning goal for Bethlehem Catholic last week, as Marisa Iannelli scored for the Hawks with six minutes remaining in their game against the Liberty Hurricanes.
Iannelli, a senior defender, said, "I was pushed up to midfield for overtime to help with the attack. Once I realized no one was marking me on the throw-in, I called for the ball. I had a lot of room to shoot. It looked like slow motion, and it looked like [Amelia Sapirman, the Liberty goalkeeper] thought it was going out of bounds."
As predicted, Freedom and Liberty's girls cross country teams battled it out for an end-of-season victory over their neighboring rival, resulting in a 26-29 win for the Patriots last week.
The Patriots also defeated Allen (15-50) and Dieruff (19-45), and the Hurricanes were victorious over Allen (15-50) and Dieruff (20-43).
Winning the race at Illick's Mill in 19:55 was Freedom junior, Shaina Palmer.