HERSHEY The pounding headache was a short-term reminder for South Williamsport's Griffin Molino on the endurance and guts it took to finish in the Top 10 during his first experience at the PIAA Cross Country Championships. His long-term reminder is a PIAA medal.
Griffin finished in 16 minutes, 36 seconds and placed eighth during the PIAA Class A boys race on Saturday.
"I just always want to do good and make people proud," said Molino, who was the top sophomore finisher. "I don't want to let people down."
The PIAA Cross Country Championships were divided into three classifications this season for the first time, resulting in six championship races on Saturday.
District 4 placed seven runners amongst the first 22 finishers in the boys Class A race and walked away with more than 25 percent of the 25 medals awarded. Northeast Bradford's Sam Williams and Curt Jewett placed third and fourth, respectively, and the District 4 champions won the team title with 96 points. Sullivan County's Kelby Mullen was 15th, Wellsboro's Jordan Jackson 17th, Canton's Emmett Watson 20th and Northeast Bradford's Brandon Devonshire 22nd.
"I was really happy with my race," said Mullen, who finished 20th at the 2011 PIAA Championships. "I wanted to get out and run with some of the kids in our district because we had a lot of good kids coming in here."
Jackson and Mullen were previous PIAA medal winners, but Molino was making his first PIAA appearance and running in just his fourth career high school race.
What Molino gave up to his fellow competitors in experience and training, he made up with guts and determination. He wanted to make those around him proud and the sophomore exceeded any of those expectations by working his way into the Top 10 before crossing the finish line with his one hand raised in triumph.
The agony on his face, after the initial adrenaline of his accomplishment wore off, illustrated the effort needed on the demanding course against the state's elite runners. He worked his way through the crowd and found an area on the grass to collapse. Those he wanted to make proud congratulated him and he eventually reached his feet, put on a blue sweatshirt and found a set of metal bleachers where he slowly began to recuperate as family, friends and coaches recounted Molino's 3.1-mile trek.
"It's pretty special," said Molino. "I'm glad I could finish that high."
Molino was running comfortably inside the Top 20 when he approached the final hill before the slight bend to the finish line. He knew he was close to the Top 10 and began grinding up the hill. As other competitors began to falter, Molino, who delivers newspapers in the morning while most of his classmates are asleep, dug deep and made his way into the Top 10 during a furious finish where sixth through ninth places were separated by 9 seconds.
"After the second mile is where I come alive, so we knew I had just had to be in a good position to make the podium," said Molino, who did have a bit of a mishap when he took a slight wrong turn on the course but quickly recovered.
District 2 swept the top two places with Rico Galassi of Holy Cross winning in 15:59 and Elk Lake's Luke Jones finishing a second back.
Lewisburg's Sean Walker was one of two District 4 runners to place in the Top 10 in the Class AA race. Walker ninth and Towanda's Aaron Valoroso fourth. Walker finished in 16:39.
"I knew that I was looking for a Top 10, so I kind of had my mind set on that," said Walker. "I heard
people yelling out places and it was 11th, 12th and right there I was at 13th. I was like, OK, I can push a little more."
Vinny Todaro of Big Spring won the race in 16 minutes.
The Green Dragons finished eighth in the team standings with 234 points. Pottsgrove edged Grove City, 96-99, for first place.
Williamsport's Chet Schwoyer placed 155th out of 219 runners in the Class AAA race with a time of 17:46. West Chester Henderson's Tony Russell won in 15:45 and his finish helped his teammates win the team title.