South’s Griffin Molino runs away with PIAA cross country title

HERSHEY – Griffin Molino looks at every day as an opportunity.

It’s the reason he drags himself out of bed by 5 a.m. every morning to deliver newspapers. It’s the reason he finds the time to train.

Every training run has the potential to lead to an even bigger opportunity. Molino was at one of those places Saturday morning at the PIAA Cross Country Championships. He entered the boys Class A race on the Parkview Cross Country Course at Hersheypark as the District 4 champion and only one of two returning runners from the top eight finishers in 2012.

It was the perfect opportunity for Molino as he stood at the start line that stretched more 30 lanes across. And he made the most of it.

The junior ran away from the field over the last mile and blistered the competition, winning the state championship by 31 seconds.

His official time of 15:54 trailed only Class AAA champion Tony Russell of West Chester Henderson.

“I was pretty confident that I was going to be able to run my race and hopefully do something pretty great and I was able to do that today,” Molino said.

Confident yes, but the junior also had plenty of nerves. He had more than a week to think about Saturday’s race as the District 4 Championships were run on Oct. 24 at Bloomsburg University. The wait left him anxious to improve on last year’s eighth-place finish at the PIAA Championships.

Molino put his nerves behind him quickly as he rushed out to a 4:41 first mile and trailed Maplewood’s Jeremy Parsons by just a second. Parsons finished fifth last year at the championships and had a year of experience on Molino as a senior.

At the 2-mile mark, Molino edged ahead by a second and knew he was in prime position to make a move.

“I wanted to go out and stay in reach coming through the second mile,” he said. “I was feeling it pretty good, but it was for a state championship and I only had a mile to go, so I went after it because I wanted it real bad.”

As Molino appeared on the straightaway to the finish, Parsons was out of the picture.

“He’s very good at getting out good with his starts and I knew I had to hold on like heck,” Molino said. “I knew if I was on him the whole time that when it came down to the latter part of the race that I have a strong will.”

Molino’s time was 42 seconds faster than he ran last season on the same course as a sophomore.

“That’s unreal and puts in perspective of how good of a runner he really is,” South Williamsport coach Ted Deljanovan said.

As Molino approached the finish line, he raised his arms in triumph, first pointing his fingers upward into the sky before turning to a thumbs-up. Once he collected himself far from the finish beyond the crowd with his coaches, Molino walked over to his family and friends and received hugs from his four siblings.

One was missing. His brother Tayge has Crohn’s Disease and is currently in the hospital receiving treatment. It was the only part of the day Molino wishes would have been different.

“This counted for him today,” Molino said. “(Showing him that medal) is going to be big for him because he struggles. He just wants to be a normal kid, but he is held back a little.”

Molino’s best friend, Colt Young, was also in Hershey after making the trip from New York. It was Young who convinced Molino to compete in cross country.

“I wouldn’t be a state champ right now without him,” Molino said.

Saturday’s performance capped off an unforgettable year for the junior. He placed second at the Spike Shoe Invitational and won the NEPA and PHAC Coaches Invites before winning district and state titles.

“This was something that was earned,” Deljanovan said. “This isn’t a sport than hands out championships, you earn your championship and what he did today was well-deserved.”

Molino will take a short time to enjoy his state championship before returning to the grind and preparing for the Nike Cross Country Northeast Regionals in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., on Nov. 30.

District 10’s Saegertown won the Class A team title with 60 points. District 4’s Northeast Bradford was third with 117 points.