Shore’s Davis, Loyalsock’s Serfass renew their rivalry in boys AA race
BLOOMSBURG — Isaac Davis had been waiting at the finish line for Quinn Serfass. The two runners were well out in front of the pack in the District 4 Class AA boys cross country race Thursday at Bloomsburg University.
As Serfass, Loyalsock’s defending district champion, crossed the finish line some 20 seconds after Jersey Shore’s Davis, the two embraced. Nobody appreciates competition more than those two, and competition was exactly what they provided each other on a blustery fall day.
A year after finishing a disappointing sixth at districts, Davis took that competition and laid down a sub-16 minute time to win his first district title since 2015. Serfass was second and helped the Lancers take the AA team title thanks to having three finishers in the Top 6.
Mount Carmel won the Class A team title and Wellsboro’s Aidan Perry earned his second consecutive trip to the state meet with a runner-up finish. Other local individual state qualifiers in the Class AA field were Jersey Shore’s Hunter Mummert and Chase Carpenter, Warrior Run’s Damein Moser and Addison Magyar and Lewisburg’s Jason Stanko and Calvin Bailey. Milton was the Class AA runner-up, led by Kellan Guinn-Bailey’s fourth-place finish, and each Black Panther team member moved on to the state meet.
“It’s friendly competition. We’ve been racing each other for four years and it’s fun competition,” Davis said. “I don’t like beating everyone by a lot. I want good competition and I want to push myself. I want a good fight.”
Serfass provided a fight like he didn’t provide recently at the PHAC meet. In that race, he lost to Davis by 90 seconds. Thursday, Serfass clocked 16:15, which was less than 20 seconds behind Davis’ winning time of 15:58.
Through the first loop of Bloomsburg University’s upper campus course, Serfass was on the heels of Davis, and the gap back to Loyalsock teammates Ryan Sullivan and Alejandro Quintana was razor thin. A year ago, that kind of tight gap got into Davis’ head. He hadn’t been pushed all year leading into the 2016 district championships and he ended up finishing sixth in a talented field with a time which was 90 seconds slower than his winning time yesterday.
But it’s that performance which, in part, has fueled Davis to reach this very moment back atop the District 4 mountain. He’s been one of the most impressive runners in the state all season, even capturing the PIAA Foundation meet championship by more than 30 seconds a month ago.
This time the pressure of close competition is what pushed Davis to go even faster. His five-second lead over Serfass on the first loop turned into 12 seconds on the second loop and was eventually 17 seconds at the finish line.
“I learned a lot from last year when I didn’t do very well,” Davis said. “It helped me learn to not get in my own head when I run. It helped me listen to my coach and listen to my splits and just do what my training has let me do and run my race.”
“I was really excited for this matchup,” Serfass said. “I know he can potentially bring out the best in me which not a lot of people can do like he does. It was actually really fun.”
Even though Davis eventually broke free of the pack and basically spent the final two loops of the course running by himself, Serfass never once conceded a loss. Instead, the whole race was a learning experience for the senior.
He finished the race happy to have cut the 90-second deficit from the PHAC meet to just 17 seconds. Now, when the state meet rolls around in a little more than a week, Serfass believes a little strategy change here or there might help him to reel in Davis even more.
“The whole plan was to go out with Isaac and experiment with what happens,” Serfass said. “I know he’s a good first-half runner and I know he can close well. So the issue was about whether or not I could hold on. So I said if I go for the first mile, it could set me up for the whole race anyway, so I might as well go for it.”
Davis will enter the state meet next week as the favorite to come away with gold in the AA race. He’s the top returning finisher at states, having taken third last year after the disappointing sixth-place run at districts. Serfass finished 10th a year ago.
But Davis isn’t worried about that yet. He’ll worry about the state meet when that day rolls around. Heck, even after his race Thursday he wasn’t thinking about what Friday held for him. Instead, he’s focused on each hour of each day and accomplishing what needs done in that moment.
“I’m not worried about that race yet,” Davis said. “It’s one day at a time. But this shows me I have a good balance of what I need to do each race and the training I need to go with it.”
Perry found the energy to win a sprint to the finish line over the final 100 yards or so to take second place in the boys Class A race. The energy for that run came from being beaten by Wyalusing’s Alex Patton recently in the Northern Tier League meet.
With the strain on his face of a runner who really wanted that second-place finish behind Southern Columbia’s Ethan Knoebel, Perry got it. The reality is he would have qualified for states regardless of whether he had finished second or third. But to him, winning that sprint meant everything.
“I think that was quite a bit about revenge,” Perry said. “You got to think about that kick at the end and know you can’t die before it or people will catch up.”