By BARRY SANKEY
CHARLESTOWN - One did not need a thermometer to know it was quite hot and humid Wednesday afternoon.
And hot, hot, hot is not the weather condition that is conducive to running cross country races. Just ask the runners from Phoenixville and Pottsgrove who competed at Valley Forge Christian College's course Wednesday in a Pioneer Athletic Conference meet to open the season.
Phoenixville junior Derek Wright took first place in the boys' race at 18:15 on the 3.1-mile course as the Phantoms ran to a 21-34 victory over the Falcons.
In the girls' race, Pottsgrove sophomores Olivia Powell, Sarah O'Brien and Shelby Garner finished 1-2-3 as the Falcons captured a 27-30 victory over the Phantoms. Powell's winning time was 22:32.
"It was tough, very hot," said Wright. "We train hard over the summer and do everything we are asked. But today (Wednesday) it was hot and we had a couple early injuries. It just wasn't our best effort that we could have shown
Phoenixville senior Travis Stokley (18:54) came in third place, followed by senior teammate Joel Flott (19:01) in fourth and Phoenixville senior Duane Stanton (19:21) in fifth position. Phantom senior Emeka Nwosu (19:51) completed the first five Phoenixville scorers on the 90-degree day.
Pottsgrove senior A.J. Discianni placed second in 18:40, and Falcon senior Logan Weisbach (19:26) and sophomore Dylan Eaton (19:41) were the next Pottsgrove runners to cross the finish line.
"It was a tough meet because it was so darn hot," said Phoenixville coach Jack Kraynak. "This summer we haven't had that hot weather, and that makes it tough. The times were not real, real fast because of the weather and they were sitting in school a few days, but both teams gave a real good effort."
Flott led the boys' race in the early going as the Phantoms were bunched in three of the top five spots. Wright took over the pace about halfway through the race, and he won going away.
"I am very happy with my time," Wright said. "It was 15 seconds faster than my time at the Upper Merion scrimmage. Next week we expect to do a lot more against some very tough teams. We can't slow down.
"We always have to take it like we are going to lose and that we are the underdogs. Today we thought we were above them. I thought it might be easy, but their kid (Discianni) was right behind me at the end of the race. It scared me."
Pottsgrove coach Larry Rechtin, a Phoenixville resident, thought his boys ran a competitive race and was exceptionally pleased with the girls' performance.
"The boys ran well," Rechtin said. "We had one guy who was sick, but it was a nice race. Phoenixville ran a nice race. They have good depth and a nice pack. We had a tough time splitting up their 2-3 runners. We came back ready and made it a very tight race right through. They (Phantoms) pulled away at the end. They obviously put in their summer mileage."
Junior Andrew Delena (20:18) and freshman Quinn Davis (20:39) completed the top five finishers for the Falcons. They placed ninth and 10th, respectively. Pottsgrove also occupied the 11th and 12th spots with Nick Davis (21:01) and Chris Brennan (21:07).
Phoenixville senior Steve Ng, junior Lee Houck and sophomore Dan Ward took the next three places to round out the top 15 runners.
"I am proud of what we did today," Wright said. "It was hot weather and it went our way."
In the girls' race, Pottsgrove guaranteed itself the team victory by sweeping the first three places. However, the Phantoms claimed the next five spots with junior Kacie Vargo (23:54), freshman Rachel Carr (24:10), senior Emily Dietz (24:11), senior Jenna Truax (25:41) and junior Jenna Small (26:29). Phoenixville sophomore standout Kat Babinchak did not finish the race due to recovery from an injury.
"The girls going 1-2-3 is nice," Rechtin said. "We have a good group of runners. They are all 10th graders and all three are great buddies. They are a neat group of girls to work with together.
"It was very hot, and the kids are not used to it yet. We have been running in mornings and evenings, not at 4 o'clock when it is mid-day. It is a shock to their systems."
Phoenixville 21, Pottsgrove 34
Derek Wright (Px) 18:15; A.J. Discianni (Pg) 18:40; Travis Stokley (Px) 18:54; Joel Flott (Px) 19:01; Duane Stanton (Px) 19:21; Logan Weisbach (Pg) 19:26; Dylan Eaton (Pg) 19:41; Emeka Nwosu (Px) 19:51; Andrew Delena (Pg) 20:18; Quinn Davis (Pg) 20:39.
Pottsgrove 27, Phoenixville 30
Olivia Powell (Pg) 22:32; Sarah O'Brien (Pg) 22:46; Shelby Garner (Pg) 23:39; Kacie Vargo (Px) 23:54; Rachel Carr (Px) 24:10; Emily Dietz (Px) 24:11; Jenna Truax (Px) 25:41; Jenna Small (Px) 26:29; Celeste Miller (Pg) 27:52; Kara O'Donnell (Px) 28:26.