MESHOPPEN TWP. — A runner is typically aware of his or her full potential, a limit of how fast he or she could run. Often the penultimate race before districts provides them with the best idea of what their range will be in postseason.
A year ago, Dominic Hockenbury knew he had reached his limit at the Wyoming Valley Conference Cross Country Championships. In his final run at his favorite local course Tuesday, the Lake-Lehman senior wasn’t even close to reaching that peak
Hockenbury won WVC boys championship in 15:34 on the 5K Wyoming County Fairgrounds course in Meshoppen Township. The defending Class 2A state champion ran a pace of 5:01, beating second-place Jack Zardecki, of Dallas, by 78 seconds.
“Up until now, I’ve been holding back,” Hockenbury said. “Today I kind of unleashed it a little bit and let it all out there. I’m definitely feeling good about this year. At this point last year, I felt like this was the fastest I was going to go. But right now, I feel like I have so much more to give. And I’m still coming along.”
Hockenbury was the rest of the conference’s one saving grace against the Dallas dynasty that swept both the boys and girls standings. To top it off, the Mountaineers’ junior high teams also won their respective WVC championships.
Dallas senior Ally Rome won the girls championship by completing the course in 18:59. Her pace of 6:07 put her 41 seconds ahead of teammate Rebecca Balara. With her top competition Maggie Toczko, of Tunkhannock, sitting out the race, Rome paced the field and was running by herself for almost the entirety of the race.
“She knows she could run faster than that,” Dallas coach Matt Samuel said. “She was running by herself there. She went out after it but said it was hard being out there by herself. I think if those two girls were running together they would have run some quick times here today.”
Each of the five Mountaineer scorers finished in the top 18 for the race – all earning medals. Following Balara’s 19:40 time, Riley Oremus gave Dallas points with an eighth-place finish at 21:30. Katie Grose (21:48) and Grace Jarden (22:06) finished in 11th and 18th places, respectively.
“Our girls were phenomenal,” Samuel said. “We’ve been performing steady for the past couple weeks. We’ve kind of been up and down throughout the season, but the last couple of weeks, they’ve been really putting it on lately. Showing no signs of stopping.”
Second-place Lake-Lehman also had its top five scorers earn medals. Jade Fry led the Black Knights in fifth place at 20:37. Lake-Lehman also received help from Julia Hutsko (14th), Olivia Vasey (16th), Krystin Chaga (17th) and Kara Martin (20th).
With two of its three top runners sitting out the race, Dallas was able to take the WVC champion over a narrow eight-point margin over Berwick. Adam Borton was 18 seconds behind Zardecki in third place at 17:10. Freshman Mitchell Rome logged a 13th place run at 17:57. Robert Martin followed two seconds later, and Stephen Postupak secured the win with an all-important 17th place run at 18:03.
“They’ve been running well all season,” Samuel said. “We’ve hit a bit of a speed bump but we’ll pick it up. That’s not to take anything away from Berwick. They had a nice race today.”
Berwick received three top 10 runs from Ty Fisher (seventh, 17:33), Beau Blass (eighth, 17:37) and Bao Le (10th, 17:47). Each of the top four Bulldogs were within 17 seconds.
Hockenbury was cruising after the first timer, crossing the 1-mile marker in just 4 minutes, 40 seconds. From there, the Black Knight settled into his pace and finished strong.
“We’re trying to taper later in the year, more towards the state and national levels when it really starts to matter,” he said.
In addition to reclaiming his district and state titles, Hockenbury has his eyes set on the Footlocker Nationals in San Diego in December. To qualify for it, he expects to run a 15:45 to get into the top 10. On a “course similar” to the Van Cortlandt Park course that regional qualifiers are located, Hockenbury ran nine seconds quicker Tuesday.
“I was tired last year from racing a little too much during the beginning of the season,” said Hockenbury, who expects to gradually start increasing pace and dropping mileage. “I should be in the best shape when it starts to matter”
WVC Coaches Championship
Team Standings: 1. Dallas (DAL) 40, 2. Lake-Lehman (LL) 72, 3. Pittston Area (PA) 89, 4. Holy Redeemer (HR) 106, 5. Hazleton Area (HAZ) 138, 5. Wyoming Seminary (SEM) 138, 7. Tunkhannock (TUN) 176, 8. Wyoming Valley West (WVW) 248, 9. Berwick (BER) 250, 10. Northwest (NW) 274, 11. Crestwood (CRE) 312, 12. MMI Prep (MMI) 344, Coughlin (COU), Hanover Area (HAN), Nanticoke (NAN), Wyoming Area (WA), Meyers (MEY)
Individual Results: 1. Ally Rome (DAL) 18:59, 2. Rebecca Balara (DAL) 19:40, 3. Tara Johnson (PA) 20:02, 4. Lyndsey Williams (HR) 20:32, 5. Jade Fry (LL) 20:37, 6. Tara Kupsky (SEM) 21:11, 7. Bailey Loyack (PA) 21:19, 8. Riley Oremus (DAL) 21:30, 9. Paige Kupsky (SEM) 21:32, 10. Sam Dyer (BER) 21:40, 11. Katie Grose (DAL) 21:48, 12. Morgan Manglaviti (TUN) 21:52, 13. Arianna Boccardi (PA) 21:55, 14. Julia Hutsko (LL) 21:57, 15. Ava Baur (SEM) 21:59, 16. Olivia Vasey (LL) 22:03, 17. Krystin Chaga (LL) 22:04, 18. Grace Jarden (DAL) 22:06, 19. Molly Holmes (HR) 22:11, 20. Kara Martin (LL) 22:13
Team Standings: 1. Dallas (DAL) 49, 2. Berwick (BER) 57, 3. Hazleton Area (HAZ) 97, 4. Holy Redeemer (HR) 104, 5. Coughlin (COU) 176, 6. Tunkhannock (TUN) 184, 7. Wyoming Valley West (WVW) 199, 8. Lake-Lehman (LL) 230, 9. Crestwood (CRE) 236, 10. Wyoming Area (WA) 291, 11. Wyoming Seminary (SEM) 303, 12. Pittston Area (PA) 304, 13. Hanover Area (HAN) 350, 14. Northwest (NW) 415, 14. GAR (GAR) 415, 16. MMI Prep (MMI) 416, Nanticoke (NAN), Meyers (MEY)
Individual Results: 1. Dominic Hockenbury (LL) 15:34, 2. Jack Zardecki (DAL) 16:52, 3. Adam Borton (DAL) 17:10, 4. Matt Houser (HAZ) 17:12, 5. Jacob Kobusky (WVW) 17:29, 6. Bryce Zapusek (HR) 17:29, 7. Ty Fisher (BER) 17:33, 8. Beau Blass (BER) 17:37, 9. Franco Balbuena (COU) 17:39, 10. Bao Le (BER) 17:47, 11. Mason Kimbell (BER) 17:50, 12. Ben Tidball (TUN) 17:51, 13. Mitchell Rome (DAL) 17:57, 14. Robert Martin (DAL) 17:59, 15. Dominic Capaci (HR) 18:01, 16. Tim Snyder (MEY) 18:02, 17. Alexander Elchisak (HAZ) 18:03, 18. Stephen Postupak (DAL) 18:03, 19. Stephen Dule (HAN) 18:04, 20. Josh Jarden (DAL) 18:06
Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @tlsports