As Logan Maust crossed the finish line Thursday afternoon to successfully defend his FCCA Cross Country Championship title, the battle for the team crown was developing on the Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus course.
Connellsville had five finishers in the top 11 while Uniontown had only three, but the Red Raiders captured 12th through 14th with Sam Jubin’s finish as the sixth runner giving the tiebreaker to Uniontown after both teams finished with 36 points.
Maust said he felt the impact as the returning champion as he toed the starting line.
“I was so nervous,” said a smiling Maust. “I had butterflies in my stomach so bad. I was okay around the first-mile mark.”
Maust was cautious at the start, not going out too fast.
“The start was definitely the challenge. It was a comfortable start,” Maust said.
Maust made his move on his preferred spot on the course.
“I went at the top of College Hill. That’s my favorite spot,” said Maust.
The senior also reflected on his final race on his home course, saying, “It’s sad. This is my last time running here. I’m proud of my last couple years.”
Laurel Highlands senior Brendan Kopich shook off past misfortunes to finish second behind Maust in 17:52.
“We have really different styles,” Kopich said of Maust. “I like to start slower.”
Kopich also has a different view of College Hill, noting, “I don’t like College Hill. It’s easy to go slow.”
As with Maust, Kopich was more concerned with where he finished instead of how long it took to get there.
“I really didn’t have a time. I was looking for place,” said Kopich. “I’m kind of happy after last year running this course.”
Kopich, too, was running on the Penn State course for the final time.
“Wow, this is my last one here. I didn’t want to have a last, bad race,” said Kopich.
Connellsville’s Zach Bigam broke away from the rest of the field to finish third in 17:59 to earn his first All-County honor.
“I was trying to get Kopich. He was in front of me the whole race,” said the sophomore. “I was waiting for him to die out.
“I was getting him on the uphill (on College Hill). His legs are longer than mine.”
Bigam was pleased with his All-County effort.
“Overall, I’m happy with it. It feels pretty good. Hard work pays off,” said Bigam.
The competition for the team title began in earnest after Bigam crossed the finish line.
The Red Raiders’ Nathan Lucy was fourth in 18:27, holding off Connellsville’s Dom Prestipino by just over a second with the Falcon crossing the finish line in 18:28.17.
Prestipino then managed to hold off Uniontown freshman Leyton Maust by a ¼-second, 18:28.42.
The Maust siblings joined the Quarzos as All-County families.
“It’s awesome. It’s great. I’m proud of him,” said the elder Maust.
Connellsville’s Bryce Foster swung the momentum back to the Falcons when he finished seventh in 18:33.
Laurel Highlands’ Isaac Meeder (8, 18:38) and Joe Casteel (9, 18:45) earned All-County honors and broke the string of Connellsville and Uniontown runners.
Connellsville’s Seth Basinger closed out the top-10 finishes in 18:51, three seconds ahead of teammate Kyle Jordan.
The Red Raiders’ Brandon Hebda (18:55), Dalton Grimes (19:03), and Jubin (19:08) then finished to give the edge to Uniontown for the team title by just a couple seconds here or there in the meet.