The Bedford Gazette coverage area may not have many cross country teams, but the teams that are here had a very good year.
Led by two state placewinners and an undefeated district championship team, the Bedford Gazette Cross County All-Star Team is a strong one this year.
The boys are led by two juniors: Northern Bedford’s Ian Zimmerman and Bedford’s Van May. Zimmerman placed fifth at states in Class A, while May was 11th in Class AA. Zimmerman also led a Black Panther team that put five runners on the Gazette All-Star Team: Zimmerman, Hunter Horton, Connor Laird, Josh Strayer, and Ian Sherlock. The other two boys are Chestnut Ridge’s Calan Bollman and Bedford’s Nate Scritchfield.
The girls were led by four freshmen runners that were at states with Bedford’s Meah Eshelman and Savanna Nesbitt, Northern Bedford’s Harley Socie, and Chestnut Ridge’s Ava Whysong. The other two are Bedford runners that helped the Lady Bisons finish third at districts: senior Ashley Ferguson and sophomore Alexis Twigg.
The team is young with two only two senior boys (Sherlock and Strayer) and one girl (Ferguson). There are four junior boys, one sophomore, and one freshman. In addition to the four freshmen and senior, there is one sophomore.
This is the fourth Gazette All-Star nod for Sherlock, and the third for May and Zimmerman. Laird and Ferguson are on the team for the second time in their careers.
The 2019 Bedford Gazette Cross Country All-Star Teams were selected by the Bedford Gazette Sports Staff with input from area cross country coaches.
Here is a look at the first-team selections for the 2019 Bedford Gazette Cross Country All-Star Teams:
Boys First Team
Calan Bollman, Chestnut Ridge — One of the pleasant surprises for the local teams in the 2019 season was Bollman, who impressed everyone that he ran against this year. He is only a freshman.
He was 10th at the. St. Francis Red Flash Invitational (18:31.0); fifth at the LHAC Championship (17:15.5); sixth at the District 6-AA Championship (16:47); and 82nd at the PIAA Class AA State Championship with an 18:31.
“Calan is everything you want in a leader: hard working, dedicated, and a positive person with the other runners,” said Chestnut Ridge coach Jason Tew. “He is very competitive and wants to be the best, and he is willing to do the work that is needed to be that.
“He spent most of the season finishing in the top three in almost every race while winning several. As the season progressed, he figured out how to approach each mile and was able to make improvements all season. He ran his best time at districts setting a new school record, which is great for a freshman. I look forward to him leading this team by example for the next three years and helping to build a successful program.”
Hunter Horton, Northern Bedford — Horton ran for Tussey Mountain the last two years, but the co-op with Northern Bedford allowed the junior to participate with the Black Panthers this year. He helped the Black Panthers to ICC and District 5 titles.
Horton’s best time in a major meet was an 18:35.1 at the Bear Mountain River Run, where he was 62nd. He was 33rd at the Altoona Mountain Lion Invitational, 211th at Carlisle Invitational, 16th at District 5-A, and 189th at states with a 19:37.0.
“Hunter was a very pleasant surprise and nice addition to our team this season,” said Northern Bedford coach Wayne Sherlock. “Hunter fit in very well with the team from the first day of practice. Hunter learned and improved a lot because he had the desire to get better often asking why we were doing something so he could get the big picture.
“He worked hard every practice and gave 100 percent in every meet. Hunter demonstrated the drive and mindset that will lead to success in wrestling and track. I look forward to working with Hunter again next cross country season.”
Connor Laird, Northern Bedford — Laird has been a solid member for the Black Panthers the last couple years, and he had a very good postseason this year.
After making the Gazette All-Stars last year, he ran his best time at the ICC Championship with a 17:37.5 and a sixth-place finish. He was seventh at districts with an 18:54.5. He bettered that time at states, where he ran an 18:28 and was in 115th place. He was also 25th at the Altoona Mountain Lion Invitational, and was 42nd at the Bear Mountain River Run.
“This is Connor’s second season as a Bedford Gazette All-Star,” Sherlock said. “Connor showed steady improvement during the season and really started to understand the effort it takes and the mental focus needed to run consistently at a high level.
“Connor ran great at states finishing as our number three runner. I am confident that Connor will step up in a leadership position next season, so our team continues our success in the ICC and District V. Connor should have confidence from this cross country season leading to a successful track season this spring.”
Van May, Bedford — May worked hard to overcome an injury last May that kept him from training the way he wanted, and he came through with a strong end of the season that includes an LHAC Championship, a second-place at District 6, and an 11th-place medal at states.
He had his personal best at the District 6-AA meet with a 15:58.0 after running a 16:04 at the LHAC Championship. He was third at the Big Valley Invitational, third at the St. Francis Red Flash Invitational, second at the Altoona Mountain Lion Invitational, and 14th at the Carlisle Challenge Race. He was also the Central Western PA All Area SC First Team All-Star and Runner of the Year.
“Van really excelled this season,” said Bedford coach Michele Fisher. “After the injury at the end of track and missing the state track meet, Van came into the season with the goal of medaling in the top five at the state meet. He worked consistently toward that goal all season long. He ran in the front and medaled at every invitational.
“He was the LHAC Champion, beating long-time rival Nick Fetzer of Westmont. He set a new all-time personal record at the LHAC meet, and broke it the next week. At states, he improved his placing and his time from last season. We look for Van to be a top contender again next year.”
Nate Scritchfield, Bedford — Scritchfield stepped up to be the number two runner behind May in the Bison lineup, and he is only a sophomore.
He had his best time of the year in his final meet of the year with an 18:21 for a 27th-place finish at the District 6-AA Championship, while he was 30th at the LHAC meet. He also was 82nd at the Big Valley Invitational with a 19:44.
“Nate was a consistent performer all season,” said coach Fisher. “He worked diligently at every practice as he worked on his technique and speed. He suffered a small setback mid season and had to sit out a week, but came back extremely focused.
“He achieved the goal we had set for him by running 18:21 at the District 6 meet. We look for continued improvement and success from Nate next year.”
Ian Sherlock, Northern Bedford — Coach Sherlock had one of the top 1-2 combinations in the area with Zimmerman and Sherlock’s son Ian. Those two finished in the top five in every meet until states.
Sherlock was second at both the ICC and District 5-A Championships as well as the Champions race at Carlisle Invitational. He was fourth at the Altoona Mountain Lion Invitational and fifth at the Bear Mountain River Run, where he ran his best time at a large meet with a 16:10.7.
“Ian finished a very successful season and career as the first four-year letterwinner and four-time state qualifier in cross country at Northern Bedford,” said coach Sherlock. “Along the way Ian earned recognition as a Bedford Gazette All-Star four times and an ICC All-Star three times.
“The highlight for Ian individually this season was his second place finish at Carlisle. Ian put the miles in over the summer and time in the weight room needed to compete at the state level. The success Ian had this cross country season should lead to successful wrestling and track seasons. Ian provided leadership that will be missed next season.”
Josh Strayer, Northern Bedford — Strayer was a senior who really turned it on at the end of the season.
He was fifth at both the ICC and District 5-A Championships, and he ran his best time in a big meet in the ICC meet with a 17:32.9. He was 22nd at Altoona Mountain Lion Invitational, 69th in the Bear Mountain River Run, 162th at Carlisle Invitational, and 166th at states.
“Josh capped a fine cross country season being named as a Bedford Gazette All-Star,” said coach Sherlock. “Josh developed into an outstanding runner in his season and a half as a member of the team finishing as a number three runner in many of our meets.
“Placing fifth at districts would have earned Josh an entry in the state meet even if our team did not qualify. That finish is a result of the work and dedication Josh put into this season often running on his own because of other school commitments. Josh is a talented runner who will be missed next season.”
Ian Zimmerman, Northern Bedford — Zimmerman took the next step this year to become one of the best cross country runners in the state, and he showed that with the fifth-place finish at PIAA Class A State Championships.
The fifth-place finish at states and at the Carlisle Invitational were the lowest finishes of the year for Zimmerman. He won the ICC and District 5-A titles, and he was third at the Altoona Mountain Lion Invitational and Bear Mountain River Run, where he ran a 16:02 for his best time of the year at a big meet.
“Ian capped off an outstanding junior year placing fifth at states,” said coach Sherlock. “He is one of the hardest working, humble young men that I have ever coached. This is his third year as a Bedford Gazette All-Star, ICC All-Star, and District 5-A Champion. Ian finished impressively in all our invitationals this season.
“Ian is a very talented athlete that leads the team with his work ethic. Ian understands this season, as well as previous seasons, are all part of a journey, and he uses the experiences to make himself a better runner and shares what he has learned with his teammates to make them better runners. I look forward to seeing how he uses his past successes to improve in track this spring and next year in cross country.”
Girls First Team
Meah Eshelman, Bedford — The Lady Bisons had a number of newcomers and Eshelman stepped in to be one of the top runners on the team.
Her highest place was a fourth-place finish at the Big Valley Invitational, and she came back to finish strong to finish seventh at the LHAC Championship and was eighth at the District 6-AA, which earned her a trip to states. She was 135th with a time of 21:54.6, and her best time was 20:24.0., which she ran at districts.
“Meah did a great job this season,” said coach Fisher. “As a freshman, she earned medals at every invitational. She improved her race strategy and her technique on hills during our focused practice sessions.
“Meah turned in a solid performance at the LHAC meet and a gritty performance at the District 6 meet in order to make the trip to Hershey. The Johnstown area coaches voted Meah to the Central Western PA All Area XC Team Second Team, which is quite an accomplishment for any freshman. We look for her to be a consistent performer next year.”
Ashley Ferguson, Bedford — Ferguson was a tough competitor who is a hurdle runner in the spring, but picked up on distance running when she came out for cross country a couple years ago.
She finished ninth at the St. Francis Red Flash Invitational and was 24th at the Altoona Mountain Lion Invitational. She was 27th at districts and 24th at the LHAC Championships. Her best time in a big meet was 22:04 at the district meet.
“Ashley has been a consistent performer and a quiet leader for the team throughout her career,” said coach Fisher. “She continued that tradition again this season as she worked on both her strength and speed.
“Ashley showed real time improvements through the final three weeks of the season. She set her all-time personal record during her final race at District 6. We look forward to seeing how this time improvement will transfer over to the hurdles in track and field.”
Savanna Nesbitt, Bedford — Nesbitt came to Bedford as a co-op student from Everett, and she made quite a splash onto the scene as she and Eshelman went back and forth as the top runner for Bedford.
She was second at the Big Valley Invitational, third at St. Francis Red Flash Invitational, fourth at the Altoona Mountain Lion Invitational, seventh at District-6-AA, and ninth at the LHAC Championships. She made it to states, but ran with a injury and placed 206th. Her best time was a 20:08 at the Big Valley Invitational.
“Savanna was a great performer,” coach Fisher said. “She was brand new to the sport and did really well adapting to the large field of runners and variances in terrain. She learned a great deal about the mental aspects of the long run.
“As a two-sport athlete, she missed out on some of our focused training practices, but continued to learn and grow throughout the season. She earned a trip to the state meet as a first-timer in the sport, and we look for her continued success next season. The Johnstown area coaches voted Savanna to the Central Western PA All Area XC Team Second Team, which is a testament to her performance throughout the season.”
Harley Socie, Northern Bedford — Another freshman that really stepped it up at the end of the year as Harley Socie for Northern Bedford.
Her times dropped dramatically through the year. Her first time of the year was 29:09, and it dropped to the 22:26 at the ICC meet. She finished fourth at the ICC Championships, and sixth at the District 5-A Championships, which earned her a trip to states. She ran a 23:45.6 to place 168th against a strong field and a tough course.
“Harley is an example of why athletics are great confidence builders for students,” said coach Sherlock. “Harley started out the season as our fourth runner but worked her way up to our number one runner by the end of the season. Harley’s great improvement was highlighted by a fourth place finish in the ICC Meet and a sixth place finish at Districts, which qualified her for the state meet.
“Harley accomplished this by working hard and striving to improve. She was not satisfied where she was at and wanted to make herself a better runner. Harley’s effort and success was noticed by many people throughout the area. Harley will have a successful track season and inspire those around her to succeed.”
Alexis Twigg, Bedford — Twigg was both a newcomer to the sport and co-op student from Everett, and she burst onto the track scene last year in the mid-distance races.
She was ninth at the St Francis Red Flash Invitational, 20th at the LHAC Championship, and 12th at the District 6-AA Championship, where she ran her season’s best in a big meet at 22:04. She missed a trip to states by 16 seconds.
“Alexis was our most improved female this season, improving her time almost three minutes throughout the season,” said coach Fisher. “She was also brand new to the sport and really didn’t know what to expect. Alexis worked tremendously hard at each and every practice. She asked for advice from everyone as she tried to learn about technique and strategy.
“An accident mid season kept her from competing at two duals and two invitational’s. However, she came back strong and worked even harder at practice. Her hard work paid off with a medal at the LHAC meet. We’re really excited about her future in the sport.”
Ava Whysong, Chestnut Ridge — Yet another freshman who burst onto the scene and got better as the season went on.
Whysong was 24th at the St. Francis Red Flash Invitational, 37th at the LHAC Championship, fourth at the District 5-A meet, and 100th at states, where she ran her fastest time in large meet with a 22:17.8.
“Ava really came into her own this season,” said coach Tew. “I watched her run in junior high and knew that she had potential. I was impressed with how hard she worked this season to improve. She put in time this summer when we got the team started to make sure she would be ready for the season. As the season progressed, she continued to improve and figure out how she wanted to run the race.
“By the season’s end, she ran her best times at districts and then again at states, both two of the toughest courses we run. I’m happy that she was able to make it to states not only as a freshman, but also in our team’s first year. All of our athletes had to learn this sport without any prior experience, which is a testament to how hard of a worker she is. She was a leader to the rest of the girls’ team and was always encouraging her teammates.”