Sep. 3—DALLAS — Running at the Cliff Robbins Invitational is always special for Brian McCormack.
It was the site of the first win of his cross country career and he hasn't stopped since.
For the third consecutive year, the Scranton High School senior won the varsity boys individual title at the 48th edition of the season-opening race. He covered the 3.1-mile course at Misericordia University's Letterkenny Fields in 16 minutes, 35 seconds.
Coupled with that win in the junior high race in 2019 and McCormack has four victories at Robbins.
"This was the first race I won when I was in eighth grade and it was the race that made me fall in love with the sport," McCormack said. "It means a lot to me to come back here every year and defend my title. I love this race because it kind of tells you what shape you're going to be in coming into the season and how you stack up with the best competitors in the district."
Riverside senior Daniel Danilovitz finished second to McCormack in 16:43. Dallas senior Bryce Phillips, Lackawanna Trail senior Brayden Clarke and Northwest sophomore Michael Fritz rounded out the top five.
In the varsity girls race, Dallas junior Madison Hedglin took individual honors in 19:09. Northeast Bradford junior Gracelyn Laudermilch finished second, 44 seconds back, and Dallas junior Sarah Williams was third.
Mountain View senior Carissa Flynn was the top girls finisher for the Lackawanna League in fourth in 20:29.
McCormack admitted he was a bit nervous going into the race since he was expected to defend his title.
"I just tried to put all that out of my mind," McCormack said. "I thought I ran a pretty good first race.
"I went out as fast as I could. Some people came with me. I don't know who they were, I just heard the fans saying, 'You've got this much on this guy.' So I just tried to sit back the entire race and tried to surge when I heard they were coming closer."
Danilovitz came the closest to McCormack, but never close enough to challenge for the lead.
"I feel I got out to a really good start, much better than other starts I've had here, especially last year," Danilovitz said. "The course had a lot of mud patches. Going downhill was a little stressful because you either had to go around them or through them. But I felt pretty good going uphill. That's where I got a little bit ahead.
"But he (McCormack) kept a comfortable lead."
Besides McCormack winning his third straight title, it is the fifth straight Robbins that a Scranton runner won the varsity boys individual title. Josh Christianson went back-to-back in 2018 and 2019. There was no race in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I don't know if anybody's ever done it before," Scranton coach Jim Griffiths said of McCormack's three straight victories. "It definitely is an achievement and a goal and something he really wanted. Obviously, it's his senior year. He expects to do well, not just locally but statewide."
Hedglin hopes her first-place finish Saturday is a forecast for the future, just as it was last year.
She finished third behind Riverside's Lacey Danilovitz and Wyoming Area's Madelyn Keating, then was third behind Keating and Danilovitz in the Class 2A race at the District 2 Championships. Both of those runners have graduated.
"Last year was kind of a mirror for districts," Hedglin said. "Hopefully, this year it will be the same for districts.
"There's some pressure, but I feel like I've improved since last year. Things are looking good right now, as long as I can stay healthy."
Because she was the top returning finisher, Hedglin felt some nerves going into the race. She hung back for the first mile before making her move to the front.
"I know everybody here is, but people get better. So, I didn't know what to expect," Hedglin said.
"I let the people behind me do the work in the beginning. About mile one, I broke free from them and created a bigger gap. I kept my pace and about mile 2.75 it was really, really muddy. But I had a good enough gap where I could take my time and not get injured."
It was an injury in last year's Robbins Invitational that cost Flynn half her season. She had tendinitis in the growth plate of her hip.
She wanted to show in this year's race that she is fully recovered and ready for her senior year.
"Last night, I was really nervous," Flynn said. "I took it out comfortably and didn't go out too fast because I knew there was a good field of girls here and they're very talented. I really wanted to have a good start to the season coming back from that."
In the junior high races, Montrose's Ava Rebello was the girls winner in 12:53 and Riverside's Jack Davies was the boys winner in 10:53.
Cliff Robbins Invitational results
48TH CLIFF ROBBINS INVITATIONAL
Medalists (Top 25)
Madison Hedglin (DAL) 19:09 on 3.1-mile Misericordia University Letterkenny Fields course; Gracelyn Laudermilch (NEB) 19:53; Sarah Williams (DAL) 19:53; Carissa Flynn (MTV) 20:29; Katie Kozich (CRE) 20:41; Bella Dessoye (PA) 20:54; Kate Korty (FC) 20:59; Emily Black (LAKE) 21:01; Ellie Kozich (CRE) 21:01; Milana Daiuye (HAZ) 21:04; Julianna Sobocinski (DAL) 21:04; Kaelyn Barker (CRE) 21:26; Anaiah Kolesar (NEB) 21:38; Adrienne Shebelock (CRE) 21:49; Alana Palmaioli (LL) 21:50; Corrine Flynn (MTV) 21:51; Hannah Stoss (WYOA) 21:54; Maddie Danko (CRE) 21:57; Annika Von Ahnen (MV) 22:02; Betsy Digiovanni (LL) 22:15; Mary Kupsky (MMI) 22:21; Olivia Thomas (DAL) 22:23; Mollie Kozich (CRE) 22:30; Izzy Larson (TOW) 22:39; Avery Kerr (MONT) 22:50.
Medalists (Top 25)
Brian McCormack (SCR) 16:35 on 3.1-mile Misericordia University Letterkenny Fields course; Daniel Danilovitz (RIV) 16:43; Bryce Phillips (DAL) 17:02; Brayden Clarke (LT) 17:02; Michael Fritz (NW) 17:10; Creed Dewing (NEB) 17:15; Mason Staude (CRE) 17:16; Franklin Ritz (HAZ) 17:25; Lorenzo Christian (MONT) 17:25; Jack Novelli (WSEM) 17:41; Aidan Graff (SCR) 17:42; Oliver Heintzelman (NW) 17:45; Matthew Repecki (MV) 17:51; Nate Sinkovich (MONT) 18:04; Dylan Kopa (LAKE) 18:16; Nate Higgins (CRE) 18:18; Ryan Kozich (CRE) 18:22; Caden Boettger (PA) 18:27; Henry Decker (LAKE) 18:33; Aiden McDonald (HR) 18:34; Aiden Kapr (NEB) 18:35; Jacob Covage (WSCR) 18:36; Taran Lawrence (HR) 18:39; Aidan Jennings (DAL) 18:43; Mikey Schimelfenig (RIV) 18:44.
JUNIOR HIGH GIRLS
Medalists (Top 25)
Ava Rebello (MONT) 12:53 on 1.86-mile Misericordia University Letterkenny Fields course; Janna Laudermilch (NEB) 13:04; Mary Eberlin (TOW) 13:06; Riley Ruch (CRE) 13:14; Megan O'Donnell (DUN) 13:32; Abby Calarco (BER) 13:37; Gwennyth Mazur (MV) 13:37; Sophie Bennett (NEB) 13:45; Karsyn Caines (MV) 13:54; Olivia Thomas (MV) 13:55; Leah Reeger (WW) 13:55; Lila Ruch (CRE) 13:57; Kenzie Brown (TOW) 13:59; Leah Smith (HR) 14:01; Alonna Maldonado (PA) 14:12; Allison Layland (PA) 14:18; Taylor Barnauskas (MV) 14:20; Grace Byrne (SCR) 14:20; Kaitlyn Kloss (WW) 14:22; Pauline Villafuerte (CRE) 14:23; Elise Lawrence (HR) 14:25; Molly Sweeney (SCR) 14:28; Kennedy Schimelfenig (RIV) 14:31; Lily Dorshefski (CRE) 14:32; Celia Ludka (WSEM) 14:46.
JUNIOR HIGH BOYS
Medalists (Top 25)
Jack Davies (RIV) 10:53 on 1.86-mile Misericordia University Letterkenny Fields course; Jacob Borrelli (MV) 10:57; Reeve Owen (MV) 11:17; Seamus Wallace (WSCR) 11:33; Jamison Myers (MONT) 11:38; Brennan Spaide (BER) 11:46; Jackson Martin (NEB) 11:54; Luca Hawley (MONT) 12:02; Anthony Johnson (NEB) 12:04; Ethan Deivert (CRE) 12:10; Gabriel Hernandez (HAZ) 12:12; Ben McCleland (WW) 12:14; Yug Patel (MV) 12:14; Andrew Connor (RIV) 12:15; Bradley Myers (CRE) 12:15; Nathan Mosher (MV) 12:15; Abram Heiss (NW) 12:16; Connor Posluszny (RIV) 12:16; Luis Mercado (MV) 12:16; Noah Perry (LT) 12:18; Jesse Bixby (MONT) 12:20; Gene Canfield (PA) 12:22; Hayden Coombs (NW) 12:24; Levi Dewing (NEB) 12:24; Rowan Dietrich (CRE) 12:27.
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