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Girls XC is ready to do battle this fall

Anyone who knows Parkland girls cross country coach Stephen Ott knows he keeps smiling when others opt for a frown. He’s especially pleased that his girls squad is having a 2020 campaign in the coronavirus era.

“I am excited for our student-athletes to get to compete this fall, especially our seniors,” Ott said. “They have worked hard throughout their high school career, and I would hate for them to miss their senior season.”

The Trojans will follow the district’s return to play guidelines to minimize health risks.

“Before arriving to practice, our student-athletes need to complete a wellness survey, so they are cleared to practice that day,” Ott said. “My staff and I have created smaller training groups to minimize contract during workouts. We all want to have our entire season and are focused on making that possible.”

COVID-19 can be addressed, but it has compromised some runners’ training.

“Many of our runners compete in track and field,” Ott said. “Missing that season hurt their preparation for the cross country season. Luckily, many of our top runners have taken it upon themselves to train on their own prior to us meeting as a team.”

As far as the season, the Trojans are slated for five dual races and no invitationals. In addition, there will be no East Penn Conference Championship race. However, as of now, a District 11 race is scheduled. Further changes to address COVID-19 include a reduction in the number of runners and team in the races. All Trojan dual races will take place at Parkland.

Ott welcomes back his top seven girls from last season. Seniors Brooke Labenberg and Ava Bendetti both qualified individually for the state race last year. Their leadership, along with fellow senior Lauren Williams, should give Parkland a boost this year.

Junior Emily Beers and sophomores Elena Wenger, Ella Esteban and Jessica Price will be vying for top spots on the team. Newcomer sophomore Zoe Patselas seems ready to contribute.

“Our team goal is to win all our dual races and finish in the top of District 11,” said Ott. “Emmaus is loaded this year, but our Trojans will be up for the battle.”

PRESS FILE PHOTO The Parkland girls cross country team returns two state qualifiers from last season in Brooke Labenberg (left) and Ava Bendetti (above).