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Emmaus XC off to strong start in 2020

After an outstanding 2019 season, the Emmaus girls and boys cross country teams started 2020 as though they intend to have another.

The Hornets began the campaign Sept. 14 with 50-15 victories over Dieruff. After much trial and tribulation this year, it was a good moment.

“Coming off the shortened track season, both the boys and girls teams had a lot of pent up energy,” said EHS cross country head coach Kelly Bracetty. “To finally be able to race again was such a rewarding feeling for everyone. We all just wanted to enjoy the moment and the opportunity.”

To say Emmaus made the most of the opportunity could be considered an understatement. The G Hornets had 21 girls and 23 boys run their fastest ever times with nine boys finishing in the 17-minute or faster range and three girls in the 19-minute area.

Leading the way for the girls was Ashleigh McNellis in 19:04. McNellis is a tenacious worker who keeps a positive mental attitude when it would be easy to not.

“Ashleigh came into spring track in phenomenal shape, only to have the season taken away due to COVID,” Bracetty said. “Instead of dwelling on what she couldn’t control, she focused on what she could and put that energy into her training. I knew that she was just going to dominate this race if we were given the chance to compete.”

Not only did McNellis dominate, she also ran a personal best by a staggering two minutes.

The girls squad’s depth was apparent on this day. The Reinhards - Hailey and Kera - also finished in the 19-minute range at 19:27 and 19:36, respectively. More than that, they were also lifetime best times. They were followed by Belle Lees at 20:06, Keerstin Augustin in 20:53, Olympia Curley-Katrishen clocked in at 20:58, Madison Torretta at 21:01; Ashley Ryan five seconds later at 21:06 and Nicole Nosal in 21:48.

Bracetty also noted that freshmen Caroline Shutts and Sophia Kovaliski both had a strong opening race in their Hornet careers.

For the boys, Geoffrey Kleinberg was outstanding, showing everyone last season’s injury bug could not keep him down.

“There is an old saying ‘champions are made when no one is watching,’” said Bracetty. “Over the winter, I would be out at the gym some nights and there was Geoffrey, aqua jogging for an hour. No one was telling him to cross train, to sacrifice his time for a dream that seemed so far out of reach. But he had that self discipline and that’s what has already made him a champion this year.”

Bracetty described Kleinberg’s performance against the Huskies as “impressive.” He finished in 16:59. Teammates Ethan Strzempek (17:18), Nic Buonanno (17:19), Keshav Shankar (17:30), Sam Dalton (17:32), Dominic Nunez (17:50), Matt Norton (17:54), Nic Gilboy (17:56) and James Manley (17:59) showed the talent on the Green Hornet roster, all finishing within one minute or less behind Kleinberg.

Strzempak and Buonanno ran their first ever cross country race, making something very hard look easy.

“This is a tremendous help to our boys squad after some big senior losses from last year,” said Bracetty.

A trait both McNellis and Kleinberg have in common is leadership.

“The one thing that makes both Ashleigh and Geoffrey special is their dedication to helping their teammates and putting the team first,” said Bracetty.

Emmaus continued its winning ways Sept. 22 with another 50-15 win on the girls and boys ledger, this time over William Allen. Lees set the pace for the girls, finishing in 19:52, while Buonanno took first for the boys at 17:30.

Emmaus's Ashleigh McNellis took first place at the Hornets' season-opening cross country meet.
PRESS PHOTOS BY NANCY SCHOLZ Injuries slowed down Geoffrey Kleinberg last season, but he's off to a strong start this fall.
Nick Buonanno and Ethan Strzempek finished one second apart in the Hornets' meet against Dieruff.