The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 9, 2014

H.S. cross country: Cedeno, Vella named top runners

Brandt and former pupil top coaches

Daily Item

---- — By Brian Holtzapple

For The Daily Item

In cross country, runners are expected to have their best and fastest races at the end of the season when it matters the most.

That couldn't be more true when it comes to Shikellamy sophomore Treicy Cedeno, who has been named The Daily Item's Girls Runner of the Year for the second consecutive season.

On the boys side, Danville senior Tyler Vella put together another fine season and he has been selected as The Daily Item's Boys Runner of the Year.

The Coach of the Year honors go to Danville's girls coach Jeff Brandt and Mount Carmel's boys coach Ben McConnell.

n Cedeno

With just two wins in dual meets this season, it may have appeared a down year for Cedeno, who also finished second in a meet and third in another.

But that simply wasn't the case for the Shikellamy standout, as Cedeno picked up wins at both the Big Valley Invitational (19:29) and the Northeast PA Invitational (19:24).

"She had a couple of bad races," said Shikellamy coach Jim Bell. "We ran at Sullivan County, and I consider that course a bad course, and I told Treicy to back off."

In addition, Cedeno suffered a type of concussion injury during gym class that forced Bell to hold her out of the final meet of the year against Lewisburg and Warrior Run.

However, Cedeno was back into form once the postseason meets rolled around a couple of weeks later.

Although Danville sophomore Mackenzie Jones edged Cedeno to claim first place at the Shikellamy Boosters Classic (HAC Invitational), 18:51 to 19:00, the best was yet to come for the Brave.

Cedeno finished her season by winning her second consecutive District 4 Class AA title (19:08) before placing 11th in the PIAA meet (19:38).

"She made some nice progress from a year ago, and Treicy's a very hard worker," said Bell. "We were happy with her district performance where she started faster and avenged a loss to Jones a week before.

"She wasn't in the mood to lose to Mackenzie again. She wanted to win," added Bell. "We thought she ran very determined at states. We were happy with the time, which was slightly faster than the year before (19:50)."

n Vella

Since his days of running on Danville's middle school team, Vella has gradually worked his way up to becoming one of the Valley's most formidable runners this past year.

The Ironmen went 17-0 on the season, and Vella was a big reason why as he won all four dual meets he ran. In addition, Vella finished second at the PIAA Foundation Invitational (17:06) and third at the NEPA Invite (16:53).

"Tyler was just real consistent all year. He's improved each year since he started running in middle school," said coach Brandt. "He has worked extremely hard and he gives 100 percent. He's a good kid to coach and he has a good work ethic."

Vella later posted runner-up finishes at both the HAC meet (16:30) and the District 4 Class AA meet (17:00) behind speedy South Williamsport senior Griffin Molino, who won the races by large margins.

At states Vella didn't run his best race, but he still finished in 62nd place (17:41) to complete his high school career.

However, there are apparently more cross country races in Vella's future.

"I think the most impressive thing Tyler did was he was a good role model for the other kids on the team. His leadership gave the other kids the idea they can have an undefeated season," said Brandt.

"Tyler definitely wants to run in college. He has several schools he's looking at, which is nice. I feel good that there's a lot of kids who ran for us in cross country are now running in college, which is neat."

n Coaches of the Year

In addition to leading his boys team to an undefeated season in 2013, Brandt led his girls squad to a 17-0 record which resulted in the Ironmen taking their fourth straight Heartland-II title.

Danville's girls then claimed the HAC Invitational before repeating as District 4 Class AA champions. Both titles came narrowly over division rival Lewisburg, 34-53, and 32-63, respectively.

Then in the state meet the Ironmen finished sixth for the second straight year.

"We were real pleased with the girls. The boys really surprised us by being undefeated, but the girls had a great season all around," said Brandt. "The district final was our best showing. It's always nice to win districts -- it's a meet you always point towards.

"It's your stepping stone to states. We ran one of our best races, if not our best race. at districts," added Brandt. "It was good to see the girls rise to the occasion."

For McConnell, a former Danville runner and star pupil of Brandt, his first Coach of the Year honor comes in his fifth season as mentor of the Red Tornadoes.

Mount Carmel posted a 16-1 season and claimed the Heartland-III title, with the lone loss coming to Danville by a single point.

But in the weeks that followed the loss, that defeat was overshadowed by a pair of big victories for the Red Tornadoes over their rival.

Mount Carmel first claimed the HAC meet with a 63-76 win over Danville before taking a too-close-for-comfort 72-81 win over the Ironmen at districts.

The season wrapped up with the Red Tornadoes finishing eighth in the state meet.

"The guys were pretty bummed out and they were pretty disappointed about that loss to Danville," said McConnell. "They hung their heads after that race and that loss was a big motivating factor (for the postseason).

"They really set their sights (to claim the district title) and they never looked back. It was a really good season from start to finish."

The district title for Mount Carmel is the first for the program since the 1950s, and it's a win that McConnell can certainly hang his hat on, at least for this year.

"It means a lot. As a coach to get a team to accomplish a goal like that, it felt really good," said McConnell.