By Marion Valanoski
For The Daily Item
MILTON -- Some say the third time is the charm, and for the Danville boys cross country team that came to fruition Tuesday at the Baughner Elementary School where the Milton High course is located and two divisional championships were attained.
In a battle of unbeatens on the boys' side, the Ironmen, who were topped by Mount Carmel in a pair of invitational meets, went head-to-head. Danville nudged the Red Tornadoes, 27-28, thanks to the outstanding performance of runner-up Joseph Malafronte to finish the regular season unbeaten while sending the Division III champions to their first loss of the season.
On the girls' side, Danville had little trouble in downing Williamsport, 15-48, to claim its fourth consecutive Division II title with an undefeated campaign as Mackenzie Jones led the way with a winning time.
Crafty old master Jeff Brandt matched up against one of his former standouts, Ben McConnell of the Red Tornadoes, and experience won out. Of course, the outstanding running of the Ironmen helped to earn the hard-fought victory and claim the Division II title for Danville.
Danville and Mount Carmel competed against each other in the Hershey and Bloomsburg invitationals, and if the two meets were scored like a regular event the Red Tornadoes would have slipped by the Ironmen both times by three points and one, respectively, adding hype going into the much-anticipated showdown to end the regular year undefeated.
"We got closer to them each time and I felt that (Tuesday's) outcome could very well be determined by where our sixth runner finished in the race," Brandt said. "I knew we had to get solid grouping but (Joe) Malafronte really came through with a great effort and that proved to be the deciding factor."
Tyler Vella was the overall winner, crossing the finish line first for the Ironmen (17-0) in 17:41, while Malafronte was 18 seconds behind in 17:59. Williamsport's Chet Schwoyer finished third in 18:07 while the Red Tornadoes' trio of Cory Hoffman (18:11), Nate Bartos (18:15) and Tommy Moser (18:31) swept the next three positions.
The Ironmen rounded out the scoring in their matchup against the Red Tornadoes (16-1) with Brett VanDen Heusel placing sixth (18:37), Hunter Klena coming in eighth (18:47), and Addison Zakarian contributing a 10th-place finish in 19:35.
"It came down to our top three runners and where they finished," McConnell said. "Our plan was to let Vella go out but to make sure that their second runner did not come in front of our three but it didn't happen. Malafronte ran a great race and our goal of finishing the year undefeated was dashed by a single point."
Ciaran Fisher came in seventh against the Ironmen in 18:42, while Mackenzie Greco rounded out the scoring for MCA with a ninth-place effort in 19:07.
Malafronte credited his entire team for the win but knew going into the race that someone would have to somehow get in front of the Tornadoes' top three in order for the team to have a chance to win.
"I feel great but both teams knew where each other would be on the course," said Malafronte. "In the two invitationals I went out with their third runner, but (Tuesday) after the first mile I went ahead and after that caught their two other runners and ran as hard as I could. I eventually closed the gap and got ahead of all three."
Danville topped Milton, 16-46, and beat Williamsport, 18-43.
Zach Lewis was the top overall finisher for the Black Panthers coming in 10th (18:52), while Cage Noll was 16th in 20:04 and Tanner Reed placed 20th in 20:16.
Milton's Blake Wargo (20:23) and Wade Heidel (20:51) finished 22nd and 25th, respectively in the race.
The Ironmen (17-0) continued their stranglehold on the Division II title in the Heartland with their convincing 15-48 triumph over the Millionaires to extend their streak to four consecutive undefeated regular-season crowns.
Jones led the sweep against Williamsport by coming in first in 21:01, and Emily Haney took runner-up honors with a 21:47. Maddie Messa (22:27), Katelyn Maffei (22:2) and Hannah Maize (22:30) rounded out the scoring for the winners.
Kaylee Long (22:38) finished seventh, and Claire Preisch came in ninth for Milton with a 23:24. Teammates Kristin Smith (26:39) and Halley Egan (27:45) were 21st and 26th, respectively.
Mount Carmel's top place finisher was Lauren Hause in 12th with a 24:10, while Chantelle Skave (25:23) was 15th followed by Vanessa Klemas (26:57) and Jackie Lyden (29:39).
The teams will compete in the conference meet Oct. 19.