By Brian Holtzapple
For The Daily Item
BLOOMSBURG -- The Northeast PA Invitational traditionally serves as the annual tune-up race for the District 4 Championship meet run in late October on the same Mount Olympus course at Bloomsburg University.
For the Valley's top finishers in Saturday's invite -- Shikellamy freshman Treicy Cedeno and Southern Columbia junior Andrew Steely -- the duo found the going tough and learned they have a lot of work to do in the next four weeks.
Cedeno, who is only the fourth female runner to break 20 minutes in the history of Shikellamy's program, narrowly missed doing so again as she finished fifth in 20:02.
Her goal was to run a 19:40, but Cedeno was still satisfied with how she ran.
"It was a tough race, but I think I did real good," said the first-year Braves runner. "I thought I could do better and I wanted to break 20 minutes, but it is what it is and I tried my best."
Cedeno was in fourth at the two-mile mark ahead of Hazleton's Angie Marchetti. When she fell to fifth in the final mile the Brave tried to keep up with the Cougar, but to no avail.
Marchetti edged Cedeno at the finish line by just one-hundredth of a second.
"I stayed up with up with (Marchetti) and she really helped me get to where I got, or else I would've done worse," said Cedeno. "I got weaker and she passed me. I tried staying up with her and it worked for a half-mile but she beat me (at the end)."
Cedeno is aware of what she has to do to prepare for the District 4 meet on Oct. 25, especially with the goals she has in mind.
"This gives me a lot of confidence for districts," said Cedeno, who, along with the rest of the Braves, will be competing in a deep Class AA field for the first time at districts.
"My goals for districts are to be in the top 10 and to break 20 minutes," Cedeno added. "I guess I'll have to train really hard for that."
Danville, which kept the majority of its varsity runners out the race, still managed to finish third in the team standings behind winner Hazleton, 77-97. Wallenpaupack was the runner-up with 79 points. Selinsgrove finished close behind in fifth with 154 points.
Mackenzie Jones led the Ironmen with a sixth-place finish in 20:16, while Emily Haney crossed the line in 11th place in 20:38 for Danville.
Brianna Carnathan led Selinsgrove by finishing 19th in 20:58, while Kelsey Ulrich was 24th in 21:26 for the Seals.
Mifflinburg sophomore Sarah Lemon also ran well. She was 16th in 20:53 for the Wildcats.
For Steely and his Southern teammates, the plan for the NEPA Invite was to have a successful race in preparation for districts. However, it didn't turn out that way.
After running with the leaders for the first half of the race, Steely gradually fell behind between miles two and three and finished in 11th place in 17:11.
"We took it easy this week and we tapered (our training) down a little bit because we wanted to do well at the Invite but it didn't pan out, I guess," said Steely. "I was hoping I would run a fast time to give me a good head start for districts, but it looks like I'll have to do a lot of work there."
Steely's race strategy Saturday was the same as it has been in the past. He likes to go out strong early and stay with the leaders so he can dictate more of the race for a good finish.
And by the time districts roll around Steely thinks he'll be able to run a better race than he did Saturday.
"I don't know if it was too much training or a lack of freshness, but it'll be back by districts," said Steely. "I don't think my strategy will be any different, but it'll just to stay tougher through the last mile where I sort of faded off.
"So come districts that will be the plan -- just to stay tough," he added.
Finishing close behind Steely were Danville junior Tyler Vella (13th, 17:15), Mifflinburg freshman Quincy Amabile (14th, 17:17), Mount Carmel senior Justin Skavery (15th, 17:18), and Selinsgrove freshman Brody Beiler (18th, 17:23).
Danville was also the area's top-finishing boys team. The Ironmen totaled 209 points to place fifth. State College won the title with 76 points.