Story and photos by Scott Serio
The Rising Sun girls came into the Susquehanna Division Cross Country meet at Perryville Community Park expecting to win and did so easily Tuesday, but the boy’s division came down to needing a tiebreaker to separate Perryville and Elkton who deadlocked at 46 points each. Perryville won the tiebreaker and the division.
Rising Sun twins Emma and Arianna Wheeler led the charge for the Tigers, finishing 1-2. “I think that I have put in a lot more dedication, you know running on the weekends and things like that. In the past I hadn’t put in as much effort as maybe I should have, but since this was senior year I really wanted to make the best of it,” said Emma Wheeler. “Props to our coach, he has really done a lot of research and helped us train. Our team, we are all super close, we have a great team this year. We haven’t had a team like this in a really long time.”
The twins seem to thrive on the competition. “Arianna my twin sister came in second, we‘ve been pushing each other a lot this year,” said Emma, with her sister chiming in. “I have beat her this season, but she usually wins,” added Arianna. Then Emma takes over, finishing the seamless interview, “It is the best feeling we could ever feel. It will definitely feel well worth our while (at States). This was the first time that we were like neck and neck. We are usually 30 seconds apart.”
Rising Sun girls placed 1-2-3-4-11th in the win. The boy’s division was much more contentious for the individual and team wins. Elkton’s Evan Shrewsbury had been thinking about beating Aberdeen’s Daniel Foster since losing to him early in the year.
“I didn’t think I had it in me. Honestly, I don’t know how I did it. I was with my teammate and him. He started booking it and I felt like I had to go with him. I gave 110% until I got it done. I think we did a great job out there today. I couldn’t be more proud of my team,” said Shrewsbury of his finishing kicked that had him crossing the finish line just .34 seconds ahead of Foster. “I just remember my first race of the season and we were running together; he had me beat though. Today was the day to get him back. I think in that first race, I kinda messed it up in the end. I haven’t raced in three weeks, due to weather, so today was my day to go out there give it all and see.”
Shrewsbury powered a 1-3-6-11th finish for the first four of the Golden Elks against a 5-7-8-10th for Perryville. The difference was Perryville’s fifth and sixth finishing runners. While the Panthers boys claimed 16th and 21st place, Elkton’s comparable pair posted 25th and 27th place finishes. It was the 6th versus 6th that gave Perryville the Susquehanna Division win by tiebreaker.
“It has been all 4 years building this team. The top 3 seniors Danielle, Arianna, Emma, all wanted to do well for their final year. They did a lot of improvement over the summer. They really wanted to chase after that regional championship and on paper it is in their grasp,” said Rising Sun Coach Jim Burkhart, referencing the seniors’ 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishes on the day. “Coming into this we expected to win, there was no doubt in our minds that we weren’t gonna do it. The girls ran excellent for what we were. We have some girls who are sick and that slowed down our 5-6 runners but I can only be proud of them. This is what, 3 of the last 4 years have been, we won the Susquehanna?”
Burkhart was especially complimentary of the work the Wheeler sisters have put in. “When they first came out their freshman year, they were talented and they have only improved over the years. They’ve gotten to the point where they like it, cause they have seen the successes,” said Burkhart.
It is a feeling echoed in the words of Emma about running with her sister Arianna. “She definitely pushed me the whole way and we were going slower than we normally do. Like, we’d usually go really fast on our first mile but this time our first mile was even off the time we were supposed to be hitting,” said Emma Wheeler. “We pushed it towards the end and got faster, we normally don’t do that. This race we could do that cause there wasn’t anyone out front pushing us. Just having each other to set the pace really made it.
In spite of finishing 1-2 with her sister, Emma was still focused on team. “Our goal is to get back to States. I love what we’re doing this year. We still got a long season ahead of us, but this is the team to do it. I think we got it,” said Wheeler.