SCOTT TWP. — Jack Zardecki filled one of the few holes on his high school running resume Wednesday.
“I couldn’t be more happy,” Zardecki said after leading from start to finish of Wednesday’s Class 2A boys race at the District 2 Cross Country Championships at Lakeland High School. “I’ve been dreaming about this a long time.”
Zardecki had been the lead runner on Dallas’ district team championships the past two seasons. The two-time defending state champion Mountaineers won again Wednesday, but it was the first time for Zardecki to be out in front of the entire field as gold medalist.
As a sophomore, Zardecki was fifth in a race won by two-time state champion Dominic Hockenbury from Lake-Lehman. Last season, he was second — six seconds behind North Pocono’s David Haines.
Zardecki has been anxious to get back to Lakeland for another district meet.
“That’s been my training goal all year,” said Zardecki, who is a two-time state individual medalist after placing 25th as a sophomore and seventh as a junior. “I’ve been thinking about coming back to Lakeland and getting back to Hershey.”
Zardecki and the entire Dallas team are headed back to Hershey again Nov. 4 for the PIAA Championships.
Adding to Zardecki’s satisfaction with a personal goal finally achieved was the news of just how well his teammates performed behind him.
While producing their seventh straight perfect Wyoming Valley Conference season, the Mountaineers at times were lagging behind the performance levels of the 2015 and 2016 state championship teams, even though they still have more than half of those lineups intact.
A recent surge built momentum that turned into a major breakthrough Wednesday.
Dallas exceeded its previous two championship performances while winning what is traditionally the toughest district in the state for Class 2A boys.
The Mountaineers had posted a score of 69 to beat Berwick by 28 in 2015. Last year, they lowered their score (low score wins in cross country) to 50 while Holy Redeemer was edging Berwick, 59-62, for second place.
Dallas brought its score even lower Wednesday.
With Mitchell Rome placing third, Josh Wyandt sixth and Adam Borton and Josh Jarden a second apart in 12th and 13th in a 132-runner field, Dallas won with a team total of 32.
Holy Redeemer beat out Crestwood, 64-96, for the second state berth.
“That’s awesome,” Zardecki said while learning the specifics of his teammates’ place finishes minutes after the race ended. “I’m really happy to hear that.
“ … I’m really excited about that.”
The other five team and individual championships went to Lackawanna League schools Wednesday, but the Wyoming Valley Conference excelled in the day’s largest race.
Crestwood earned three of the 10 individual state berths that went to runners not on team qualifiers.
Berwick made it WVC teams in the top four spots in the team standings with the help of Mitchell Martin climbing from 11th a year ago to place second in 16:29.07, less than eight second behind Zardecki.
Martin continued a standout senior season in which he lost only to Zardecki in the WVC regular-season and championship meet schedule. He was not surprised by be surrounded by conference opponents as they fought for position behind Zardecki’s lead.
“It’s what I expected,” said Martin, who pulled ahead of Rome for good about a half mile before the finish line. “I’ve been running with all those guys for quite a few years now.
“They’re all good guys. I figured it would play out very similar to how it did.”
Clay Kimsal, in fourth, led the way for Crestwood. Matthew Brunetti and Kyle Price were 14th and 18th, respectively, as the Comets’ other individual qualifiers.
Holy Redeemer packed its entire five-man scoring lineup – Connor Stevens, Bryce Zapusek, Scott Williams, Dominic Capaci and George Strish – between eighth and 19th place.
The Royals are returning to the state meet, where they placed 10th a year ago.
The top fives from Dallas and Holy Redeemer joined Martin and Crestwood’s three state qualifiers in giving the WVC 14 of the 20 medalists in Class 2A.
Franklin Cunningham was the only other WVC boy to make the state meet. He finished fifth in Class 3A, which is a District 2-4 Subregional with Williamsport included.
Cunningham is going to his fourth state meet, including one as part of a team qualifier and the last three individually.
Hazleton Area was third of seven in the team standings.
The district awarded 10 medals in Class 3A. Williamsport was part of state qualifying, but excluded from the district medal process, so Jake Kobusky from Wyoming Valley West earned a medal for placing 11th overall and 10th among District 2 runners.
Jack Malay from MMI Prep was 15th to lead WVC runners and claim the last available medal in Class A.
Wallenpaupack’s Tyler Wirth, in 3A, and Montrose’s Brandon Curley, in A, each won titles while leading their teams to championships.