BELLEFONTE – Lydia Olivere cruised to victory in the 35-team Joe O’Neill Invitational cross country meet Oct. 14 at Bellevue State Park, and her team, Padua, looks to be in fine form as championship season approaches in cross country.
Olivere, a junior, finished the 3.1-mile course in 17:22, which was almost 33 seconds ahead of runner-up Keelin Hays, the sophomore from Tatnall. The Pandas took the team championship by placing five runners in the top 10 for a score of 29, 15 points better than Tatnall. Olivere said it was a total team effort.
“We just wanted to come in here and run as a team,” she said. “It was our first in state. We just did so exceptionally well, higher than our expectations. So, it was just try to leave it all out there and go as fast as I can.”
Olivere was as happy about the performance of her teammates as she was her win, particularly that of her sister, Maddie, a senior. Maddie Olivere placed fourth, the second Panda to cross the finish line.
“I’m just so proud of them, especially my sister. I’ve never smiled so much. She was absolutely amazing. I could not be prouder of everyone. We really exceeded all we wanted to do. We all stepped up,” Lydia Olivere said.
After the Olivere sisters, the Pandas’ scorers included Alicia Lenoir (sixth), Hannah Apostolico (eighth) and Katherine Hally (10th).
Padua and Tatnall raced against each other last week in New York City, with the Hornets earning a narrow win the first time. The two schools are in different divisions for the state meet, and each will go into the state championship Nov. 12 at Brandywine Creek State Park as the favorites to bring home a trophy.
St. Mark’s finished seventh in the girls’ meet, while Ursuline was eighth and Archmere 10th.
On the boys’ side, Wilmington Friends sophomore Connor Nisbet overcame Salesianum senior George Steinhoff in the last few hundred meters to take the individual title. The Sals captured the team title, easily outdistancing second-place Charter School of Wilmington. Salesianum placed its five scorers in the top 13 for 42 points, while the Force finished at 127.
Nisbet said he trailed Steinhoff until about the 2.3-mile mark, but that’s when he made his move.
“About 2.3 miles in, he started kicking a little bit, and he was like 20 meters in front of me at some point. And as soon as we got back on the asphalt, I just started kicking for about 900 meters, just tried to see how close I could get to him,” Nisbet said.
“I didn’t think I could kick that hard. I had never kicked that hard in my life. It’s really nice to see that the training kicked in.”
Steinhoff said he didn’t suffer any physical problems on the course and that he simply ran out of gas. Nisbet, he added, deserves credit for the race he ran.
“I made a move to take the lead. I made a pretty hard move. I put some ground on him pretty fast. It took a little bit out of me. Right as he passed me with about 350 meters left, I went again, and just this last straightaway, I didn’t have much left. I was just tired. He beat me fair and square today,” he said.
Steinhoff’s second-place finish was part of a strong performance for the Sals, who are looking to regain the state title they lost last season to Charter. The senior said he was happy with the way his team ran at Bellevue, and it was a good meet to see where they stand and what, if anything, needs improvement.
“It’s real important that we race hard and prove to the state that we’re for real and that we’re definitely contenders,” Steinhoff said.
The other Salesianum scorers were Michael Keehan (sixth), Sean Banko (ninth), Lucien Peach (12th) and Austin Barry (13th). The Sals race St. Mark’s on Tuesday at Brandywine Creek State Park before preparing for the New Castle County meet on Nov. 5 at Winterthur and the state championship.