Big Day for Cardinals Cross Country at Benzinger Park


Tom Shade, Contributor

The DCC runners faced the challenge of warm temperatures and an abbreviated squad at the 5-school District Nine showdown at ECC’s Benzinger Park, one of the oldest courses in the local curcuit. The Cardinals never-the-less managed to reach a series of records & milestones spanning both teams.

The Lady Cards, led by Jaci Mennetti’s school record run(22:42) on the course, came away with a seldom seen triple win despite missing several top runners. The girls outran Cameron County 31-25, took a forfeit from ECC, and pulled a very rare tie-breaking victory against Kane(29-29). The Brookville girls, who dominated all teams here, defeated DCC 43-20.

“Jaci has been consistent at all meets and her good performance opened the door for the team wins. It is extremely unusual for a team to score 1st, 2nd, and 4th place and still not win, so Jaci’s third place was critical over Kane.”

But there were many other runners for the DCC girls who also played a big role in the Kane victory. Beth Williams, JoAnne Case, and Maddy Miscavish formed a tight pack for places 5 – 7, and Michaela Armanini maintained a solid 4 minute lead over her Wolf opponent to get the 8th place score.

“In almost all meets the first 5 runners determine the score, but after Michaela finished, Kane had only 3 runners in”

DCC’s Madisan Miller came in at 9th then the fourth Kane runner scored 10th place. When Cardinal runner Rachael Miller took 11th place it guaranteed that each team would have 29 points.

“It was Madisan’s place that determined who won since she was our 6th runner in the team finish and was ahead of Kane’s 6th runner, but Rachael also needed to stay ahead of that last Kane runner for us to win. It shows the importance of all the runners in a team score, and that every place counts. It was a close one, and likely the only tie-breaker DCC has ever seen in a dual meet.  We were proud of the whole team effort.”

Mennetti also claimed 3 individual first places putting her total at 4 for the season. The DCC record for female season wins belongs to cross country legend Lori Skrzypek who racked up 9 wins in the 1984 season. Skrzypek was a member of the only district championship team in DCC history that year, just months after their iconic coach, Fr. Greg Leopold, who was killed in a car accident.

Although the Lady Cards took a forfeit win over ECC, the DCC girls have not recorded a head-to-head victory with the Crusaders in 35 years.

The Cardinal boys had a few nice surprises starting with Johnny Ritsick’s three firsts(Brookville, Kane, Cameron County). Ritsick’s effort(18:33) on the historic course put his run at the #3 spot on DCC’s all-time performance chart for this venue. Ritsick’s career wins now stand at 10, just 5 wins behind the all-time leader Tony Pitrone of the 1977-79 Era.

“Tony was a tough competitor in that time and one of those wins was an invitational win. Johnny is in store for an exciting season as he continues to work hard and make an impression.”

Following Ritsick was DCC’s #2 runner JP Piccirillo who maintains his seventh place rankings on the historic charts for the course, just 28 seconds from Andy Skraba’s 6th ranking in 2009.

“Johnny & JP have been a nice door opener for us at meets and we are relying on them to push each other to meet the challenges & goals of the next 6 weeks”

Brenden Paisley, DCC’s third male runner, made school history by setting the freshman record(20:55) for the course, once owned by teammate JP Piccirillo.

“Brenden has a nice blend of God-given gifts and attitude. He is to be congratulated. Brenden has been a pleasant surprise, and he has a bright future in cross country.”

Finishing for the boys were Shane Paisley, Dylan Foster, Angelo Piccirillo, Loren Way, Dante Armanini, and Isaac Bloom.

In boys meet scoring it was DCC 33  ECC 22; DCC 35 KANE 22; CAMERON COUNTY (forfeit); and BROOKVILLE 26  DCC 29.

The Cardinal boys also have a challenging history with ECC and have not defeated them for 26 years. It was the Kane boys who dominated all boys teams today, however.

Ben Hoffman of ECC was the overall winner in the male race, while Emily Peterson of Kane won the girls race.

The Cardinals meet DuBois Area on Tuesday at their home course behind the public school. It will be the first meet ever run on the new course, which replaces the once storied trails of Wasson Avenue.