By John Knebels
The talk on the street was that Cardinal O’Hara’s girls cross-country team was about to have its four-year title streak severed.
But that talk was trampled – both figuratively and literally – in last week’s cross-country championship at the famed Belmont Plateau.
Behind two runners who placed in the top four, and a startling four who placed in the top nine, the Lions once again emerged victorious in the marquee event of the season. Their 40 points defeated second-place Archbishop Wood by 19 points.
However, O’Hara coach John McShay wasn’t too surprised that the Lions were able to capture a fifth straight crown in the five years under his tutelage.
“The reason the program has done so well and continues to do so well is team depth,” said McShay. “All season long, development takes place both on varsity and junior varsity. When the time is right, the kids rise to the occasion.
“The kids start believing in themselves and start expecting to do well. The varsity team seems to be replenished by a new kind of energy every year.”
The latest championship edition of Lions included sophomore Nicole DelGrosso coming in third place and senior Kelsey Harm right behind her in fourth. Freshman Fiona Egan (eighth), sophomore Emily Creighton (ninth) and senior Emily Scanlon (16th) rounded out the scoring.
For Harm, winning the title was a cause for both celebration and relief.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Harm. “This was going to be a tough meet. We heard how other teams were getting better and knew that Wood was going to be a factor. We believed in ourselves and thought we could win if we ran the way we knew we were able.”
While the La Salle boys continued their own monopoly on the league title by winning its sixth straight behind fourth-place Nick Molloy and fifth place Pat Donnelly, the talk of the day was the girls from O’Hara, who weren’t visibly crazed at the end of the meet.
But there was a valid explanation for keeping their victory in proper perspective.
In unanimous fashion, the Lions had decided to dedicate their performance to junior teammate Tylar Colleluori, whose father, Greg, died suddenly of a heart attack less than a week before the championship.
At Mr. Colleluori’s viewing that took place the night before the meet, McShay reminded O’Hara’s athletes that as they went home that they should thank God for the gift of their parents.
“Things can suddenly change in a person’s life,” he said. “We can’t ever take anything for granted.”
McShay realizes that first hand because his own personal story includes a battle with cancer. When he learned in December 2004 that his cancer was in stage four, he prepared for the worst while praying and hoping for the best.
Almost four years later, McShay’s cancer remains in remission. He thanked the O’Hara community for helping him through the ordeal and predicts that Colleluori will be aided likewise in the weeks and months to come.
“It helps to be around people,” he said. “There is a lot of support. Being around kids helped keep my mind off things. The whole team feels for Tylar and her family and is anxious to help in any way we can.”
It seems as though they already have.
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.