LEHMAN TWP. – When Lake-Lehman defeated Dallas before the midway point in the 2015 season, there was a feeling that the Wyoming Valley Conference girls cross country title had been decided that day.
There was no doubt when the teams met this season, in Wednesday’s regular-season finale, once again at Lake-Lehman, that the title was again on the line.
And, Dallas left no doubt that it was ready to return to its status as conference champion.
Freshman Megan Borton led the way and four teammates joined her in the top seven places as Dallas defeated Lake-Lehman, 16-40, and picked up two other wins to claim its fourth Wyoming Valley Conference title in the past five seasons.
The only loss in 84 meets during that time for the Mountaineers was on the same course 56 weeks earlier when a 27-30 victory indeed sent Lake-Lehman on the way to the title.
“It’s really special because we’re a really close team,” Borton said. “ … It’s kind of redemption for last year.”
With two-time state individual champion – and one-time state team champion – Ally Rome graduated and now running at Princeton and veteran leader Riley Oremus unavailable for the day, Dallas turned to many of the new faces that have helped with an 18-0 season.
Lake-Lehman entered the meet with just one loss and was in position to force a three-way title tie with Pittston Area if it won, but Dallas seized control and held its lead positions, ending any suspense.
“That was great,” Dallas coach Matt Samuel said. “Coming off of not having (two-time state champion) Ally Rome, it’s nice to see these young and inexperienced girls step to the forefront.”
Borton, the youngster, won by 26 seconds in 20:27, leading the six-team field at the cluster meet and helping Dallas also beat Wyoming Valley West and Tunkhannock by the maximum 15-50 margins.
State swimming medalist Abby Zolner, though inexperienced in cross country, continues to make an impact on the sport as a junior and first-year competitor. She finished third, behind Wyoming Seminary’s Tara Kupsky.
“That’s some good racing there today,” Samuel said.
Rebecca Balara and Madison Baloga finished within seven seconds of Zolner to easily take fourth and fifth, securing the victory.
Jace Garnick, Lake-Lehman’s lead runner, was sixth and Grace Jarden followed for Dallas in seventh.
“Without (Oremus), the rest of the girls needed to step up and they exceeded all expectations today,” Samuel said. “ … Some of them are really starting to come into their own.”
Lauryn Pembleton, Stephanie Chaga and Olivia Vasey finished in succession for Lake-Lehman to complete the top 10.
The Black Knights went 2-1 on the day and finished 16-2 for third in the standings by beating Wyoming Seminary, 20-41, and Wyoming Area, 15-46.