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Killing killer hills

Chloe Allis ‘25

Sep 22, 2023

Last weekend, the Mercersburg girls and boys cross-country teams competed in the 27th Annual Ben Bloser Bulldog XC Invitational, a highly renowned, competitive annual race hosted by Big Spring High School in Newville, PA. This meet usually features over one hundred teams divided into 14 divisions. 

The terrain of the Ben Bloser XC course is known for its many hills. “It was really hilly but I think since we’re from Mercersburg we’re accustomed to that,” said An Yan ’26. The course is especially infamous for “Kill Hill,” a rather sizable hill right before the finish line. “It’s steep enough to where I probably could have climbed up it on all fours,” joked Leah Willis ’24. 

The boys ran well, finishing number 7 of the 24 teams in their division. Winston Watkins ’25, who finished 14th out of 172 runners, said, “I thought it was a little bit hectic.” Kaori Graham-Myrie ’24 broke out this year. New to the sport of running, he’s been hitting a lot of PRs (personal records) and has made a name for himself on the varsity team. “He’s new this year and he ran a huge PR. It’s great for our team to have Kaori step up like that,” said Rich Heffron, head boys cross country coach.

“I thought it was really fun, there were a lot of people, definitely a great experience,” said Yan ’26 about the invitational experience. 

This year, the girls team also had a great showing, finishing 9th in their division of 22 teams. “I’m really really proud of how the entire team performed, both JV and varsity,” said veteran harrier Anne Sehon ’25. 

All the girls who finished the race hit new personal records, whether it be in the season, on that specific course, or even in their lives. Sehon, the top runner on the girls team this weekend, who placed 14th in her division of 160 girls, said, “I tied my lifetime PR on a course that is pretty hard.” Erika Tsowah ’24 as well as Willis improved by three minutes over their former hosts. Gigi Devlin had a two-minute improvement from her lifetime PR. “Gigi Devlin is now solidly on my varsity team. She trained really hard this summer so as a result, she’s running really well,” said Betsy Cunningham, head girls cross country coach.

Training for these great results was no easy feat. Both Cunningham and Heffron have teams heavily composed of returning, upperclass runners. Because of this, both coaches have been pushing their athletes very hard in practice. “I’ve been pushing them a little bit more because I have older athletes who can now handle it. 

A lot of them worked over the summer so now I can train them really hard,” said Cunningham. Jake Cruikshank ’24 said, “Over my four years, the training has become exponentially harder.” Watkins added, “We’re more experienced now than we were the last couple of years. Heffron knows what we can do and he knows when to push us.” Both teams have lofty goals for the season but they look to be in very good shape for all of the competition ahead. “We’ve been building up and doing some hand-holding for the past few years. Now, we’re ready to hit the ground running. We’re really on track this year, hitting our milestones,” said Heffron.

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, a lot of hard workouts and good competition is to come. “I’m really looking forward to MAPLs and just for the rest of the season and seeing what people can accomplish,” said Heffron. Cunningham concluded, “My goal is to make them into good athletes, but more importantly good humans and community members.”

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