Thursday October 3, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
RUNNING STRONG — Immaculata’s Rachel Luczek (right) and Grace Attea run in a recent race at home. Photo by Michael Petro.
While there may not be a lead runner that Immaculata rides to continued cross-country success this season, the varsity program has maintained a high level of competitiveness with a group of athletes packed tightly near the front of each race.
The Bears’ top-heavy lineup has been so consistent in placing highly, together, according to head coach Charlie Planz, that it has moved up to third in the state Class B rankings and, during last weekend, won the McQuaid Invitational in Rochester among a field of 50 schools in the Small School A-3 race.
Claire Attea and Katie Simon have been flip-flopping who’s finished atop for Immaculata, with Rachel Luczek and Grace Attea not far behind, during a 2 – 0 start to the Monsignor Martin slate and top three finishes at four invitationals.
At McQuaid, junior Simon led the Bears, placing 12th overall with a time of 19:47. She was followed by sophomore Luczek, who took 17th in 20:02 and junior Claire Attea, who fought off her recent struggles with blisters and some rust from missing a few runs, to finish 21st, at 20:13.
Grace Attea, who suffered a knee injury last year, cutting her soccer career short, was 23rd (20:19) and sophomore Mary Kate Smith finished 46th (21:12), to close out the team’s A-3 title effort.
“They’re running so tight at the top which is nice, because that’s how you win the big meets and invitationals,” said Planz, whose team won the small school division at the East Aurora Invite, was second at JFK and was third at West Seneca.
“As much as Gabby Leo [who is running for the University at Buffalo] was excellent, there was not as tight of a group with her,” Planz noted. “Now, we’re kind of in a situation where everyone’s running on top of each other.”
Mount Saint Mary, which ended Immaculata’s three-year reign as the Monsignor Martin champion last season, has started the league season unbeaten, at 3 – 0. Mt. St. Mary beat Immaculata last year in a tiebreaker, to win the title. The two running rivals will meet in the final league meet of the season, before dusting up in what should be another close finish at the All-Catholic Championships.
“We look strong for All-Catholics,” said Planz, who also said that the program has a bright future, as well, with these varsity athletes and the next girls up.
He also said he noticed, during the school’s recent open house, that prospective students seem to value potentially being a part of the strong program.