Lydia Keiper, right, whose 22:14 was almost three minutes off her personal best, was the first Upper Perk female runner across the finish line.
The Upper Perkiomen cross country teams opened their PAC-10 seasons with wins over Pope John Paul II thanks to the Keiper siblings and quality depth on both the boys and girls squads.
Sophomore Jake Keiper led the boys to a 27-29 win despite the absence of their top runner, state qualifier Avery Scripture, who is sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury. The girls pulled out a 26-31 victory with the help of Lydia Keiper who was Upper Perk’s top finisher. Both meets were run at Green Lane Park.
Jake Keiper finished in 17:58, easily out-distancing the other male runners. “I just went out a little bit faster than I would like to, but I just held off the other guys and won pretty comfortably. I was real pleased with it,” he said.
However, it was the runners behind Keiper and Joey Marinelli, the second Upper Perk finisher, who secured the team victory for the Tribe. Chandler Junk, Dennis Bahm, Kacey Myers and Jack Donahue all came from behind in the last mile.
“The kids ran very well,” said coach Todd Niemann, “Jake has done a great job. Chandler and Joey are real close, I think. The next few weeks I can see the three of them really pushing and being some of the top runners in the league.”
While the margin of victory was a little bit bigger for the girls, the same scenario played out. Lydia Keiper, a senior and a state qualifier last year, was the first Upper Perk finisher, but Jaime Cuita, Shae Duka and Rachel Landis all had to pass Pope John Paul’s second runner to take the victory for the Tribe.
Niemann has been impressed with Cuita, who ran track last spring. “She ran exceptional. She’s really, really good at the end of races.”
Lydia Keiper, whose 22:14 was almost three minutes off her personal best, was not especially happy with her performance. “I had a slower first mile than I would have liked. I usually like to go out harder than I did. I think that kind of messed up the rest of my race. I definitely need to work on my first mile and definitely on my last mile, too.”
Lydia was enthused about her teammates, however. “Our team is pretty young, but I definitely feel a lot of potential. Everyone’s working really hard.”
Last year’s teams both made the PAC-10 Final Fours with 6-3 records. Despite the graduation of key runners such as Mike Sames, Collin Junk, Amanda Long, and Kayla Myers, Niemann is optimistic about his teams, especially because Upper Perk has moved down to an AA classification, opening the door to the real possibility of qualifying a few more runners for states.
“Both the boys and girls will be right around Final Four again this year. I’m hoping either the boys or girls or both teams can medal at championships this year. It’ll be tough to achieve those goals, but it can be done if we continue to work hard and improve as the season progresses,” related the coach.
“Jake (Keiper), Chandler (Junk), Joey (Marinelli), Jack (Donahue), and newcomers Kacey Myers and Dennis Bahm look real impressive so far,” Niemann said. ”Lydia is coming off of an injury as well and also has done a great job of getting in shape over the summer. I expect her to come on real strong at the end of the season like she has done the last two years.”
Duka, Landis, Cuita and the “much-improved” Danielle Marinelli are also key runners.
Niemann ran his team at Green Lane Park as a way to showcase the course for the possibility of holding the PAC-10 championships there in the future.
The team will continue to hold most of its meets at the high school, but Niemann likes the Green Lane locale.
“I’m going to keep the course regardless of what happens with the PAC-10’s. I will probably run one or more dual meets there [per season].”