Upper Perkiomen senior Avery Scripture finished 17th with a 16:52 in the Class AA PIAA cross country championships Saturday in Hershey.
In a way, it was fitting that redemption should come to Upper Perk cross country runner Avery Scripture on the torturous hills of Parkway Cross Country Course in Hershey at the state AA championships. The senior became the first Indian runner to win a medal in over 25 years with a 17th place finish in 16:52.
During the fall, the senior had suffered through the ups and downs of dealing with an injury that limited him to three events. Scripture had put in a hard off-season of running the hills of the Upper Perkiomen Valley knowing that Parkway ended with make-or break inclines.
But when the school season began, Scripture could not run.
“Avery put in a ridiculous amount of work over the summer,” said Upper Perk coach Todd Niemann. "There really is a fine line between greatness and injury in this sport, and he experienced that. I felt so bad for him. He felt like he did all this work over the summer for nothing.”
The injury was iliotibial (IT) band issues and patellar tendinitis, making Scripture’s knee unstable and causing pain.
While his teammates fell into a normal routine of training and races, Scripture was searching for answers and trying to rehab.
“By the middle of the season, we realized he only had one or two races in him. We just decided to bag the whole season, just go for one race,” Niemann related.
Scripture ran the Upper Perk Senior Day race and ran in districts, finishing fourth, and qualifying for states.
Psychologically, the lost regular season worked in his favor at States.
“I hadn’t expected to place at all. I was just going to go out there and run my race, see what I could do. I think that took a lot of the pressure off me, which allowed me to run a good race.”
Scripture ran an incredible 4:57 for the first mile, but was in 28th place at the halfway point of the race.
“I had a game plan that off the start I would stay up with the lead pack, but not be too aggressive, just hold back. If I had anything left at the end of the race, I would take that opportunity and run, and catch up, which is what I did. I guess I still had my endurance. I was able to make up a lot of space on guys.”
By the two mile mark, Scripture was 23rd.
Niemann was awed by the performance.
“He ran unbelievable, one of the more shocking events that I can recall. Here’s a kid that didn’t train, actually running, for the last month. He had such a great base from over the summer that that propelled him to be able to be really successful. He’s very competitive, and he came through. He finished stronger in this race, on a harder course, than he did on a flat course. Unbelievable, it really was.”
Scripture was humbled to be mentioned in the same breath as Upper Perk alum Mike Connelly, the last UP runner to medal, but he paid a price. “The day after states, I could barely walk, it just hurts so bad.”
Jake Keiper had also qualified for states, but could not run after breaking a bone in his foot at districts.
On the girls side, Lydia Keiper and Jamie Ciuta finished 72nd and 139th overall.
“I wish I would have run a little faster, but conditions were pretty cold,” Keiper, a senior, said. “I was overall pretty happy with how I ran.”
It was Keiper’s second trip to states.
Ciuta, a sophomore new to cross country this year, felt she learned from the experience.
“It was very scary. Intimidating. I was extremely nervous getting into it. I think it will be exciting next year, to be able to go there again.”