By Drew Tordella, News Editor Class of 2010
It was a day to remember for cross country coach Bill Hetrick. “He fought through it. We coaches have a group chat, and we were communicating his places. Top ten. Then in the 20s. Then 30th. I didn’t think he’d make it.”
But make it he did. “22, rallying,” was the last text at 2.2 miles with less than a mile to go. “That’s when I knew,” Hetrick concluded.
The runner was his son, freshman Sam Hetrick. He would hold on to that 22nd spot at the PIAA Cross Country Championship on Saturday, finishing in 16:59. It was the highest finish from a Saegertown freshman at states since 2008. Hetrick was also Saegertown’s first state medalist since 2015. “I got the worst cramp I’ve ever had,” Sam Hetrick said. “Right before the first mile.” At 600 meters in, Hetrick was in seventh place.
“He went for it,” Coach Hetrick said. “We talked about it leading up to the race. Maybe he went out too fast, but ultimately he knew he’d need to be in that top group to have a chance. We’re very proud of him.”
Hetrick had to run the race of his life to hold onto that medaling spot. The so-called “Aloha Hills” on the former Parkview Golf Course, which is where the PIAA championship has been held since 2006, are unforgiving, with constant ups and downs “You can’t let your foot off the gas,” assistant coach John McMillen said. “You’ll get burnt. Those hills can either make you or break you. Sam was able to use them to make up some spots and complete an awesome comeback. He showed real tenacity.”
The tough-as-nails run caps off a satisfying freshman campaign for Hetrick. He’ll be back in action next September for his sophomore year. “I’m happy with how I did. There are things I thought I could do better, but it was a great year. I’m planning on putting in a lot of miles next summer to improve.” The bar is certainly set high.
(Tordella is a volunteer coach for Saegertown and a Panther Press alum. As a member of the Saegertown cross country team, he qualified for states in 2008 and 2009 and went on to run for Gannon University.)
Journalism Adviser, Saegertown Jr. Sr. High School