Southern Columbia runner Ethan Knoebel ran 20 seconds quicker in the Lock Haven University Bear Mountain River Run, an event he won last year, to earn News-Item Athlete of the Week honors for the opening week of fall sports season, which began Friday, Sept. 1.
Unfortunately for the junior, who has been a cross country standout since he began varsity competition two years ago, his time of 16:05.4 was only good enough for fifth place during the Saturday, Sept. 2 race. That’s a pretty nice consolation considering Knoebel took on 228 competitors from around the state, up from last year’s field of 185.
“That’s one of the first things I noticed when we got there. It seemed like there were a ton of guys so I had a feeling it was going to be fast,” Knoebel said.
As the defending winner, Knoebel said he had hopes of repeating the performance in 2017, however he said he feels his time is a decent start to the season.
“I dropped 20 seconds so I can’t be that upset,” he said. “But I know there’s room for improvement in there.”
Knoebel said he feels the end of his season, to which he has hopes of finishing in the top 25 at states to earn his first ever PIAA medal, will see similar levels of competition.
“I’ve been looking online at some of the times coming in from around the state and it’s looking like it’s going to be a fast year,” he said. “It’s disappointing to see that, but there’s not much you can do other than use it as motivation.”
“I think I’m in a good position to (win a medal) and I also think I have a shot at going under 16 minutes, which is always a barrier. I just hope it happens in a big meet.”
The junior said he knew pretty early in the race that the competition level had increased from the year before.
“I came out in about sixth or seventh and slowly moved up during the race. We ran a five-minute mile to start and that’s when I knew it was going to be tough.”
Knoebel moved through the pack, getting up to about second or third before trailing off in the final mile and settling for fifth, he said.
“Fatigue started to set in at the end,” he said, noting the differences between last year’s race, where he came on strong to pass the leader late in the race.