Gannon University senior Joseph Westrick became the first runner in school history to win the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference cross country championship Saturday in Bloomsburg.
Westrick finished the 8k event in 25 minutes, 20.3 seconds to take home the crown.
According to the Gannon Athletics website, Westrick held the lead the whole way, and the top dozen or so runners were all within a second of one another at the 1,000-, 3,000- and 5,000-meter marks.
Westrick led by just 1.5 seconds coming up to the final kilometer of the race but pulled away to finish with a nine-second margin of victory over Kutztown’s Evan Adanatzian, who came in at 25:29.8.
Westrick’s final time of 25:20.3 was the fastest time at a PSAC Championship meet since 2015.
Westrick’s championship performance, combined with a sixth-place finish from teammate Ryan Garich, enabled the Knights to finish ninth among 15 men’s teams.
Garich finished in 25:40.5.
Westrick became the fourth overall individual PSAC champion for Gannon in all sports, joining golfers Matt Barto, Diana Munoz and Amanda Teodorsson.
Westrick also was named PSAC Champion Scholar for men’s cross country.
In addition to Westrick and Garich, other individual placers for Gannon were Jon Uhl in 49th (27:11.8), Caleb Mandel in 60th (27:27.7), John Insinna in 88th (28:18.3), Jeremiah Vezza in 119th (30:06.2) and Brett Whitty in 132nd (31:14.6).
Garich’s sixth-place finish now stands as the third-highest for a Gannon runner at the PSAC championships.
Westrick and Garich, who have led the Knights this season, gave the cross country program not only two of its best three conference finishes ever, but two all-conference and first team all-conference runners in the same season.
The team was just 12 points out from finishing seventh, which is the Knights’ best finish, posted by the 2017 team.
The Knights will compete at the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional on Nov. 9 at the West Branch Cross Country Course in Lock Haven.
On the women’s side, the Knights did not fare as well, finishing 11th among 12 teams.
But Gannon’s Sarah Fiorello wound up 17th overall to capture All-PSAC honors. That’s the third-highest finish for any Knight woman since the school joined the conference prior to the 2008 season.
Fiorello finished in 23:22.2 and that represented a personal best in a 6k race.
Gannon’s remaining top seven runners were Cait O’Courke, who finished 47th in 24:14.6; Meredith Morse (51st, 24:17.9), Alena Wisniewski (54th, 24:23.2), Kayla Giambrone (69th, 24:49.3), Maria Lohmann (70th, 24:51.1) and Emma Steele (78th, 25;00.1).
The Gannon women’s team also will compete at the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional in Lock Haven on Nov. 9.