Originally found at www.montgomerynews.com
Written By, Thomas Celona
Members of the Ambler Olympic Club cross country team took on the best young athletes from across the nation in the AAU National Championships in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 4 and 5.
Around 15 runners from the club ran in the annual competition, held for the first time in Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. The athletes ranged in age from 8 to 17.
“Every single athlete did very well,” said Charmaine Darden, AOC cross county program coach. “I was very happy with the result.”
Despite the rainy and muddy conditions, many of the Ambler-area athletes performed beyond their expectations, and among those successful results came a top 10 finish.
Hilary Saucy, 17, of Harleysville, finished seventh in the 5K race in the young women age group with a time of 22:02.
“It was always my goal from last year to get in the top eight,” said Saucy, who had competed in the national championships twice before. “I didn’t know if that was really possible, but it was a goal. I was never in worse than eighth the entire race, which really surprised me. I thought, ‘Wow, I actually accomplished my goal.’ I was pretty surprised.”
Along with Saucy’s performance, the club had a strong showing overall.
“Most of them came in the top 25 of their age group,” Darden said. “The rest of them ran their personal best times of the year.”
“I was really surprised how many of our kids placed in the top 25,” Saucy said, noting those who finished in the top 25 received a medal. “That was exciting for me to see my other teammates do really good. The looks on their faces when they came back with a medal, totally not expecting it, was something you’ll never forget.”
In addition to Saucy, five other members of the AOC received medals in their respective age groups: Alexandria Flint, 13, placed 16th in the 4K run; Marissa Holl, 12, placed 18th in the 3K run; Aiden Marcelis, 9, placed 18th in the 3K run; Lukas Marcelis, 11, placed 14th in the 3K run; and Ian Saucy, 12, placed 23rd in the 3K run.
Athletes qualified for the AAU National Championships by participating in the AAU Middle Atlantic regional championships, which were held at Penllyn Woods Park Nov. 14.
“This year, AAU changed the rules,” Darden said. “This year, they had to run in the regional meet, and they were automatically qualified for the national meet.”
Runners from 33 states participated in the championships, according to the AAU’s Web site.
In addition to the competition, team members had the chance to enjoy some time in Disney World and the surrounding area.
“A lot of the kids with their parents did go to the other parks,” Darden said.
The Saucy family used the competition as an opportunity for a family road trip, driving both ways.
“We did some sightseeing on the way home,” Saucy said. “It was a long drive, but I think it was well worth it.”