Central Cambria and Penn Cambria have developed quite a friendly rivalry in girls cross country the past two years, and the next chapter is set to play out on the sports' biggest stage.
The squads, both ranked in the top five of Class A teams in the state, will compete at the PIAA Cross Country Championships Saturday in Hershey at the Parkview Course at 9:30 a.m.
"Why not first?" Penn Cambria coach Todd Niebauer said regarding his goal for the state championship. "We'll have to run a little bit better [than in the District 6 meet when the Panthers finished second to Central Cambria]. I'm going to challenge them again. These girls have responded well every time I've challenged them, and my philosophy is why train to be second?
"I love [Central Cambria coach] Randy Wilson, and I love Central Cambria, but we're going with high expectations. Why not? We gave ourselves the opportunity, so why not take advantage of it?"
Wilson wouldn't get into his goals for states, but the Lady Devils are certainly a contender.
Wilson's squad of District 6 champion Alyssa Brandis, Hannah Swope, Jackie Bracken, Jordan Hayward, Olivia Lipnic, Katie Bracken and Laken McKeel, won the district title, 33-48, over Penn Cambria. Wilson said Dawn Craft may be part of the team when it competes at states.
"I'll be trying to stay with the lead runner at states," Brandis said. "I'll really be pushing myself."
Penn Cambria's team is led by Arlee Simendinger, who finished fourth at districts. Also on the team are Kaitlyn McGarry, Emily Roberts, Sara Clauto, Danielle Pompa, Sarah Roberts and Shelly Pompa.
Northern Cambria's Allyson Kopera and Bishop Guilfoyle's Khristina Slobodnik also will compete in the Class A girls race from District 6. District 5 champion Maria Snyder, of Northern Bedford, also will run in that race along with fellow District 5 qualifiers, Samantha Coffman (Tussey Mountain) and Kimberly Bischof (Chestnut Ridge).
Tyrone's Jordan Wiser and a pair of Bedford girls, Emilee Fierro and Carrie Baker will run the Class AA girls race, and Altoona's Hayley Weaver and Morgan Pensyl, along with Hollidaysburg's Emily Ansley and Lauren Pheasant, will compete in Class AAA.
On the boys side, Williamsburg's Bryce England will be competing in Hershey for the second time after winning the District 6 title in Class A.
"I know the course now, which will help," England said. "I'll have a bigger goal this year."
Central Cambria's Justin Jeffers, Chestnut Ridge's Jimmy Farnan and Northern Bedford runners Mike Heck and Colin Sherlock also will compete in the Class A boys race.
In Class AA, District 6 runner-up William Kachman and Zane Baker, both from Bedford, will run, and in Class AAA, Altoona runners Dominic Stroh, Terry Futrell and Brad Foust will compete.
"I'd like to finish in the top-25 or better," Kachman, a freshman, said. "I'll be working on hills this week to get ready."