4 A-K Valley athletes take top seeds into WPIAL track meet

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Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | 8:45 PM


Fifty-four.

That is the number of top eight seeds earned by Alle-Kiski Valley athletes for Wednesday’s Class 3A and Class 2A track and field championships at Slippery Rock University.

Four.

That is the number of A-K Valley No. 1 seeds who are the most hunted as the day of competition gets started at 11 a.m. with track prelims and the first flight of field events.

All of the invitationals, meets and training sessions have concluded. The time for executing on the WPIAL’s grandest stage is at hand.

“I’m not going to lie. My seeding, especially in the 200 (meter dash), scares me more than if I was a fourth or fifth seed,” said Apollo-Ridge senior Jake Mull, the No. 1 seed in the 200 with a school-record time of 22.08 seconds recorded at the Indiana County Championships last month.

“Being the No. 1, that is so much more pressure. I’ve been a little nervous about it all week. I want to get (to Slippery Rock) and race.”

Mull is the eighth seed in the 100 with a time of 11.18 at the WPIAL team semifinal May 4. He also will run with the 400-meter relay team.

The top seed in the 100 dash for Class 2A is Washington junior Ruben Gordon (10.84).

“I’ve been working a lot on my starts and making sure that everything is right with my race,” Mull said. “It’s definitely been paying off.”

Also posting top seeds are Fox Chapel junior Anna Troutman in the Class 3A girls high jump (5 feet, 5 inches), Knoch junior Madison Hunt in the Class 2A girls shot put (39-4) and Freeport senior Isaac Wetzel in the Class 2A boys 300 hurdles (39.39).

“I am super excited for (Wednesday). For my senior year, it would be great to win a WPIAL title, at least for the 300,” said Wetzel, who also is seeded second (15.12) to OLSH senior Antonio Votour (14.41) in the 110 high hurdles.

“The 110 might be a stretch because of Antonio running the way he is with his 14.4. (Burgettstown senior) Sondre (Lunde) is right there with me in the 39s (39.61) for the 300, and I know that there are others ready to make a move and perform well. It will be a good race when it comes down to it.”

The Freeport teams are back down in Class 2A after two seasons in Class 3A. Wetzel finished sixth in the 110 hurdles (15.63) and third in the 300 hurdles (41.01) at WPIALs last year.

The top 24 in each Class 3A event and top 16 in Class 2A from regular season meets and invitationals earned their positions for the championships.

Titles, top-eight medals and trips to states are on the line. The WPIAL is guaranteed six automatic bids to states for Class 2A girls and five for the Class 2A boys, while the number is four for both boys and girls in Class 3A.

Also, individuals and relays that place eighth or better will also qualify for the PIAA meet provided their time, height or distance is equal to or better than the qualifying standards set by the PIAA.

Numerous A-K Valley individuals and relays own top times that are better than the qualifying standard for their events.

Kiski Area junior Eliza Miller ran at states in cross country in November and swam at states in March. Now, she hopes for a three-peat as she seeks a second consecutive trip to states in track.

She is seeded second in the 800 (2:15.89) behind North Allegheny sophomore Wren Kucler (2:15.35) in the battle for WPIAL gold.

Miller, eighth in the 1,600 run last year, is seeded sixth this time around. She cracked 5 minutes with a career-best 4:58.82.

Several others enter WPIALs with second seeds.

That includes Burrell junior Allison Smola in the Class 2A girls 100 hurdles with a seed time of 16.25. She is one place ahead of section foe Erin Schaeffer, a junior from Freeport (third, 16.34).

“I feel very accomplished to be seeded where I am,” Smola said. “I know the competition is going to be very tough. I am just going to stay focused on my race and prepare physically and mentally the best that I can.”

The boys Class 2A 800 run, won last year by Deer Lakes graduate and Eastern Michigan freshman Carson McCoy, will still have a Lancers flair at and near the top as senior Aidan Herman (1:56.94) is seeded second, followed by Deer Lakes junior Zach Kruse (1:57.58) in third.

Herman medaled in fifth last year with a time of 2:00.63, and he hopes to challenge and surpass McCoy’s 2022 WPIAL time of 1:56.34.

Riverview senior Amberson Bauer, second to McCoy in the 800 last year, is seeded second in the Class 2A boys 1,600 (4:23.13) behind Eden Christian senior Sean Aiken (4:17.44), the 2022 WPIAL Class A cross country champ.

Freeport senior Reese Skiba threw the discus 119-10 in the regular season, and that landed her in the second-seed position for the Class 2A competition.

Yellowjackets sophomore Michael Braun hopes to make a big leap in the 3,200 run. He ran 9:45.92 in his WPIAL debut last year, good for ninth in the Class 3A event and just 13 hundredths of a second away from a medal.

He has run 22 seconds faster this year with a career-best 9:23.83 for third overall at the Pine-Richland Invitational. Now, as the second seed Wednesday, he hopes to be at the top of the podium.

“I got sick in the middle of April, and that slowed my progress down a little bit, but I was able to run well at Pine-Richland,” Braun said. “Now, I am healthy and in shape, so I think I can run even faster at WPIALs.”

Relay tradition

The Burrell girls 400 relay has medaled – at least eighth place – at all but one WPIAL championship meet since 1987.

That includes 11 WPIAL titles: 1991, 1997-99, 2003-04, 2013, 2015-17, 2018-19.

The relay placed eighth last year, and of the six runners entered, only one graduated (Anna Novak).

This year’s quartet of seniors Morgan Fenoglietto and Ava Rusiewicz, sophomore Ella Anderson and freshman Mikayla Coury is seeded 13th with a seed time of 51.64.

Bucs coach Steve White feels that if the team runs its best, it has a good shot of being in medal contention.

“It’s kind of been like a torch passed from era to era,” White said. “We have two seniors who were freshmen at one time, and they saw the relays and sprinters in front of them work hard to reach that goal. Now there’s another freshman in Mikayla with this group. It’s being passed to her and the next group.

“But all of it goes back to (longtime Burrell sprints) coach (Frank) Phelps. He’s worked so hard with our sprinters to get them to that level of winning titles and medals. They all appreciate his dedication so much.”

Four for four

Riverview junior Lola Abraham, a Pitt soccer commit, is among a select few at the WPIAL Class 2A championships seeded in the top eight in four events.

She is fourth in the 100 (12.54), seventh in the triple jump (35-7½), eighth in the long jump (17-3), and seventh with the 1,600 relay (4:16.11).

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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