4 runners looking to defend WPIAL cross country titles

Wednesday, October 25, 2023 | 2:00 PM

Butler senior Drew Griffith set a course record during the Tri-State Coaches Association cross country championship a week ago at White Oak Park.

And with weather conditions expected to be almost perfect Thursday, Griffith could be on track for another record performance.

The WPIAL championship meet returns to White Oak Park after being run there in 2020. Cal (Pa.) held the previous two championships. Griffith won the 2022 title in Class 3A after teammate C.J. Singleton won in 2020 and 2021. Griffith is among four returning champions in the six scheduled races.

“(It was) my first time on this course, and it was pretty fun,” Griffith said after the meet last week.

Some of the returning PIAA qualifiers looking to challenge Griffith in Class 3A include Fox Chapel junior Ethan Vaughan, Gateway senior Kefimba Cisse and Seneca Valley junior Max Smith.

The North Allegheny boys are the reigning PIAA Class 3A champions and returned three runners: junior Jack Bertram, senior James Behrend and senior Michael Gaunter.

In Class 2A, South Fayette has another strong team with five starters back: juniors Alaa-Eddine Guetari, Tim Danziger, Josh O’Korn, Brandt Scholar and Ryan O’Neill.

The Hampton boys also will be in contention behind seniors Dale Hall, Jacob Bonnar and Layne Haught and junior Christopher Belch, and Montour will challenge with a strong lineup of five returning starters, including seniors Julian Kletz and A.J. Miller.

Ringgold senior Ryan Pajak will be looking for his third WPIAL title after he finished second in the state in 2022.

The Class A team title should come down as a battle between Eden Christian, Riverview, Winchester Thurston and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

Some of the top Class A boys returning include Freedom senior James Couch, Eden Christian senior Ethan Haring and Winchester Thurston junior Peter Heintzleman.

The North Allegheny girls are favored again to defend their WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A titles.

The Tigers are led by juniors Wren Kucler and Robin Kucler and seniors Eva Kynaston and Erin McGoey. Kynaston and Robin Kucler finished second and third, respectively, at the Tri-State meet, with McGoey in fifth.

Mt. Lebanon and Norwin also return strong squads. The Blue Devils are led by seniors Caroline Adams and Logan St. John Kletter. St. John Kletter is the returning WPIAL Class 3A champion and also won the Tri-State meet last week.

“It’s a good confidence boost, but I ran here at Bald Eagle (Invitational) two weeks ago. I ran a little bit faster there, so, hopefully, for WPIALs I can get a (personal record) here,” Kletter said at the Tri-State meet.

Kiski Area senior Eliza Miller, Penn-Trafford senior Amelia Barilla, Butler senior Ava Brewster and Peters Township senior Sydney Shock are returning PIAA qualifiers.

Two-time reigning champion Montour and Beaver are expected to battle for the Class 2A girls team title.

The Spartans return four starters: seniors Lakyn Schaltenbrand and Amelia Trevensen, sophomore Tiffany Miller and junior Joelle Ludwick. The Bobcats return five starters: juniors Danica Purtell and Rylie Teapole, senior Allison Tate and sophomores Constantina Krzeczowski and Camdyn Jeffers.

Chartiers Valley junior Lilah Turnbull is one of the top individuals returning in Class 2A. She placed eighth in the state last year. Also back are West Allegheny sophomore Grace Fritzman and Woodland Hills sophomore Annabel Johnson. Fritzman won last week at White Oak.

In Class A, Shady Side Academy senior Chelsea Hartman, who finished second in the state, is the reigning WPIAL champion.

Other challengers include Riverside senior Lexi Fluharty, Aquinas Academy senior Alexis Abbett and Eden Christian’s Hope Haring. Fluharty edged Abbett for the title last week at White Oak.

Winchester Thurston and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart return five starters each. Hartman is one of five starters returning for Shady Side Academy.

Advancing to the PIAA meet Nov. 4 in Hershey will be the top four teams in Class A boys and girls and 2A boys, the; top three teams in 3A girls and 2A girls and to two teams for 3A boys.

For individuals, the top 20 finishers not on one of the qualifying teams advance in Class A boys and girls and 2A boys. The top 15 qualify for 3A girls and 2A girls, and the top 10 move on for 3A boys.

Freelance writer Nathan Breisinger contributed.

If you are going…

WPIAL cross country championships

Thursday at White Oak Park, White Oak

Class 3A girls, 11 a.m.; Class 3A boys, 11:45 a.m.

Class A girls, 1 p.m.; Class A boys, 1:45 p.m.

Class 2A girls, 3 p.m., Class 2A boys, 3:45 p.m.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

More Cross Country

Kiski Area 3-sport star Eliza Miller 3-peats as Valley News Dispatch girls athlete of the year
Husband, wife switch places on Plum cross country coaching staff
Gatorade picks Mt. Lebanon’s Logan St. John Kletter as top girls cross country runner in Pa.
Butler’s Drew Griffith tops Ringgold’s Ryan Pajak to win cross country national championship
Westmoreland County Senior Spotlight: Ligonier Valley’s Clara Wallace