5 things to watch at the 2019 WPIAL cross country championships

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 | 5:19 PM

For the second straight year, hundreds of high school runners will gather at the Roadman Park Course at Cal (Pa.) on Thursday to compete in the WPIAL cross country championships.

The Class A girls race kicks everything off at 12:45 p.m., followed by the Class AA girls (1:30 p.m.), Class AAA girls (2:15 p.m.), Class A boys (3 p.m.), Class AA boys (3:45 p.m.) and Class AAA boys (4:30 p.m.).

The top four boys and girls teams in Class A and the top three in Class AA and AAA automatically earn trips to the PIAA championship meet, set for Nov. 2 in Hershey.

The top 20 individual finishers in Class A and top 15 in Class AA and AAA who are not on one of the qualifying teams also will earn berths to states.

Here’s a look at five storylines to watch Thursday:

Anderson’s run to victory

Mt. Lebanon senior Patrick Anderson captured the Tri-State Track Coaches Association meet title last week at the Cal (Pa.) course in a record-setting time of 15 minutes, 45 seconds.

The North Carolina recruit who was the WPIAL runner-up and PIAA champion a year ago will be tough to beat, though several runners could challenge him in the Class AAA boys race.

That group includes 2018 WPIAL champion Daniel McGoey, a senior from North Allegheny; Fox Chapel’s Christian Finch, who was third in the WPIAL last season in 16:24; Mars senior Zachary Leachman, who took second at the Tri-State meet (16:02); and Peters Township senior Zack Marmol, who was seventh at the WPIAL meet last year.

Anderson also won the Red, White and Blue Classic on Sept. 7 at the Schenley Oval and the PIAA Foundation XC Invitational Sept. 21 at Hersheypark.

Carter chasing another title

Bethel Park junior Emily Carter is coming off a record-setting performance at last week’s Tri-State meet at Cal (Pa.). She covered the 3.1-mile course in 17:57. She topped runner-up Hannah Lindgren from North Allegheny (19:17) and Fox Chapel senior Grace Sisson (19:22). Moon sophomore Mia Cochran, who was fifth in the WPIAL a year ago, also is expected to challenge Carter on Thursday.

Carter finished third at the WPIAL meet last season in 19:03, trailing graduates Hannah Schupansky from Oakland Catholic and Sarena Seeger from Fox Chapel.

Carter also won the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA 1,600- and 3,200-meter races last spring.

Wicker faces challenge

Quaker Valley senior Annie Wicker has won the past two WPIAL Class AA titles, including a 19:18 finish last season.

Hot on her heels at both meets was Brownsville senior Gionna Quarzo, the two-time defending PIAA Class AA 3,200 champ and state record holder. Her freshman sister Jolena also has been one of the area’s top runners this season.

Wicker was second at the Midwestern Athletic Conference meet earlier this month in 20:36. Quaker Valley sophomore Anna Cohen (20:58), who was third, also could be in the running Thursday.

Belle Vernon junior Grace Henderson, South Fayette senior Hailey Poe and Avonworth senior Anna Igims rounded out the top five last season at the WPIAL meet. Igims won the Class AA race at the Tri-State meet last week in 20:23.

Other returning champions

In addition to Quaker Valley’s Wicker in Class AA girls and North Allegheny’s McGoey in Class AAA boys, a pair of returning champions will try to defend their titles.

Shenango junior Carmen Medvit (19:55) won last year’s Class A WPIAL title. She finished just ahead of Vincentian junior Tara Lucot (20:14) and Greensburg Central Catholic sophomore Corinn Brewer (20:22), who won the Westmoreland County meet earlier this month.

Freedom senior Adam Hessler (17:03) won the Class A boys title last season. He finished second to Winchester Thurston senior Scott Routledge at last week’s Freedom invitational.

Going 4 the 4-peat

Winchester Thurston has won the past three WPIAL Class A boys team titles and could again contend.

The Bears are the No. 1 ranked team in the state, according to PennTrackXC, after finishing as the state runner-up a year ago.

Seniors Routledge and Sean Heintzleman, as well as juniors Patrick Malone and Benjamin Bermann all finished in the top 10 at the WPIAL meet last year.

Routledge won the Freedom Invitational last week in a time of 16:52.

Riverview, the 2018 WPIAL runner-up, is likely to be the top competition. The Raiders are ranked third in the state and feature junior Mason Ochs, who finished third in the WPIAL last season.

North Allegheny (Class AAA) and Greensburg Salem (AA) won the other boys races last season, while North Allegheny (AAA), South Fayette (AA) and Shenango (A) won the girls races.

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@triblive.com or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.

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