A-K Valley runners on quest for medals at PIAA cross country meet

Thursday, October 31, 2019 | 5:26 PM

A contingent of Alle-Kiski Valley cross country teams and individuals hope to build on performances from WPIALs as they run against the state’s best Saturday at the PIAA championships in Hershey.

Fox Chapel seniors Grace Sisson and Brooke Krally are used to running with a full team at states, but this year, the duo will compete individually.

Sisson is coming off a fifth-place finish (19 minutes, 53 seconds) in the Class AAA girls race at WPIALs, and Krally took 15th overall (20:28).

“They have a lot of experience on that course, and I think it will benefit them,” Fox Chapel coach Tom Moul said. “They ran well at WPIALs, and I think that gave them a boost heading into states.”

Foxes senior Christian Fitch is no stranger to the PIAA meet. It’s his fourth time running there. He recorded a personal-best fifth last year.

At WPIALs, Fitch competed with a group of the state’s top runners, including defending PIAA champion Patrick Anderson from Mt. Lebanon, and he placed fourth (16:16).

“It’s possible that four of the top five finishers (in boys Class AAA) at states could come from the WPIAL,” Moul said. “I don’t remember that ever being the case before. It’s fun to watch those guys compete against each other.”

Saturday’s races start with the Class A girls at 9:30 a.m. and continue every 45 minutes through the Class AAA boys at 1:15 p.m.

The top 25 individuals in each race earn medals.

The Riverview boys, runners-up to Winchester Thurston in Class A at WPIALs, are hoping to rise above eighth place, their all-time best finish at states recorded each of the past two years.

“We ran pretty well at WPIALs, but we know there definitely is room for improvement at states,” junior Gideon Deasy said.

Deasy finished fifth at WPIALs (17:27), and fellow junior Mason Ochs was the individual runner-up (17:10) as the Raiders placed all five scoring runners in the top 27.

Coach Palma Ostrowski said the team is a top-five candidate along with Winchester Thurston, as well as defending state champion Jenkintown (District 1), Wyalusing (District 4) and Penns Valley (District 6).

The Knoch girls, third in the Class AA standings at WPIALs, hope to break through with a top 10 finish. The Knights are running as a team at states for the first time since 2014.

“A goal from the start was to get to states and make an impact at the state level,” said Knoch coach Wess Brahler, who saw positive results from all his runners when they competed in Hershey at the PIAA Foundation meet in late September.

“I think we could be anywhere from six to 12. They all want to go out there and run (personal bests).”

Knoch senior Sammy Jo Barnes, fifth at WPIALs (20:27), also is back at Hershey hoping for an individual medal. She placed 30th last year.

“It’s her third year there,” Brahler said. “She has that experience on that course. That’s huge. She’s definitely ready.”

Braden Zukowski, 23rd in the Class AA boys race at WPIALs, hopes to cap his Knights cross country career strong and improve on last year’s 111th-place finish in his PIAA debut.

“He’s been training a lot to handle that fast first mile, and I think that will be a big difference for him this year,” Brahler said.

Senior Aaron Plyler will represent the Knoch boys at states for the first time. He placed 22nd at WPIALs (17:53).

“Aaron has been running with a lot of confidence,” Brahler said. “He caught fire at the right time. He’s very excited to go to the state meet. He’s earned it.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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