A-K Valley track and field teams gallop into WPIAL semifinals

Sunday, April 28, 2019 | 5:21 PM

The last time the Apollo-Ridge boys track and field team qualified for the WPIAL semifinals was in 2014 when the Tre Tipton-led Vikings won the section title and punched their ticket to the postseason.

“We have a lot of guys who have become better throughout their career and throughout the course of this year,” said Apollo-Ridge coach Bob Desiderato, who will guide the team into Tuesday’s semifinals against former section foe Riverview, as well as Hopewell and host Shenango.

“The team just continued to improve, and we caught teams at the right time, except for (section champion) Deer Lakes.”

Apollo-Ridge, which recorded four first-place finishes at the Allegheny Interscholastic Conference (Section 7-AA) individual meet Wednesday, is one of eight Alle-Kiski Valley teams set to compete in the semifinals Tuesday.

Also in the mix are the boys teams from Riverview, Deer Lakes and Kiski Area, as well as the girls teams from Burrell, Deer Lakes, Kiski Area and Riverview.

Burrell, the 2017 Class AA girls team champion and last year’s runner-up, is in the team playoffs for the fifth year in a row.

“The girls found out this year that we had to work for everything,” Bucs coach Steve White said. “Kaylen (Sharrow) is doing fantastic (in the hurdles), but this is really a team effort. We don’t have a group of superstars who would dominate every meet. We’ve gotten good stuff from all the different events.”

The winners of the four semifinals in each of the two boys and girls classifications will advance to the finals, set for next Monday at Peters Township.

Both Riverview teams went undefeated in section meets this year. Included in that were convincing victories over the runner-up squads from Shady Side Academy.

The Raiders boys squad, led by the distance running of sophomores Mason Ochs and Gideon Deasy and the throwing of junior Cole Vazanna, finished as back-to-back section champs for the first time in school history.

The Riverview girls, who won their first section title this spring, will match up with Hopewell and defending AA champion Shenango in the semifinals.

“The teams are riding a lot of momentum going into Tuesday,” Riverview coach Dave Ilnicki said. “It’s been a pretty good year as far as team success, for sure.”

The Kiski Area boys also will take on a defending champion in the semifinals, meeting Class AAA North Allegheny, as well as Moon, at North Allegheny.

“North Allegheny has good athletes in every event,” Kiski Area coach Tom Berzonsky said. “They have the best distance runners in the state. We just want to go in and record some personal bests and see what happens.”

The Kiski boys, who finished second to Mars this year in Section 4-AAA, are in the WPIAL playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.

The Cavaliers girls squad, in the team playoffs for the third year in a row, also will be at North Allegheny with the host Tigers, Moon and South Fayette. They come into the team playoffs as the Section 4 champion.

“North Allegheny always is a challenge,” Berzonsky said. “They are one of the top programs in the state. We know it’s going to be tough to beat them, but we feel pretty confident we can compete with them in certain areas, including our throwers. We’re going to give it our best shot.”

The Deer Lakes boys backed up their Section 7-AA title by winning nine events at the AIC meet. With victories in the throws, jumps and on the track, the Lancers, in the team playoffs for the first time since 2011, hope to carry that over to Tuesday against Beth-Center, Elizabeth Forward and South Park.

“The guys are excited,” Deer Lakes coach Justin Mech said. “It’s a young team with some veterans, and they came together to win the section title. Now, they understand there will be some strong competition (Tuesday).”

The Deer Lakes girls, who won six AIC events, are in the WPIAL playoffs for the second year in a row and will match up against Brownsville, Greensburg Central Catholic and South Park.

“A number of them were (at the WPIAL team semifinals) last year and understand the importance of bringing their ‘A’ game or they’re done,” Mech said. “Both teams have been practicing hard. We’ll see what happens.”

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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