Aquinas Academy junior Alexis Abbett proving to be hard to catch

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Saturday, October 8, 2022 | 11:01 AM


When Aquinas Academy junior Alexis Abbett was a toddler, she loved to run.

She would dart around, with her parents trying to stay hot on her heels.

“I would run away,” Alexis said, “a lot.”

Abbett is still running, and she still has a lot of people trying to catch her.

Abbett will be a top contender for the gold medal at the WPIAL Class A cross country championships Oct. 27 at Cal (Pa.).

She placed fifth at last year’s WPIAL Class A championships and sixth at the PIAA meet in a season-best 20 minutes, 14 seconds over the 3.1-mile course.

“It’s been really exciting getting to work with her,” first-year Aquinas coach Nick Wolk said. “She is a tremendous athlete. She’s fearless.”

Abbett, the top returning finisher from the 2021 WPIAL championships and the No. 3 returner from states, showed her inclination to run at a young age. Teri Abbett recalled when her daughter was about 16 months old during a family trip to Rehoboth Beach.

“We had a little bucket of toys for Alexis,” Teri Abbett said. “She looked at those for about 10 seconds, and she took off down the beach. My husband (Taylor) would go running after her and bring her back. All of these other kids were sitting, playing with buckets and shovels on the beach, and she would take off running. Next year was the same thing.

“We could catch her, because we were adults. But you’d turn away to look at something, and she would be down the beach.”

Abbett, of Aspinwall, eventually traded Delaware sand for the grassy layouts of Western Pennsylvania. She began running cross country in fourth grade and developed a passion for the sport. She also runs track at Aquinas and as a sophomore placed third in the 3,200 at 2021 WPIAL Class 2A track and field championships.

“I’ve always been relatively fast,” she said, “but I definitely did put in a lot of work to get where I am now.

“Personally, I think my season is going really good. I’ve seen a lot of improvement from last season. I definitely feel a lot stronger when I’m running and I definitely notice a decrease in my times.”

Abbett tuned up for the postseason meets by placing fifth in Class A at the Red, White & Blue Classic on Sept. 9 at White Oak Park with a time of 21:18.

On Sept. 24, she was third among Class A runners in 20:47 at the PIAA Foundation meet in Hershey, held on the same course as the upcoming Nov. 5 state championship meet.

She will also run at the Tri-State Invitational at Cal (Pa.) on Oct. 20 in her final prep race for WPIALs.

“I really hope to get top-five at states,” she said. “That would be nice.”

Wolk, a former cross country standout at Peters Township and Pitt, knows all about talented runners. He said Abbett’s mixture of natural ability, work ethic and drive makes her special.

“She’s a very kind person,” Wolk said, “but you can tell she is extremely competitive deep down.”

Abbett showed her dedication at a recent practice, when Aquinas Academy was running multiple times up a hill at North Park.

“We were supposed to do four of them,” Wolk said. “She got done with four. She’s like, ‘All right, one more, right?’ I said, ‘No, no. You are just doing four.’ She said, ‘Well, I have it in my head that I’m going to do five. So I’m going to go do five.’ And she just kept doing them.”

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