Belle Vernon’s Grace Henderson wins Tri-State Track Coaches Association Class AA title

Wednesday, October 21, 2020 | 7:22 PM

Belle Vernon senior Grace Henderson keeps herself busy on the playing field and in the classroom.

In the fall, she runs cross country and is the goalie on the soccer team. In the winter, she plays basketball, and in the spring, she competes in track.

“I try to study at 8 in the evenings,” Henderson said. “I try to balance things out when I’m playing sports.”

While she plays four sports, it’s her running ability that has drawn interest from NCAA Division I programs. She hasn’t made her college decision, but a Mid-American Conference school has her eye.

Henderson, despite running with a charley horse she suffered in a soccer game Tuesday when she got kicked in the leg, won the annual Tri-State Track Coaches Association Class AA girls title Wednesday at White Oak Park.

And while it wasn’t in a time she would have preferred, the 19 minutes, 20.29 seconds was good enough considering the circumstances.

“I had less than 12 hours to recover because I had a soccer game,” Henderson said after edging Uniontown sophomore Hope Trimmer by 10 seconds. “It messed up my legs. They were really tired, and it was hard to push hard at the end of the race.

“I’m happy I won. It sets me up for next week’s WPIAL championship.”

Wednesday’s race was moved to White Oak Park because Cal (Pa.) could not host because of the coronavirus. The Class AA championships will be Oct. 28 or 29. The WPIAL will decide that Friday.

McKeesport freshman Annah Kunes finished third, Beaver sophomore Ella Andrew fourth and Greensburg Salem junior Natalie DiCriscio fifth.

Ringgold was the team champion with 91 points.

The Class AA boys race was won by Ringgold freshman Ryan Pajak, who ran 16:11.30. He also paced Ringgold to the team title with 51 points, edging Greensburg Salem (56).

Both teams had three runners in the top 10. Ringgold senior Lucas Pajak finished fourth, and senior classmate Ben Daerr was eighth.

Greensburg Salem was led by senior Quintin Gatons, who finished second. Senior Ethan Kelley placed seventh, and junior Charles Johnson was ninth.

Knoch senior Mike Formica, who led through the first loop of the 3.1-mile course, finished third. Indiana senior Joel Beckwith was fifth.

“Beating Greensburg Salem was big,” said Ryan Pajak, who also won the Red, White and Blue Invitational a month ago on the course. “We were able to beat them head-to-head.

“I was actually hoping for a better time. But it was pretty warm, and the course seemed harder.”

The Class A boys race was won by Winchester Thurston senior Patrick Malone in 16:34.16. His teammate, junior Lance Nicholls, placed second, Riverview senior Mason Ochs was third and Winchester Thurston senior Gus Robinson fourth.

Despite Winchester Thurston having three of the top four runners, Riverview took the team title with 62 points. Winchester Thurston had 76 points.

Malone said the team’s fifth runner was having fluid drained from his knee and was unavailable.

Backing Ochs were junior Parker Steele (10th), junior Ty Laughlin (16th), sophomore Amberson Bauer (17th) and junior Lucas Walton (20th). Even though those were overall finishes for the Riverview runners, its team score was lower because some of the runners ahead of them weren’t on full teams.

OLSH senior Finn Sweeney placed fifth.

“I was hoping more runners would go out with me, but I ended up running by myself a little bit,” Malone said. “It was pretty hot compared to other days, and I got pretty hot. Luckily I had two of my teammates back me up and helped me finish a little stronger.”

The Class A girls winner was Shenango senior Carmen Medvit. Her time of 19:18.50 was faster than Henderson’s in the Class AA race.

“I’m happy with how I ran,” Medvit said. “My goal was to have my mile splits as consistent as possible, and I did a pretty good job of that.”

Medvit and Portage freshman Alex Chobany were battling it out for two miles before Medvit pulled away.

Serra Catholic senior Maya Poziviak was second, followed by St. Joseph Catholic Academy senior Kathleen Simander in third, Winchester Thurston sophomore Cyd Kennard in fourth and Riverside freshman Lexi Fluharty in fifth.

The Class AAA boys and girls races will begin at 1 p.m. Thursday. There are two boys races and two girls races.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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