Big-race experience boosts Chartiers Valley cross country team

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Thursday, October 17, 2019 | 5:16 PM


With the WPIAL championships approaching, the Chartiers Valley cross country teams are getting some big race experience.

In October, the Colts competed in the Big South Championship, the John Sample Invitational in Grove City, the Mingo Classic and the TSTCA Cross Country Championships.

“We have seen a lot of good competition,” Chartiers Valley coach Lori Poe said. “Many are not huge invitationals, so they don’t overwhelm our younger runners. We also see teams in our section so there is familiarity.

“I like those meets. They are good confidence builders.”

While the boys team has several seniors on the roster, they are in their first season as top runners on the team. For Zac Byrd, it is his first season on the roster.

Byrd came out to join friends on the team and has developed into a leading runner for the Colts. He was the team’s top finisher at the Mingo Classic.

“He is a good overall athlete,” Poe said. “He runs on his own and plays tennis. While he is a first-year runner, he is very competitive. What he lacks in race experience, he has in competitive drive.”

The team has three other seniors who have boosted the team. Henry Anderson, Austin Krieger and Frank Kuna have all regularly finished in the top five for the Colts.

Santo Riccardi is a freshman who has made an instant impact. He recently finished fourth at the Big South Invitational.

“He ran in our middle school program,” Poe said. “He is also a pretty good baseball player, so he has that competitive drive. Sometimes it is hard jumping up as a freshman to be a top runner. But all the guys have been really supportive of him.”

Kyle Witte is another freshman who has regularly finished in the top six for Chartiers Valley.

The girls team, meanwhile, relies on a strong junior class. Both Grace Struna and Kate Pipilo ran at the WPIAL championships for the team last season.

“(Struna) is in her third season with the team,” Poe said. “She is a lacrosse player. She competes almost all year, so she is very competitive. (Pipilo) had a great track season and transitioned into cross country work over the summer.”

Riley Thornton is a first-year runner with the team. She is the younger sister of Kiki Thornton, a state qualifier last season and current member of the Duquesne cross country team.

Junior Allison Moses and sophomores Grace Magilson and Abby Betts have also been top six finishers for the Colts.

With the WPIAL Championships up next on the schedule, Chartiers Valley will look to prepare for the course at California University of Pennsylvania. It is the second year that WPIAL will use the course, and it offers many challenges different from the previous site at Cooper’s Lake Campground in Slippery Rock.

“Cal U starts flat for the first mile,” Poe said. “A little rolling. But then you hit a pretty significant hill. It takes discipline to not go too hard. Our home course is similar. It starts flat and there is a hill in the middle. It is a good training tool.”

Poe has some straightforward goals for her teams at the WPIAL championships.

“For the boys, I would like the top five to be under 19 minutes,” Poe said. “For the girls, I want some consistency. I would like to have the top four under 23.”

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