Brownsville runner keeps WPIAL Class 2A cross country gold in family

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Wednesday, October 28, 2020 | 3:04 PM


As a freshman last year, Brownsville’s Jolena Quarzo earned a silver medal at the WPIAL Class AA cross country championships at Cal U (Pa.) as older sister Gionna dominated the field to claim gold.

With a new setting for this year’s championship meet and Gionna now running at N.C. State, Jolena left no doubt it was her time to shine.

She finished the course at White Oak Park in a winning time of 18 minutes, 40 seconds, a full 22 seconds ahead of Montour freshman Lakyn Schaltenbrand and Uniontown sophomore Hope Trimmer.

Schaltenbrand and Trimmer crossed the finish line at the same time.

“I had run here two other times this season, so I knew where to speed up and when to slow down,” said Quarzo, who won the Red, White and Blue Class AA race at White Oak last month and the Bald Eagle Invitational Class AA race on the same course two weeks later.

“Definitely since my sister got it, I am happy to keep it in the family. I knew I had to push it this year. I am really happy about it.”

With the PIAA making changes to the qualifying numbers for the state meet in Hershey — only the team champion and the top seven individual finishers not on the winning team for Class AA move on — there was a heightened sense of determination among the runners to be at their best on the White Oak course which was dampened and slick by a steady light drizzle.

It was a happy 18th birthday for boys individual winner Mike Formica.

The Knoch senior, coming off a third-place finish at Tri-State championships at White Oak last week, broke through with a winning time of 16:15, two seconds faster than Ringgold freshman Ryan Pajak and five seconds ahead of Greensburg Salem senior Quintin Gatons.

“It was pretty amazing to come out here and win,” Formica said. “It was something I thought about doing the entire year. It just feels great to have all that work pay off.”

The defending boys Class AA champion, Beaver Area senior Will Lamb, finished sixth overall, but he earned one of the seven at-large qualifying spots and will return to states Nov. 7 in Hershey.

Gatons helped the Greensburg Salem boys capture their second WPIAL Class AA title in three years. The Golden Lions placed three in the top 10 and a fourth at No. 19 and edged Ringgold for the title by six team points. Ringgold beat Greensburg Salem by five points for the Tri-States team title.

“Last week at Tri-States, we were pretty close, and I thought we might have a shot at this,” Greensburg Salem coach Nathan Snider said. “Jake Smith, our fourth guy, has really come on for us. That was the really big key for us today. We knew it was going to be within five or 10 points. It’s nice to see us on the winning end this week.”

The battle for the girls team title was close as well.

Class AA newcomer North Catholic, led by freshman Grace Lazzara in fifth overall, placed four in the top 20 and a fifth at No. 30 as it topped runner-up Montour by 10 points.

The Trojanettes took third last year in Class A and earned a spot at states. They were fourth in the Class AA team standings at Tri-States.

Other boys runners earning a trip to states were Indiana senior Joel Beckwith, Ringgold seniors Lucas Pajak and Ben Daerr and South Park senior Kirk Stewart.

Also picking up individual PIAA berths on the girls side were McKeesport freshman Annah Kunes, Montour sophomore Harley Kletz, Quaker Valley junior Anna Cohen and Greensburg Salem junior Natalie DiCriscio.

Belle Vernon senior Grace Henderson, who won the Class AA girls race at Tri-States last week and was a three-time WPIAL place winner and state qualifier, hoped to challenge for the top spot Wednesday, but lower leg injury issues prevented her from taking to the White Oak course.

“She couldn’t really pinpoint when it happened,” Belle Vernon coach Chris Stasicha said. “I think the wear and tear of a long cross country season combined with playing soccer, it’s been bothering her for a while now. She went and got an MRI. She’s in a boot for four weeks.

“It’s a shame because she is one of the most talented runners in Western Pennsylvania with one of the top four times in Class AA in the state this year. Unfortunately, her season had to end this way.”

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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