Butler’s Griffith sets event record in winning Tri-State cross country title

Thursday, October 19, 2023 | 8:19 PM

As Butler senior Drew Griffith approached the end of the 5,000-meter course at the Tri-State Cross Country Championship at White Oak Park on Thursday, his mom stood with a camera waiting for her son to break more records.

His mom spoke about the monumental weekend that her son had in Mechanicsville, Va. Griffith’s time of 14 minutes, 21 seconds was not only a personal best, but it is the top time this season in the country, and it broke the state record.

Back on Pa. soil, Griffith cruised to the finish with a time of 15:09.43, setting the event record that stood since McGuffey’s Jeff Weis ran 15:30 in 2005.

“That’s pretty sweet,” Griffith said about setting the event record. “My first time on this course, and it was pretty fun.”

On the heels of his weekend in Virginia, Griffith admitted he did not feel his best. Regardless, Griffith still took top honors by 17 seconds over second-place finisher Jack Bertram of North Allegheny (15:26.43).

“I’m a little tired today but just got out there and got the job done was the main goal,” Griffith said.

Fox Chapel’s Rowan Gwin, South Fayette’s Alaa-Eddine Guetari and Butler’s Owen Dressler rounded out the top five.

North Allegheny again took the top spots in Class 3A.

For the second consecutive year, Mt. Lebanon’s Logan St. John Kletter finished first in the Class 3A girls race with a time of 17:39.3. Kletter has been managing a hip injury that kept her from running at the season-opening race at White Oak Park.

“It is nice to be back healthy on this course and just let myself have fun for my senior year,” Kletter said.

While Kletter finished first, she is looking improve upon her time at the upcoming WPIAL championships.

“It’s a good confidence boost, but I ran here at Bald Eagle (Invitational) two weeks ago. I ran a little bit faster there, so, hopefully, for WPIALS I can get a (personal record) here,” Kletter said.

Eva Kynaston and Robin Kucler of North Allegheny finished two-three behind Kletter. Penn-Trafford’s Amelia Barilla and North Allegheny’s Erin McGoey rounded out the top five.

Closing the gap

Hampton’s Dale Hall and West Allegheny’s Grace Fritzman were within striking distance of the leaders halfway through their Class 2A races. Both leveraged the final steep uphill to regain lost strides on the frontrunners.

“On the uphill, I took over because I know it’s my strong suit,” Fritzman said. “I wanted to push it. I didn’t know I was going to win until the last 600. It’s now or never, and I just wanted to keep going.”

Fritzman crossed the finish line with a time of 18:54.73. The was the first for the sophomore.

“I was definitely ready for that,” she said. “I’ve been placing top four the whole season, and I really wanted to get first one time, but I didn’t expect it to be today.”

In the boys race, with nearly 800 meters left, Hall knew he had the chance to surpass Elizabeth Forward’s Patrick Burgos, and he did, finishing first with a time of 15:33.16.

“When he got a gap on me, I was looking at his back, and it was a good amount of space to make up,” Hall said. “I’ve made up bigger gaps than that in less time. It might hurt, but I’m going to have to dig in and get that.”

The gold medal for Hall was a portion of the dominating performance by the Hampton boys. Christopher Belch, Jacob Bonnar, Layne Haught and Josh Wukitch placed in the top 10 for the Talbots. Hampton’s 28 points were tops in the entire event.

“It’s super exciting,” Hall said. “The team really wanted that. We were trying to work together today and get a good team showing.”

Burgos finished second, and Montour’s Julian Kletz claimed third.

Montour took the top spot in the Class 2A girls race. Rounding out the top five were Woodland Hills’ Annabel Johnson, Uniontown’s Grace Trimmer and Montour’s Lakyn Schaltenbrand and Tiffany Miller.

Quick detour

Leading the pack throughout a cross country race is exactly where most runners want to be. But it sometimes can lead to trouble. In the Class A girls race, it led Riverside’s Lexi Fluharty to make not one but two wrong turns.

“In early September we were here for Red, White and Blue. When we finished a lap, we came through the middle, and now they added a chute that you have to go through. I missed the chute, so I had to turn around and backtrack 50 meters,” Fluharty said. “At that point, I had lost my lead. I had to catch back up and keep contact. It took a little bit out of me. I did it again at the end because I didn’t know which way to go, and no one was helping me out.”

Despite the detour, Fluharty regained her lead a finished first for the second straight year at the Tri-State event with a time of 19:06.25.

“I was hoping to go sub-19 today,” Fluharty said. “With a couple wrong turns, it is what it is. Going into the WPIALs next week, I’m looking to PR.”

Fluharty’s misdirection nearly cost her as Aquinas’ Alexis Abbett finished right on her heels with a time of 19:11.29.

Seton LaSalle’s Danielle Tomley and Mohawk’s Natalie Lape crossed the finish line third and fourth, respectively. Winchester Thurston’s Abigail Weinstein finished fifth to help the Bears earn the Class A title.

In winning the boys championship in Class A, Riverview placed five runners in the top 20. The Raiders edged Ellwood City, 61-75. Christopher Barnes and Holden Deasy crossed the finish line 2 seconds apart for Riverview to place fourth and fifth.

With a time of 15:47.83, Mohawk’s Jaxon Schoedel took home the gold medal. Even though Schoedel was dealing with some pain in his left side, he finished nearly a minute ahead of the closest pursuer.

“I’m very excited to kick off the WPIAL and state part of the season and this is a great opener to that,” Schoedel said.

Neshannock’s Brendan Burns finished seconds, and Eden Christian’s Matthew Otto placed third.

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