Distance runners Carter, Miller ready for 1st crack at WPIAL girls championships

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Saturday, May 15, 2021 | 6:44 PM


Fox Chapel’s Laura Carter and Kiski Area’s Eliza Miller first meet in competition in fall 2018 as seventh-grade cross country runners.

Two years later, they were among the WPIAL’s top high school cross country runners, and they were separated by 5 seconds in the Class AAA WPIAL finals in October. Miller finished fifth, and Carter was right behind her in sixth. Both earned trips to states.

Now, the two are making the most of their first seasons on the track, and they hope to make an impact in their inaugural opportunity at the WPIAL Class AAA individual finals, set for 3:15 p.m. Wednesday at Slippery Rock.

“(Eliza) has beaten me a couple times, so I knew how hard I needed to work if I was going to be able to beat her,” Carter said. “It’s nice to know I have someone like Eliza in all the races who is close and who I can pace off of. It’s nice to know that she and a number of others who also are freshmen will be there to compete against for a couple more years.”

The Class AAA girls 3,200 at WPIALs is a deep field with seven runners, including Carter, already having reached the state qualifying standard (11 minutes, 10 seconds). It is the first track event final Wednesday.

It also is a youthful field as seven of the top nine seeds are freshmen. Moon junior standout Mia Cochran leads the way by a wide margin, as her 10:28.03 time is 35 seconds clear of second seed Meredith Price, a junior from Pine-Richland

“I’ve been racing against a lot of these people for a while now, and I know how good they all are,” Carter said. “Having that group around me and pushing me always helps.”

The top four finishers in each event automatically qualify for the PIAA championships May 29 at Shippensburg. An additional four can qualify if they meet the state qualifying standard.

Carter gained a level of momentum May 7 by winning 1,600 at the Baldwin Invitational. With the top distance talent spread between the 1,600 and the McKinney Mile, Carter ran her season best with a time of 5:14.25.

“I had almost qualified for the McKinney Mile. I was so close,” Carter said. “For the 1,600, I got onto the line late, and the race was about to start. I think that turned out to be good, because there was that extra adrenaline. I got out fast, but I didn’t expect to keep that pace. I was able to hold onto first the whole time. Winning that really boosted my confidence in all my races.”

Carter’s Baldwin Invitational time in the 1,600 would have placed her as the eighth seed Wednesday, but she opted to concentrate solely on the 3,200.

“I dropped 10 seconds in my 1,600 at Baldwin from my previous best time, so that lets me know I can do the same (in the 3,200) at WPIALs,” Carter said.

Miller, seeded ninth in the 3,200, hopes to slice time off her season best of 11:15.59 run at the Butler Invitational and move into the top eight.

“I am very excited for this opportunity at WPIALs,” said Miller, an athlete for all seasons at Kiski who also competed at the WPIAL Class AAA swim championships in March and medaled in eighth place in the 100-yard breaststroke.

“I know I am going to be out there competing against some really good girls. That should push me to get my best time and, hopefully, make it to states.”

Relay work also is on tap for Miller, who hopes to guide the Cavaliers 3,200 relay to an automatic berth to states. The quartet, which also includes Payton Sullivan, Emily Schrag and Jordan Fairman, is seeded fifth (9:46.78).

“We’ve been working so hard all season to get to states and break our school record,” Miller said. “We’re concentrating on the little things, including handoffs. We know we can drop time.”

Carter and Miller said their success in cross country in the fall helped boost them to where they are now.

“Doing well at WPIALs and going to states, I was able to see a lot of that competition who is on top in track as well,” Carter said. “That was a confidence builder.”

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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