Fox Chapel boys cross country putting team mentality to use after winning section

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Sunday, October 25, 2020 | 11:01 AM


When the 2020 track season got canceled because of coronavirus, the Fox Chapel boys cross country team put all its effort toward the fall sports season.

The foxes followed a maintenance-type of training schedule throughout May, ramped it up in June and by July, coach Tom Moul said the boys were logging the type of miles that put them in position to succeed this fall.

“We don’t really have any front-runner types like we did last year after losing Christian Fitch, but these guys, we have three juniors and three seniors, we’ve been pretty pleased,” Moul said. “They decided back when track season was canceled that they were going to try and get the most out of themselves despite the circumstances. So, I’ve been really proud of how well they’ve trained and dedicated themselves.”

For the third time in four years, the Foxes won the Section 4, Division I title at the section meet Oct. 7 where junior Jack Lorence led the Foxes and placed third with a time of 17 minutes, 26 seconds. Teammates Jose Morales (sixth), Ethan Napolitan (seventh) and Shane Funk (ninth) also finished in the top 10.

Their performance at the section meet set the stage for the Foxes to excel in the final two races of the season.

They were set to take part in the Tri-State Track Coaches Association meet Oct. 22 at White Oak Park and then were headed back there a week later for the WPIAL championship meet Oct. 29.

The past few years, the WPIAL championship meet has been held at Cal (Pa.), which features an intimidating quarter-mile hill. Moul said his runners are ready to compete at White Oak once again.

“The guys like it. It’s a faster course, and I know at Cal U there is that killer hill that could be somewhat intimidating,” Moul said. “As a coach, I like to have the adversity because I feel like we can prepare for the adversity and have the advantage maybe in that way over some teams. But we have an experienced team this year.”

This year hasn’t been like years past, though, as the Foxes have had to find a way to replace Fitch, who placed fourth in the WPIAL Class AAA race last year and led the Foxes to a fifth-place team finish.

The whole team took it upon themselves to step up their efforts to fill the hole that was left. To do so, they have approached this season with a team-first mentality in a pursuit that can often be viewed as an individual sport.

“It’s been a whole team effort, and these guys have been together for a few years now,” Moul said. “They all knew they were going to have to pick up the slack after Christian has been gone and he was their leader. But he was a good leader, and I feel like a lot of these guys picked up his good habits in terms of training and mentality. But they are a close-knit group, and I think they all decided they each had to pick it up if they wanted to be on that same level and they have.”

Lorence has led the way for the Foxes. He placed second at the Kiski Invitational on Sept. 18 with a 17:26 clocking and placed sixth at the Bald Eagle Invitational on Oct. 3, which was held at White Oak Park, with a time of 16:38.

Morales earned his top finish of the season at the section championship with a 18:07, and Funk has also had a solid season with a sixth-place finish at the Kiski Area Invitational.

Seeing how the whole team has been performing this season, Moul believes his team is going to enter the WPIAL championship race a little more motivated after just missing the top three last season.

“They have something to prove this year,” Moul said. “They feel like they didn’t perform up to their level of ability at last year’s WPIALs. So, they kind of have a chip on their shoulder a little bit this year.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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