Gateway cross country focused on positives after difficult WPIAL meet

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Friday, November 1, 2019 | 6:37 PM


Gateway’s cross country team couldn’t check off the top item on its list of goals this season — having a runner qualify for the PIAA meet.

The Gators also aren’t about to let the results of the WPIAL meet get them down.

“It’s unfortunate we didn’t run as well as we wanted at the end, and I always say you win some and lose some,” senior Maddie Smith said. “What I get out of this is running with my friends. That’s important. Feeling that you ran well throughout the season is also more important than focusing on one race. With all the work we put in, I’m so proud we stuck together.”

Gateway saw a promising start to the season fade in late September when a car crash injured three runners — junior Joseph Storey and sophomores Ryleigh Geraci and Emma Sandor — on its already thin roster. Each was able to race by the end of the season.

“This team is close, and I don’t see how we couldn’t be close after what we’ve been through together,” Smith said. “Everyone really cares about each other.”

The boys team finished 26th out of 31 teams at the WPIAL championships after placing in the middle of the pack at races for most of the season.

“Everyone on the team is capable of running faster than we did at WPIALs,” senior Riley Pritchard said. “Everyone worked so hard to get to where they are now. If they train harder, they’ll be even better next year.”

Junior Luke Whisel placed 46th in 18 minutes, 2 seconds and was followed by sophomore Brady Sundin, who was 91st in 18:53. Pritchard was 153rd in 19:40, the exact time he ran in the 2018 title race.

“Brady is starting to link onto Luke, and it’s always nice to run with someone who pushes you,” Pritchard said. “I think you’ll see more of that next year with Brady and Luke. My coach always emphasizes that we should run in packs. The boys team was more spread out than the girls team, and running in a pack seemed to help them.”

The girls team, which tied for third out of 20 teams in mid-September at the Kiski Area Invitational, placed 18th at the WPIAL meet. The Gators’ top three runners stayed close together.

Sophomore Kiyara Sawyers was 64th in 22:20, freshman Marina Grade was 74th in 22:32 and sophomore Emma Sandor was 78th in 22:37.

Smith, who was 127th in 24:11, said she enjoyed being a mentor to the team’s younger runners.

“I’ve always said if I didn’t have the team that I have, and have had in past years, I wouldn’t be in this sport,” Smith said. “Cross country is rough, but all the fun memories I have of everyone running and sticking it out with each other, that’s the best part.”

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