Gateway’s Kefimba Cisse strong cross country season comes to close at PIAA meet

Sunday, November 13, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Kefimba Cisse began his cross country season by winning the Gateway Invitational in early September at Boyce Park.

The Gateway junior concluded it Nov. 5 in the Class 3A boys race at the PIAA championships in Hershey.

It was a season of progress and a breakout effort of sorts for Cisse, who wished for a better outcome at the state meet after medaling in 16th overall at WPIALs at Cal (Pa.) a week earlier.

Cisse placed 97th at states with a time of 17 minutes, 50.8 seconds.

“It was decent, but not exactly what I wanted to do,” Cisse said.

“The finish wasn’t as bad as I felt my race was going as I was running it. I kind of let my mind get to me. I really started to feel the race at the end, and I kind of slowed up a little bit when I was supposed to be picking it up. That was a mistake.

“Coach (LaBuff) encouraged me after the race and made sure I knew it was better than I thought.”

Cisse was 66th after the first mile, was 67th and 64th at the next two distance markers, and was 75th heading into the final stretch.

“Finishing 97th might not sound great for him, but the course is long, and comparing times, it’s a tougher course than California,” LaBuff said.

“Most of the times are slower. I wanted to put it in perspective for him that there were probably a hundred kids there who could’ve medaled. They just had to have things break their way in terms of how they got out, and if there were places to go over the first half mile or so. He said he felt dead after the first mile or so, but a lot of that came down to there being a lot of contact. It’s wide open at the start, but when they narrow it down, it’s instantaneous. He got out well, like we planned, but then there was a lot of bumping a shoving, and he’s not particularly big. He talked a lot about slowing down and speeding up and slowing down again. You can’t get any rhythm when that happens.”

Cisse was the 13th WPIAL finisher, a three-place improvement from Cal.

Senior Brian DiCola from Hatboro Horsham in District 1 captured the boys Class 3A state title in a time of 15:24.2.

Three WPIAL runners — WPIAL champion Drew Griffith, a junior from Butler, North Allegheny sophomore Jack Bertram and Peters Township senior Brett Kroboth — finished second through fourth, respectively.

“(The PIAA race) opened my eyes to the level I want to reach with my training,” Cisse said.

“I do need to put in some more work in certain areas. One of those is having a more positive outlook during races because I tend to be a little negative in the middle, and it doesn’t help me to be that way.”

Cisse said he hopes to do a fair amount of training over the winter in preparation for the outdoor season in March. But he hasn’t ruled out competing in a few indoor meets.

In addition to winning the Gateway Invitational, Cisse was 15th (16:22) in the boys Class 3A race at the Red, White & Blue Invitational at White Oak Park, finished runner-up (17:01) at the Section 4 championship race at Northmoreland Park, and was 14th (17:15.40) in the Class 3A boys race at the Tri-State Coaches meet at Cal the week before WPIALs.

“I wanted to remind Kefimba that he had a great year, the first one where he was competitive with just about everybody except for maybe the top two or three kids in the WPIAL,” LaBuff said.

“Hopefully, he will continue to make progress and have another great track and field season in the spring and then move forward into his senior year where he can earn a high place finish at WPIALs and go after a state medal. That would be great.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at


More Cross Country

Gatorade picks Mt. Lebanon’s Logan St. John Kletter as top girls cross country runner in Pa.
Butler’s Drew Griffith tops Ringgold’s Ryan Pajak to win cross country national championship
Westmoreland County Senior Spotlight: Ligonier Valley’s Clara Wallace
A-K Valley Senior Spotlight: Riverview’s Gwyn Fichte
Plan comes together for Pine-Richland sophomore in cross country postseason