GCC’s Brewer, Indiana’s Branan claim titles at Kiski Area Invitational

Friday, September 13, 2019 | 3:27 PM

Sunny skies, reduced humidity and a slight breeze welcomed runners to Friday’s third annual Kiski Area Cross Country Invitational at spacious Northmoreland Park in northern Westmoreland County.

Nearly two dozen schools entered athletes — close to 800 in all — who competed in boys and girls varsity, junior varsity and junior high races.

The conditions were ideal for overall girls varsity winner Corinn Brewer, as the Greensburg Central Catholic sophomore knocked nearly 39 seconds off her time at last year’s event and finished with a time of 19 minutes, 35.1 seconds.

“The conditions were a lot better than this week’s weather, a lot cooler,” said Brewer, a third-place finisher in the girls Class A race at WPIALs last year.

“I got four seconds off my personal best from last year on a completely flat course. This has some hills. That was surprising for me, and I think I did really well for my first invitational of the season. If I went this fast this early in the season, I know I have some nice times left in me.”

Medals were awarded to the top 15 finishers in each varsity race.

North Catholic’s Alaina Hicks and Julia Zalenski placed second and third, respectively, and they were followed in fourth by Plum senior Angela Valotta, who led the Alle-Kiski Valley contingent with a time of 20:20.2.

“I started out pretty well,” Valotta said. “I am used to pretty hilly courses, like the one at Boyce Park, and this one was a lot flatter than usual. The last mile, I just tried to keep my pace up. I kind of started to kick too early, so that finish was a little rough. But I got a PR, so that was good. That really raised my confidence, and I am excited for upcoming races.”

Valotta joined with sixth-place finisher, junior Livia Paoletti, and eighth-place finisher, sophomore Ashley Persia, to lead Plum to the girls Class AAA team title. The Mustangs bested runner-up Gateway and third-place Kiski Area, led by sophomore Josie Plazio, in the Class AAA team standings.

Indiana bested Freeport by 35 points in the Class AA team standings. Yellowjackets freshman Anita Bhat fronted her team with a time of 22:00.5 for 15th overall.

Fox Chapel sophomore Gabrielle Kline also earned a medal as she was 12th overall (21:41.0)

On the boys side, Indiana topped Uniontown and Freeport in the Class A/AA team standings. Indians senior Kendall Branan led his team with the top overall boys individual run, taking gold in a time of 16:43.3.

“I hadn’t run here in a couple of years, and this gives me and my teammates a good idea of what to expect with the section race here in a couple of weeks,” Branan said.

Indiana, Fox Chapel, Plum and Kiski Area will join Armstrong, Central Catholic/Oakland Catholic, Gateway, Penn Hills and Woodland Hills at Northmoreland Park on Oct. 2 for the one-day Division I, Section 4 championship meet.

“I felt a lot better than I did in my last two races,” said Branan, a Class AA state qualifier last year. “I felt I had a lot more energy at the end, and I felt like I could keep going.”

Kiski Area juniors Jake Folaran and Matt Dongiavanni led the A-K Valley boys group and finished a second apart in ninth and 10th overall, respectively.

Folaran crossed in 17:22.8, while Dongiavanni was right behind at 17:23.3 as the Cavaliers boys scored 100 points in the Class AAA team standings, good for third behind Allderdice (50) and Latrobe (70).

“I had some teammates behind me with words of encouragement to get me through the final stretch,” Folaran said. “They were sitting right on my heels. I didn’t want to get stepped on, so I thought, ‘I better go.’ They came with me, and as it ended up, I happened to have the better day today.”

Allderdice had five runners place among the top 17 overall finishers. Latrobe was led by junior Justin Carlson in sixth (17:14.1).

Highlands senior CJ Thimons, a Class AA individual state qualifier last year, and Plum senior Justin Mascilli represented the A-K Valley with medals in 12th and 13th, respectively.

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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