GCC’s Corinn Brewer brings home gold in final WPIAL cross country race

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Thursday, October 28, 2021 | 9:37 PM


In her final WPIAL cross country race, Corinn Brewer wouldn’t let anyone take away her goal of capturing championship gold.

The Greensburg Central Catholic senior, second in the Class A girls race last year, brought home the title at Cal (Pa.) on Thursday with a time of 21 minutes, 17.8 seconds.

“This is really special,” Brewer said in the moments after her WPIAL-winning race. “It’s still not even setting in my head that I won, probably because I wasn’t in the lead until the very last part of the race. Even knowing that I am not going to college for cross country, I am going for pole vault and heptathalon, so knowing I could win this is really special to me.”

In a tight pack at the finish line, Brewer bested runner-up Lydia Valeriano, a senior from Northgate, by two seconds.

The top four were separated by four seconds.

“I am not really that good at hills, especially in races, but I know I have the track speed, determination and heart which I needed for this race especially,” Brewer said.

“I was seventh up until about 600 meters to go, and then I started to kick it. I was able to give myself enough time to pass everyone with my track speed at the end.”

In Class A, the top four teams and top 20 individuals not on one of the state-qualifying teams make it to the state meet Nov. 6 in Hershey. In the other two classes, it’s three teams and 15 individuals.

Brewer’s GCC teammate, freshman Jonah Althof, took 12th in a time of 22:03, while Ligonier Valley senior Maddie Smith qualified for states in 23rd (22:39.8).

In the Class A boys race, Nick Szekely experienced a WPIAL-championship race on the Roadman Park course at Cal for the first time, and the Greensburg Central Catholic sophomore made the most of the opportunity.  Szekely placed fourth overall with a time of 17:51.4.

He is a state qualifier for the second year in a row.

Szekely, in his WPIAL-meet debut last year, took sixth on the White Oak Park course.

Ligonier Valley senior Tucker Klotz also will run at states next week in Hershey after posting a seventh-place finish in a time of 18:02.9. He jumped 28 spots from 35th at White Oak in his WPIAL debut last year.

Belle Vernon junior Viva Kreis, meanwhile, was 18th overall at last year’s WPIAL Class 2A girls meet at White Oak Park. Normally, that is good enough to earn a berth to states. But PIAA limitations born out of the covid pandemic kept the individual-qualifying field to just seven.

Kreis does know what it is like to run at Hershey as an 11th-place finish as a freshman at Cal (Pa.) sent her to the state meet.

Now, Kreis is headed back to the PIAA championships after cracking the top 10 Thursday. She finished 10th with a time of 21:12, and helped the Leopards take ninth in the team standings.

Derry freshman Jane Huss took 15th (21:31.4) in her WPIAL debut, and she secured one of the individual berths to states. Joining Kreis and Huss at states will be Southmoreland freshman Lexi Ohler who took 16th (21:40.5).

In the Class 3A girls race, won by Moon’s Mia Cochran for the third straight year, Latrobe freshman Emerson Skatell qualified for states as she placed 12th overall.

“I’m super proud of my achievement,” Skatell said. “I’m speechless. My goal was to run my best and give it all I had. I did that. My goal for states is to have fun and enjoy it.”

Penn-Trafford senior Chloe Bonson was a little emotional as she talked to a teammate about it maybe being her last high school race. She placed 16th.

“I had to push through the muddy conditions,” Bonson said. “Last year, I really wanted to qualify for states and I came up short. This year I put in a lot of work and I’m really happy. I want to place in states and enjoy my last race in high school.”

Ringgold’s Ryan Pajak overcame a fall to win the boys Class 2A title and Hampton took top team honors.

Greensburg Salem didn’t repeat as team champions — the Golden Lions have won three titles in the past five years — but it has three runners advancing to Hershey: junior Aaron Tressler and juniors Charlie Johnson and Jacob Smith.

Tressler finished eighth overall, Johnson 11th and Smith 21st.

“It feels good to qualify for states,” Tressler said. “I knew it would be tough to qualify as a team, I just did anything I could to make it individually.”

Johnson said it’s a great feeling to be heading to Hershey.

“Coming into the season, I had a little bit of a rough start because of an injury and being sick,” Johnson said. “It limited my training. So making it felt good. I wanted to get top 10, but making it was a big seal.”

Smith said he too was pleased to reach the state meet.

“I was looking forward to this race because it’s my final season,” Smith said. “I’m happy I’m going to Hershey with those guys.”

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