Greensburg Salem boys hope to defend WPIAL cross country title

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019 | 4:59 PM


Greensburg Salem’s boys cross country team is going for a WPIAL Class AA title repeat.

But it may seem like a new experience for the Lions.

The group that participates in Thursday’s WPIAL championship at Cal (Pa.) is much different than last year’s team that captured PIAA gold as well. Mark Brown, Cameron Binda and Dylan Binda graduated. Seniors Noah Calisti and Dom Zucco and junior Quintin Gatons returned to lead the way this fall.

“They’ve done a good job of stepping up and being leaders and trying to be front runners, which is what we needed,” Greensburg Salem coach Nathan Snider said. “I think we’ve done pretty well with all the people we graduated.”

Those personnel losses took some of the spotlight off Greensburg Salem, but the expectations remain high within the team.

“We’re pretty excited. Coming off a state championship, we have a lot to live up to,” Gatons said. “We’ve been going under the radar this year because we’ve been pretty inconsistent. I feel like, if we put it all together, we have a shot of winning. I believe we can do it and make it back to the state meet. We definitely have the talent.”

The Lions hope to emerge victorious from a deep pool of contenders.

“It’ll be pretty tight,” Snider said. “You’re looking at probably six teams that all have a chance at it. I’d say New Castle is the favorite. Indiana, South Fayette, Ringgold and Knoch are the others that have a shot at the top three. If we put it together and run well, we can be in that mix somewhere.

“The guys are ready to go. I think they know there’s no real pressure on them. As a team, we have expectations and they do, too. But everybody knows what we lost. From the outside looking in, most people thought we wouldn’t be that good. I think that’s motivation for them and led to kind of a good energy.”

“We’re the underdogs and no one is really looking at us and I kind of like that,” Gatons added. “We’re hoping we can surprise everyone Thursday.”

Sophomores Charles “Rush” Johnson and Jacob Smith are new to the team, but round out Lions’ top five. Johnson was on the junior varsity team last year, while this is Smith’s first year running cross country.

“Rush has come along really well. He knows what the expectations are,” Snider said. “Jake is doing really well, too.”

Greensburg Salem ran Cal’s course once earlier this season, but the experienced runners are working with the younger ones, especially on how to handle “The Hill” between the 1- and 2-mile mark.

“We ran that course in one of Jacob Smith’s first races and he had one of his best races of the year,” Gatons said. “We’re not scared of it. I like the course. You just have to get over ‘The Hill.’ Besides that, it’s not a bad course.”

Greensburg Salem’s girls hope to challenge for a WPIAL title too after finishing second last year. The Lions returned only three of their top seven runners from last year as well in seniors Jamie Tanto and Marie Scarpa and sophomore Natalie DiCriscio. Senior Joula Anderson and junior Brenna Slezak round out the top five.

“I would say the girls came in with very low expectations too because we lost so much from last year. The guys had a lot of depth on the team, and I knew we’d still be competitive there,” Snider said. “The girls had a really good summer and it carried on from there.”

Greensburg Central Catholic sophomore Corinn Brewer is contender for a WPIAL Class A individual title. She finished third last year.

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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