Hampton girls cross country ‘moving in the right direction’

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Saturday, October 3, 2020 | 11:01 AM


The Hampton girls cross county team has hit the ground running.

An improving group of youngsters are pacing coach Heather Dietz’s squad, with four sophomores and a freshman as the Talbots’ top five finishers at the 18th annual Red, White and Blue Classic last month.

“They are well on their way,” Dietz said. “We’re moving in the right direction.”

The Talbots still have a long way to go; they finished 20th out of 21 Class AAA teams at the Classic. But their individual times have dropped significantly in the past month, as arbitrary, covid-hindered workouts this summer were replaced by more structured practices this fall.

“We are seeing a vast improvement since the start of September,” Dietz said.

Freshman Lydia Bailey was the team’s top runner at the Classic, placing 105th out of 140 in 23 minutes, 13 seconds. She was followed by four sophomore teammates — Teresa Grimm (118th, 23:42), Kendall Solkovy (121st, 23:57), Adrianna Grimm (125th, 24:03) and Ava Vitiello (127th, 24:33).

Kennedy Fish, the lone senior among the varsity runners at the Classic, was 128th in 24:40, and Leah Beam, the only junior, was 129th in 24:45.

Senior Cadee France, who transferred from now-closed Vincentian, is running cross country for the first time and was the top finisher for the junior varsity team at the Classic.

“Everything is going really well, and we are getting closer as a team,” Beam said. “It’s a really nice mix. I think we have a bright future for the next couple of years.”

Dietz, in her 15th season, realizes the Talbots are overmatched in their Section 3-AAA dual-meet schedule, which includes North Allegheny, Seneca Valley and Butler, the three biggest schools in the WPIAL. Hampton is the sixth-smallest school among the 32 WPIAL Class AAA cross country programs.

“That’s the killer,” Dietz said. “As a coach, it’s so hard. Yes, we know we are going to get destroyed by North Allegheny and Pine-Richland. And the girls are competitive. They want to do well. I just tell them they need to focus on individual growth. As you grow as an individual, you also grow as a team.”

Beam is proof of that. As a sophomore, she never posted a time better than 27 minutes for the 3.1-mile home course at Hartwood Acres. In an early season dual meet last month, she shattered her personal-best time, finishing in 23:02 minutes. Beam said she spent the offseason training nearly every day at North Park, running the 5-mile loop around the lake.

“I ran about 18 to 20 miles a week,” Beam said. “It wasn’t as much as what we are doing during the season, but it was still something.”

The Talbots have a few more big events to get tuned up for the WPIAL championship meet Oct. 28 or 29 at White Oak Park. They were scheduled to run in the Bald Eagle Invitational on Oct. 3 and also the Tri-State championship Oct. 21 or 22, both at White Oak.

The 17-runner roster includes a balanced mix of five seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen.

Dietz said there is excellent team chemistry among the upperclassmen and the younger runners, who have ascended to the Talbots’ top-five spots. Bailey, the ninth-grader, has “a fantastic work ethic and personality,” and the Grimm twins are “great kids, too. They are funny.”

Bailey timed a team season-best 21:59 at Hartwood Acres in a tri-meet with North Allegheny and Pine-Richland on Sept. 22, cutting nearly 1 ½ minutes off her first high school race at the course.

“They know that the clock makes the decisions,” Dietz said. “It’s not me making those decisions. It’s the clock.”

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