Kiski Area’s Eliza Miller captures 3rd Kiski Invitational title

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Friday, September 15, 2023 | 5:42 PM


Three is the magic number for Eliza Miller.

The Kiski Area senior captured her third Kiski Invitational varsity girls cross country title Friday morning at Northmoreland Park.

In near perfect weather conditions with sunny skies and temperatures near 70 at race time, Miller ran to a time of 18 minutes, 48.3 seconds, besting the field, including runner-up Emerson Skatell from Latrobe, by nearly 33 seconds.

“I felt really good out there,” Miller said. “I took it as a training run. I got out a little slower which was nice and relaxing before pushing it a little more the last two miles. It’s always comfortable and relaxing being able to run on our home course. It’s easier for me to mentally prepare. I know what to expect going into it.”

Miller, who owns a personal-best of 18:41.6 on the Northmoreland Park course from last year’s Division I, Section 4 championship meet, surpassed her previous top Kiski Invite time of 18:55.0 set last year.

She most likely would have four Kiski Invite titles if not for the cancellation of the 2021 race because of police activity in Northmoreland Park the morning of the race. A body was found in the park, and local authorities closed down portions of the park as an investigation began.

Friday’s race was Miller’s second invitational of the season. She ran the girls Class 3A race at the Red, White & Blue Invitational at White Oak Park last Saturday and took seventh (18:44).

“The Red, White & Blue was a good starting race,” Miller said.

Miller said she is looking forward to next Saturday’s PIAA Foundation meet in Hershey on the same course where states will be run at the end of October.

She also is eyeing the Section 4 meet Oct. 4 at Northmoreland when she goes after her fourth individual section title in as many attempts.

Skatell finished the course in 19:21.1, more than 30 seconds faster than her third-place finish (19:56.65) at last year’s event.

“That huge hill in the second mile is always a tough part of the course,” she said.

“But once I got through that, I was just able to push through and finish the rest of the course which was mostly flat. I felt really good. Eliza and I were together in the beginning. When we got to the down hill part, she took off. I just tried to stay as close to her as possible because she is such a good runner. I was trying to set a good pace off her so I could run faster than I did here last year.”

Allderdice’s Bailey White placed third (19:41.3) in the varsity girls race, followed in the top 10 by Woodland Hills’ Annabel Johnson (19:46.2), Richland’s Natalia Mavridis (20:15.7), Kiski Area’s Tatiana Holt (20:28.7), Burrell’s Grace Nesko (20:31.9), Fox Chapel’s Clara Kelley (20:37.2), Latrobe’s Carley Berk (20:38.5) and Fox Chapel’s Cecilia Ressler (20:39. 6).

With Kelley and Ressler leading the way in the top 10, and all five scoring runners in the top 30, Fox Chapel claimed the team title with 74 place points.

Allderdice had its top five place 25th or better for a close second (80 points).

Skatell and her Latrobe teammates combined for third with 82 points.

Miller and Holt, along with Addison Stankey in 15th, paced Kiski Area to fourth with 109 points.

On the boys side, junior Ethan Vaughan kept Fox Chapel at the top in the individual varsity standings.

He was the only runner to finish with a time of under 16 minutes (15:58.7), and he distanced himself by 17 seconds from runner-up Michael Braun, a junior from Freeport (16:15.0).

“It was nice feeling to win the race,” said Vaughan, the third-place finisher (17:07.6) at last year’s Kiski Invite.

“I actually wasn’t expecting it. I knew that (Braun) was really strong in that first mile, but I got him on the hill. I’ve been doing a lot of biking, and that has helped a tremendous amount with the hills.

“I felt really good at the end of this race. I probably could’ve gone a little faster.”

Vaughan’ Foxes teammate, senior Rowan Gwin, last year’s Kiski Invite boys varsity champion in a time of 16:43, placed third overall this time around.

Despite continuing to battle through injury, Gwin attacked the Northmoreland course and finished eight seconds faster than his 2022 time.

Braun took second for the second year in a row, but he lowered last year’s time by 33 seconds.

“I got passed on the same spot (by Vaughan) as (Gwin) last year,” Braun said.

“I felt OK the first mile. I went down the hill a little too fast, and I had to stop myself. That kind of hurt my momentum and messed up my breathing. Coming back up the hill, I struggled a little bit. I am not too good on hills. I got to the top of the hill, and I tried to catch up (to Vaughan), but I just couldn’t catch up.

“But I cut 30 seconds from my time last year, and I am seeing that consistent improvement on every course that I run. I am happy with second.”

After the top three, Kiski Area’s Sam Plazio raced to fourth overall (16:41.2), followed by Plum’s Gabriel Powell (16:46.7), Gateway’s Kefimba Cisse (16:47.5), Fox Chapel’s David Black (16:59.7), Franklin Regional’s Nathan Kociela (17:06.3), Fox Chapel’s Michael Costello (17:10.4) and Allderdice’s Will Tew (17:10.6).

“I felt I ran pretty well,” said Kociela, who held his eighth place from last year but cut 53 seconds.

“I started out pretty strong. I pretty much had nothing to lose, so I just went for it. The weather was just about perfect.”

Fox Chapel’s four top-10 finishers and a fifth in 13th carried it to a dominant team title with 33 place points.

Allderdice took second (88 points), followed by North Hills in third (143), and Plum in fourth (163).

Full results are at live.gingerbreadtiming.com/meets/27583

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 mlove@triblive.com.

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