Kiski Area’s Sam Plazio, Eliza Miller claim WCCA cross country titles

Wednesday, October 12, 2022 | 9:37 PM

It was quite a day for the Kiski Area cross country program.

For the first time in school history, the county champions were both Cavaliers.

Freshman Sam Plazio stunned the field by winning the boys race, and junior Eliza Miller won her second consecutive girls race. The Kiski Area boys were also the Class 2A team champions. The girls, competing in Class 3A, finished fourth behind Norwin, Hempfield and Latrobe. Greensburg Salem’s girls were the Class 2A winners.

Plazio, running with a sore Achilles and coming off a bout with covid-19, started fast and led from the beginning to win the boys race in 16 minutes, 41.6 seconds. He held on to edge Hempfield’s Antonio Tuttoilmondo, who was second in 16:49.9, and Latrobe senior August Lawrence, who was third in 16:58.1.

Fourth place went to Greensburg Salem’s Aaron Tressler (17:08.4) and fifth to Hempfield’s Owen DeMatt (17:10.1).

“I’m not going to lie. I thought he was going to catch me at the end,” Plazio said. “I wasn’t feeling it. I think I went out too hard. But I still feel I did pretty well.

“My gameplan was based on how I felt. I was hoping to win it, but nothing is guaranteed.”

This was Plazio’s fourth race of the season as he deals with an Achilles strain. His best time came at the Red, White and Blue Invitational, but he was satisfied with his time Thursday on the flat Westmoreland County Community College course.

“I knew this was a (personal record) course, and it was flat,” Plazio said. “A lot of people do well here.”

Tulloilmondo and Lawrence said they didn’t know much about Plazio.

“I’m very pleased with my race,” Tulloilmondo said. “I was looking forward to a good race. I heard he was fast because of his time at Red, White and Blue.”

What really pleased Tulloilmondo was he helped his teammates to the team title. Hempfield edged Norwin, 45-58, for boys Class 3A honors.

“Beating them was big after the way we lost in the section match,” Tulloilmondo said. “We tied them, and they won on sixth-place finish. It was a tough loss to endure.”

Lawrence said he was hoping for a top-five finish, and he achieved that.

“The Kiski kid came out of nowhere,” Lawrence said. “I’ve run against the Hempfield kid and knew he was good. I’m pleased with my time. I cut 41 seconds off my time from a year ago. I still need to go lower if I want to qualify for states.”

Miller had competition in her race and got pushed by Penn-Trafford junior Amelia Barilla. Miller used a strong kick in the last 800 meters to hold off Barilla.

Her winning time was 18:18.6, and Barilla finished in 18:33.6. Latrobe sophomore Emerson Skatell was third in 18:50.5.

“I was trying to be smart about my race,” Miller said. “I was trying to make sure I had some left at the end.

“It’s really cool to be a two-time champion. To win two times in a row is quite an accomplishment.”

Miller said she started fast for the first mile, slowed down a bit the second mile and then was able to pick up in the last mile.

“I felt like I had a lot of energy left,” Miller said. “I was a little disappointed in my time because it was a little bit slower than last year (18:08), but overall, because it was a smart race, I’m happy with it.

“It was awesome that Sam and I won. Sam is a little rocket. He takes off all the time.”

Kiski Area coach Tom Berzonsky said he couldn’t be happier with his runners, especially Plazio and Miller.

“We knew Sam had a chance to win it,” Berzonsky said. “Being a ninth grader, his training has been a process. We expected Eliza to do well. She got great competition from the Penn-Trafford girl.”

Barilla said her gameplan was to push Miller and stay in her back pocket.

“I wasn’t holding back,” Barilla said. “I went for it. I fell off at the end, but I’m pleased with how I ran.”

Skatell said she, too, was happy with her race.

“I bettered my time by almost a minute (19:45 to 18:51),” Skatell said. “I tried to stay with the leaders as much as I could. I’m pleased with my finish.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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