North Allegheny girls, boys sweep WPIAL Class 3A track and field team titles

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Tuesday, May 9, 2023 | 10:01 PM


North Allegheny track coach John Neff said he had trouble deciding which three girls should run the 3,200 meters Tuesday, mainly because the Tigers had too many good options.

Minutes before the race, he had to pick.

“The nice thing is, I’m choosing between ‘Great Runner A’ and ‘Great Runner B.’ It’s not like I’m really taking a chance,” said Neff, whose girls and boys combined to sweep the Class 3A titles Tuesday afternoon in the WPIAL team track championship at West Mifflin.

In this team format, depth is the key.

North Allegheny girls finished first, second and third in both the 3,200 and the 1,600 meters, earning points that let the them run away with the WPIAL team title for the second year in a row.

The NA girls outscored second-place Norwin, 87-63, third-place Canon-McMillan, 87-63, and fourth-place South Fayette, 107-43. The boys held off Mt. Lebanon, 84½-65½, Butler, 94-56, and Seneca Valley, 84-66, to complete the sweep.

“We didn’t make the final decision on who was going to run that (girls 3,200) until like five minutes before the event,” Neff said. “I second-guessed myself on that five times, but it ended up working out.”

It couldn’t have worked any better.

NA’s Grace Rowley finished first, Robin Kucler was second and Erin McGoey third in the 3,200. The top three in the 1,600 were NA teammates Wren Kucler, Robin Kucler and Eva Kynaston. That roster depth let Wren Kucler also win the 800, and the NA girls added team wins in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter relays.

In all, the NA girls won eight of the 18 events outright. Canon-McMillan finished third and South Fayette was fourth.

“Between Wren, Robin, Eva and Grace, we’ve been able to (have) two real hammers in every distance event,” Neff said. “We’ve been able to win all of the points that we need, but keep everybody fresh enough.”

North Allegheny now owns 14 WPIAL boys titles and 13 girls titles, yet this was the first time since 2005 that NA won them both in the same year. Hempfield in 2012 and Butler in 2021 are the only other Class 3A schools to sweep both titles since 2000.

In 2005, Neff was in his second season as coach when the Tigers last celebrated a sweep.

“It’s really special to see them both come together,” he said. “It’s not like two separate teams. It’s like one team, with boys and girls on it.”

A one-two finish by NA’s Jack Bertram and Jackson Pajak in the boys 800 meters helped the Tigers earn a 19-point victory over second-place Mt. Lebanon. Defending champion Butler finished third and Seneca Valley was fourth.

The NA boys finished first in five events. The other individual winners were A.J. Foulk in the 300 hurdles, Jack Yatchenko in shot put and Ryan Handron in pole vault, along with a 3,200-meter relay win.

The NA girls also celebrated wins by Isabella Costa in the 400 meters, Alaina Fantaski in javelin and Lindsay Breneman in pole vault.

“We knew it was going to be tough coming in. All three teams were real even,” Norwin coach Tim Van Horn said. “We just want our girls to go out and race. Have some fun today.”

Norwin’s Bella Brozeski led the Knights’ efforts with a win in the 300-meter hurdles and Ashley Laukus won the high jump. Overall, the Knights improved on their third-place finish from a year ago.

“We closed the gap on NA a little bit,” Van Horn said. “To be able to take that second place was big. That was a big goal for them.”

Canon-McMillan’s Rose Kuchera finished first overall in three girls events, winning the 100-meter hurdles, the long jump and the triple jump.

The Mt. Lebanon boys found success in the sprints with Connor Rychcik and Tim Calvetti combining to sweep first place in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. The Blue Devils also won the 1,600 relay.

Lebo finished second by defeating Butler, 87-63, and Seneca Valley, 78-72.

“In a meet like this, you always need kids to over-perform,” Mt. Lebanon coach Drew Harberberger said. “We tell them what we predict for the score and say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do a little bit more than what we have predicted.’ It was nice. A bunch of kids came through today.”

Butler standout Drew Griffith, a Notre Dame recruit, won the boys 1,600 and 3,200.

The WPIAL individual championship is May 17 at Slippery Rock.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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