North Allegheny girls pleased with runner-up finish at WPIAL team championships

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Saturday, May 15, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Only a handful of schools reach the WPIAL team track championships each year, but the meet has become almost an annual tradition for the North Allegheny girls.

Consider, the Tigers returned this spring for the 17th time since 2000, finishing second to Butler in the WPIAL Class AAA meet May 12 at West Mifflin. Norwin took third and Belle Vernon was fourth.

Yet, this return trip was appreciated maybe as much as any. That’s because a year ago, there was no track season during the pandemic, so no team championship either.

“We talked about that at practice,” North Allegheny coach John Neff said. “Don’t feel nervous about anything. Feel gratitude. And you can’t really feel both of those at once.

“It’s not gratitude like, well, we’re just happy to be here,” Neff added. “It’s gratitude that this is even happening.”

Led by freshman Eva Kynaston, North Allegheny won two events but couldn’t hold off powerhouse Butler, which celebrated its fifth consecutive WPIAL team title.

NA outscored Norwin, 77-64, and Belle Vernon, 106-35, but lost 81-66 to Butler. Overall, Butler had a girl place first in 12 of the 18 events.

“There’s no shame to get beat by a really good team like Butler,” Neff said. “Hats off to them. They’re a great team.”

The second-place finish was North Allegheny’s best in more than a decade. The Tigers won five consecutive team titles in the early 2000s.

A talented ninth grader, Kynaston won the 800 meters in 2 minutes, 24.43 seconds, and also ran a leg on North Allegheny’s winning 3,200-meter relay.

She’s quickly established herself as the Tigers’ top distance runner. Kynaston finished second in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

“Eva was real big for us,” Neff said. “She was our first kid in the 1,600, our first kid in the 800. She was our first kid in the 3,200. She was really big.”

Kynaston was joined on the relay by junior Maura Mlecko, sophomore Lexi Sundgren and junior Rachel Hockenberry. The four crossed the line in 9 minutes, 44.92 seconds, or almost seven second ahead of the next team.

Senior hurdler Aveline Plenter and junior thrower Jacqueline DiGiacamo also were keys in boosting North Allegheny’s point total. DiGiacamo was second in the discus at 110 feet, 8 inches. Plenter placed third in the 110-meter hurdles and fourth in the 300s.

Senior sprinter Lola Lola Akindele, who finished third in the 100 meters, also had a busy afternoon on the track.

“She ran four events for us, scored all over the place and did a good job,” Neff said.

The WPIAL team championship was the final competition before the individual meet May 19 at Slippery Rock. The state meet is May 28-29 in Shippensburg.

Neff said he was optimistic about both.

“We’ve got a lot of really good kids in spots,” he said. “I think we’re going to get a number of kids to qualify on (for states), so I’m very, very excited about that.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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