Norwin cross country builds strong team concept during busy summer

Saturday, September 9, 2023 | 11:01 AM

With more than 40 running sessions over the summer that often spanned five days a week, Norwin cross country runners developed a flow.

A flow for running long races. A flow for competition. And a flow for team chemistry and bonding.

One thing is certain: If you run for Norwin, you’re probably not going to get lost in the woods.

These Knights travel in packs.

“We really do spend a lot of time together,” coach Brian Fleckenstein said. “Running is much easier sport when you have your teammates along to push you and get you through.”

Training spots include Oak Hollow Park, as well as the Westmoreland County Heritage Trail that stretches from Trafford to Murrysville.

“We even did a run in my hometown of Punxsutawney this summer on the way to a team picnic in Treasure Lake,” Fleckenstein said.

“We pride ourselves on our family atmosphere. We have 49 runners this year and we want to make sure that all 49 feel like they belong, they improve, and most importantly are part of something bigger than themselves. In my experience in other sports, there is no other camaraderie like there is in cross country.”

The Knights boys team has to replace solid runners in graduate Andrew Breauchy and Noah Wilson, the latter a junior who decided not to run this season.

Enzo Jiancristoforo, Thomas Gaydos, Mario Breauchy and Luke Simpson are key returnees and part of a talented junior class.

Other contributors include seniors Hayden Douglas, Teddy Ola and Dave Shepherd, freshman Eric Rankin and junior Nick Patter, all have whom have posted top-10 finishes throughout the summer.

“The boys pack looks strong,” Fleckenstein said. “They are an easy group to coach and are hungry to leave a mark in cross country. They all had a strong track season and it’s carried over right to the summer training. We really hope to keep that pack together and get some big race experience under our belts heading into October.”

The girls, though, are more battled tested as they look to compete in a packed classification.

Led by PIAA qualifier and sophomore Annie Czajkowski, the team will add some new talent to the mix.

Czajkowski is the pace setter.

“Annie’s training this summer has been much stronger than last year as a freshman and she is really looking to make some noise in a stacked WPIAL girls 3A field,” Fleckenstein said.

“The top five girls in the state last year in the 3,200 were from the WPIAL in 3A and three of them return. This is the best girls WPIAL cross country depth I’ve ever seen as a coach since 2005.”

Other runners to watch include seniors Audra Fedor, Rosemary Gaydos and Julia Walko, plus freshmen twins Anna and Emily Dansak.

Freshmen Addison Farrah, Jillian Ryba and sophomores Anna Rakvic and Elin Bash, who also plays soccer, have also been hitting their marks in training.

“This may be the strongest group of freshmen runners in the past 10 years for the Knights,” Fleckenstein said. “Overall, I feel the girls are ready to compete. They know what they have to do and have been focused all summer and early fall. They know the WPIAL is loaded, but they want to leave their mark.”

The teams had a strong showing at the Marty Uher at Cal (Pa.). The girls finished fifth while the boys came in sixth.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at


More Cross Country

Gatorade picks Mt. Lebanon’s Logan St. John Kletter as top girls cross country runner in Pa.
Butler’s Drew Griffith tops Ringgold’s Ryan Pajak to win cross country national championship
Westmoreland County Senior Spotlight: Ligonier Valley’s Clara Wallace
A-K Valley Senior Spotlight: Riverview’s Gwyn Fichte
Plan comes together for Pine-Richland sophomore in cross country postseason