Penn Hills boys cross country seeks improvement throughout season

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Thursday, September 12, 2019 | 5:06 PM


Lee Zelkowitz might not have a girls cross country team to coach at Penn Hills, but he is looking to see the progress made by the boys team.

This year’s team is filled with first-time runners. The Indians feature seniors Darien Mallory, Nate Stefan and Devonte Kelly.

Juniors Hunter Shields and Luke Hansen have paced the Indians, while freshman Austin Stuchul and junior Josh Gerken have added depth.

Shields and Hansen are first-year runners who are more known for playing other sports at Penn Hills. Shields is a wrestler, and Hansen plays baseball.

Mallory, the team’s captain, is in his third-year of running, along with Gerken.

Zelkowitz will not have junior Jonah Silverman as an option on this year’s team since he’s playing soccer and is the kicker on the football team.

“I want them to be consistent with their training, and they need to be at practice every day. They need to have a positive attitude and keep improving. It’s going to help them in other sports,” Zelkowitz said.

The Indians have competed in two invitationals this season — the Gateway Invitational and the Red, White and Blue Classic.

Shields finished in 216th place with a time of 20 minutes, 18.49 seconds at the Red, White and Blue Classic on Sept. 7 at Schenley Oval.

Hansen and Mallory finished 249th and 250th, with times of 21:37.69 and 21:37.86, respectively. Stefen finished 265th in 23:33.82.

Gerken (24:10.20) finished 270th, and Kelly (27:55.90) finished 277th out of 279 competitors.

“The Red, White and Blue is a really competitive race. There are a ton of schools there. It’s the first big invitational of the season. They are improving every week. That’s all you can ask from them,” Zelkowitz said.

“They are a great bunch of kids and are working hard. It’s hard to compare times with different courses, but you can tell the effort they re putting in.”

The Indians competed in the Kiski Invitational on Sept. 13 but the results weren’t available before this edition’s deadline.

Zelkowitz was excited to see his runners get a chance to run on the course in Northmoreland Park since he knew his runners would return a couple weeks later for the section championships.

“It’s really beneficial. When you go back for the section championship, you don’t have to scope out much of the course at all,” Zelkowitz said.

“You might want to look at one section or another that you remember from a couple weeks before that. It gives you some confidence going into the race because you know the course and you know where you made your mistakes.”

The Indians will compete in section championships Oct. 2. However, Penn Hills will have one more invitational leading up to the section championship when they run in the Uniontown Invitational on Sept. 28 at Penn State South Fayette.

“I want them to bond together and run more in a pack and just improve on their times. I’m hoping everybody improves on their times, and that will show you if it was a successful season or not,” Zelkowitz said.

Zelkowitz, who has been a coach for Penn Hills since 1996, has never had a situation where he couldn’t field a team. He couldn’t hide his disappointment the Indians couldn’t put together a girls cross country team.

“Numbers have been dropping the last couple of years, but we always had enough for a team,” Zelkowitz said.

“It’s a shame because we had a tradition, and we were really competitive. You have to go with what’s there, and you have to work hard with them.”

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