Penn Hills cross country team picking up steam

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Saturday, November 7, 2020 | 11:01 AM


The Penn Hills boys cross country team had a young core this season that finished strong, which provides coach Lee Zelkowitz with optimism for years to come.

Sophomore Austin Stuchul was the Indians’ top runner this season. Stuchul finished in 140th place with a time of 19:15 at the WPIAL Class AAA championship at White Oak on Oct. 30 on a rainy and sloppy course.

Earlier in the season, Stuchul finished 73rd with a time of 20:15.20 in the Kiski Area Invitation at Northmoreland Park on Sept. 18.

A couple weeks later, Stuchul finished with his best time of the season, 18:57.60, at the Bald Eagle Invitational at White Oak on Oct. 3.

“Austin was Mr. Consistent,” Zelkowitz said. “He was the No. 1 runner this year. He’s really loving this sport. He’s only going to get better. He works hard and asks to do one more interval or one more mile.”

At WPIALs, freshman Sawyer Kinney (142nd) finished second for the Indians as he ended up a couple of seconds behind Stuchul with a time of 19:18.

Kinney improved on his time from a week earlier in the TSTCA Cross Country meet when he finished in 20:12.32.

“Sawyer came out a couple weeks late and handled the workouts,” Zelkowitz said. “He became the No. 2 runner and pushed Austin. At WPIALs, he took the lead from Austin for a little bit, and they helped each other.”

Zelkowitz was pleased by the leadership senior Luke Hansen, who was the team captain, provided for the Indians this season. Hansen, who was the most improved runner this season, finished third on the Indians and 175th overall with a time of 20:13.

“He was a whole different person running this year,” Zelkowitz said. “He really progressed as the season went along. I was really happy with how he handled his captainship and kept the guys together.”

Senior Hunter Shields finished 181st with a time of 20:34. Sophomore Dominic Frollo finished 190th with a time of 21:03. Sophomore Owen Templer rounded out the team with a time of 21:21 and 194th-place finish.

“I was pretty happy with how they ran,” Zelkowitz saud. “There was really good effort. They ran so much better compared to the week before. The course was not too bad considering all the rain and the races that ran before us. Everybody beat their times from a week before.

“I think they surprised themselves on how well they could do as far as the workout, and harder and better they could run during the races. They were really competing and pressing people and running hard.”

With no indoor track season, Zelkowitz still hopes to get the team together for some workouts as they turn the page to the next cross country season.

“Get together during the winter. Get in some miles and build up their stamina,” Zelkowitz said. “I’m looking forward to next cross country season because I think we will be a really competitive team next year if we get some bodies out there. The youth of this team really gives me hope to have a competitive team in the next couple of years.”

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