Penn Hills runner sets course for senior season

Sunday, November 7, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Austin Stuchul’s experience gained competing at the WPIAL Class 3A cross country championships Oct. 28 at Cal (Pa.) provided a blueprint for his senior season.

The Penn Hills junior wants to try to navigate through the pack at a quicker pace than last season.

Doing so, Stuchul hopes, will help him avoid any stray limbs from his competitors.

“One thing that was unexpected was the amount of people there,” Stuchul said. “Being shoulder to shoulder with someone else, things were tight. You would get elbowed, and someone’s spikes might scratch your legs. Remembering that will help and improve my strategy.”

Stuchul was the Indians’ top finisher at the WPIAL championships. He finished in 79th place with a time of 19 minutes, 27.30 seconds. Sophomore Sawyer Kinney was Penn Hills next fastest finisher, placing 113th with a time of 20:03.10.

Larissa Lockridge was the only Penn Hills girl to compete. She finished 153rd with a time of 25:06.8.

While Stuchul was pleased with his season overall, he had hoped for a better finish.

“I don’t think I did well at the WPIAL meet,” Stuchul said. “I ran the course slower than I did earlier in the season. I feel like I did well overall throughout the season. I know it was just a bad meet.”

Penn Hills coach Lee Zelkowitz believes the progress Stuchul made throughout the season set him up for a strong senior season. Zelkowitz encouraged Stuchul to take a week off after the end of season before indoor track season starts.

Stuchul, who will compete in indoor track for the first time this season, will be busy this winter as he also swims for the Indians.

Zelkowitz said Stuchul had a different spark this cross country season.

“When you are there day to day watching him, you are looking at his attitude, daily runs and his workouts and you see something you haven’t seen in the previous couple years,” Zelkowitz said. “I’ve seen other runners with that spark and progression. Austin kept asking for more and more.”

Stuchul wasn’t sure what contributed to his increased drive.

“Coach switched up our training. We did a lot more with speed,” Stuchul said. “We do a lot of distance stuff at a faster pace. I was a lot more determined to get better and get better spots and times at races.”

Zelkowitz is excited to have the winter and spring seasons to help Stuchul continue on his upward trajectory.

“We want to up his mileage over the winter, work on shorter events and develop speed,” Zelkowitz said.


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