Penn Hills runners aim for improvement after solid opening invitational

Saturday, October 3, 2020 | 11:01 AM

The Penn Hills cross country team is looking or consistent improvement throughout the season as a barometer of team success.

The Indians, who are battling limited numbers, recently competed in their first meet where they had one runner finish in the top 100. Sophomore Austin Stuchul finished 73rd with a time of 20 minutes, 14 seconds at the Gingerbread Man Running Co. Kiski Area Invitational at Northmoreland Park on Sept. 18.

“They did a good job for their first meet,” coach Lee Zelkowitz said.

Senior Hunter Shields (22:16) was the second best Penn Hills runner with a 120th-place finish.

“Hunter has been my No. 1 runner. He’s just very consistent on how he’s running and his workouts,” Zelkowitz said. “He got one season under his belt. He really has trained well through the summer. We started conditioning a little late because of the pandemic. He’s really enjoying the sport. I can see him making a really big jump by the end of the season.”

Freshman Sawyer Kinney (22:54, 136th) and sophomore Dominic Frollo (22:59, 138th) rounded out the top four runners for Penn Hills.

Senior Luke Hansen, the team captain, finished 141st with a time of 23:20, while sophomore Owen Templer finished one spot behind Hansen with a time of 23:22. Junior Terry Craig (26:04, 148th) and junior Charles Frachioni (28:29, 150th) also competed for the Indians.

Sophomore Larissa Lockridge was the only member of the girls team to compete at the meet. Lockridge finished 103rd with a time of 29:13.

Zelkowitz has only eight runners on the boys team, while the girls team has four with the hopes of having junior Miniya Pinnix join the team to compete in the WPIAL meet in late October. Juniors Rachael McCann, Amelia Ressler and Alexa McKee make up the rest of the girls roster.

“It was hard to recruit. I was lucky to get these numbers. It was hard to get kids out. It was hard to get a handle on it because of the pandemic,” Zelkowitz said.

Zelkowitz is looking forward to the continued progression of his runners, and he believes Stuchul can drop time by the end of the season.

“Austin was disappointed he didn’t break 20 (minutes) at Kiski Invitational, but he was basically running by himself. I think he can get low 19s depending on the course or maybe a little faster,” Zelkowitz said.

The Indians will return to Northmoreland Park for the section meet Oct. 7.

“We have a good section with Fox Chapel, Kiski and Indiana. If we get out of there beating two teams, I’ll be very happy,” Zelkowitz said.

Heading into the season, Zelkowitz wasn’t too familiar with the White Oak Park cross country course. However, the Indians will become quite familiar as they will compete three times there this season, including at the Tri-State championship Oct. 22 and WPIAL championship Oct. 29.

“I’m really proud of them because I told them at the beginning of the season, I’m not sure if we’re going to have a season,” Zelkowitz said. “We have to take it one day at a time and really figure this out. They’ve been on board and very optimistic.”


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