Penn Hills senior finishes cross country career with fond memories

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Sunday, November 5, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Sawyer Kinney has been drawn to activities throughout his life that made him feel like he was joining a brotherhood. When the Penn Hills senior thought about what he would like post-college life to be like, he was drawn to a military career the same way he was drawn to running cross country.

“The feeling of camaraderie and everyone struggling and suffering together to form a brotherhood,” Kinney said. “That part of me is important and why I started running. It’s something I can do with friends. I’m always bugging my friends to do 5Ks with me.”

Kinney took a long time to get back into his routine this season. Before coach Lee Zelkowitz returned to take over the program, Kinney had seen some of his motivation wane.

Before the season started, Kinney doubted he would get below 18 minutes. However, Kinney was able to recapture his spark for the sport and ultimately ended up finishing in 68th place during the WPIAL Class 3A championships at White Oak Park with a time of 17 minutes, 51.3 seconds.

The Indians also had Avin Keller (128th), Xavier Nicholas (140), Adam Rosemeyer (142) and Dylan Bishop (171) compete on the boys side. Butler won the team championship, while North Allegheny came in second place to grab the other team spot in the PIAA championship race.

Kinney said he finished about four seconds off his best time at WPIALs. What hurt him was rolling his ankle on the hill about halfway through the race.

“I unfortunately had a minor injury halfway through the race,” Kinney said. “Everyone else on the team got a PR. We all ran our best race.”

Penn Hills didn’t have any girls compete in the race. The Indians will search for a new cross country coach for next season. Zelkowitz filled out the schedule this season thanks to his contacts around the WPIAL. It was essential to Zelkowitz that he found enough athletes to give whoever comes into the program next season somewhere to build from.

Kinney enjoyed competing in cross country during his time in high school. Kinney saw his progress from year to year and would like to sustain that beyond his high school running days.

“Running long distances is going to be a part of who I am,” Kinney said. “I can’t get rid of that. I will always try and get out there and run casually.”

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