Perennial contender Chartiers Valley in the mix for WPIAL cross country success

Sunday, October 22, 2023 | 11:01 AM

The Chartiers Valley cross country program seems to be in the mix every year, and this year looks to be no different.

The boys and girls teams might be young, but they hope the experience gained last year by the girls team pays off as they look to prepare for the WPIAL Class 2A championship Oct. 26 at White Oak Park in McKeesport.

“I think we are equally talented as other teams. The boys team lost two seniors. On the boys team, without having seniors, you’re relying on kids that haven’t had much big-time race experience to control their nerves,” coach Lori Poe said. “On the girls side, they’ve done a good job. The sophomores were freshmen last year and we put them in the position to step up on the big stage. This year, they are handling the pressure a lot better and are handling their roles a lot better. They are talented. It’s just turning that corner and racing with the top teams and believing that we’re talented enough to do that.”

Junior Lilah Turnbull leads the girls team and hopes to improve on her fourth-place finish in the WPIAL Class 2A race last year at Cal (Pa.) with a time of 19:14.4.

This year, Turnbull finished 37th with a time of 20:15 at the 21st Annual Red, White & Blue Classic at White Oak in early September.

Turnbull finished 20th with a time of 20:21 at the PIAA Foundation XC Invitational on Sept. 23.

“The challenge this year is the course is flat and fast compared to the last couple of years with it being at Cal U. You could focus on the hills and pulling away from the competition at certain parts of the course,” Poe said. “The White Oak course is a flat and fast course where they need to be in it from the beginning and not lose too much in the middle and have a good kick at the end. You’re pretty much running the whole time. There is no break with having no hills.”

Last year, the girls team finished in sixth place, which was 13 points shy of a fourth-place finish that would have qualified them for the PIAA meet as a team.

This year, the top three teams in the girls WPIAL Class 2A meet will qualify for states, while the top four teams in the boys meet will qualify for the PIAA meet.

The top 15 individuals not on one of those teams will also qualify on the girls side for the race Nov. 4 at the Parkview XC Course in Hershey. In Class 2A boys, the top 20 individuals not on qualifying teams will advance to states.

Last year, Turnbull finished eighth in the PIAA Class 2A meet (20:02.3) out of 244 runners.

The rest of the girls team includes senior Rachel White and sophomores Sophie Kanownik, Gia Kwasniewski, Katie Hansen, Bri Arulmuni and Kelsie Thiel.

“Each invitational we’re getting a little better,” Poe said. “Hopefully it all comes together at WPIALs. We felt like we haven’t had five people all on during one race this season. If they even get close to that at WPIALs, they will run well.

“Running in a pack is really important instead of running as an individual. I want to be aware that every place counts. Realizing how their individual performance stacks up for the team is really important as opposed to running as an individual.”

The boys team has been led by juniors Eric Wilson, Brady Laughlin and Sebastian Crosby as well as senior Landon Smith.

Last year, the boys team had one runner advance to the PIAA meet. Santo Riccardi finished 47th out of 247 at the state meet after finishing 14th at the WPIAL meet.

At WPIALs, the boys team finished seventh (207), which was 35 points from a fourth-place finish that would have qualified the team for the state meet.

This year, Laughlin finished 13th with a time of 18:22.8 at the 51st Marty Uher Vulcans Invitational at Roadman Park on Sept. 2. Wilson finished 15th at the meet.

At the Red, White & Blue Classic, Wilson finished 50th with a time of 17:16.

Most recently, Wilson (14th), Laughlin (17th) and Crosby (22nd) all finished in the top 25 with times under 18 minutes at the Mingo Classic on Oct. 12.

Poe hopes the Colts can have a strong showing on the flatter White Oak Park course.

“I don’t think in the team’s competition, you’re going to have anyone blow you out,” Poe said. “There is nowhere you can hide on the course. Our team does well at the flat course, but our home course is hilly, so that’s a strength of our team. We have changed how we train by focusing on the rolling flat instead of the hills.”


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