Persia leads Plum runners at WPIAL championship meet

Sunday, November 7, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Ashley Persia ran her final high school cross country race Oct. 28 at the WPIAL championships, and the Plum senior made her move throughout the race and finished 48th in Class 3A at Cal (Pa).

While Persia didn’t reach her goal of a trip to states, Mustangs’ coach Stephanie Kennedy said she ran strong and represented herself and her team well.

“I talked to the girls before the race that the goal was to get five spots higher than they did at Tri-States,” Kennedy said.

“It was a tangible goal for them. Ashley did that, and even more. The course was pretty muddy. There had been multiple races the week before, it had rained, and there were multiple races before our race. Everyone was under the same circumstances, and the times seemed to be a little bit slower.”

Persia’s time at WPIALs was 21 minutes, 45.6 seconds, faster by more than 30 seconds from her 22:21.62 when she placed 54th at Tri-States.

She was 73rd after the first mile and 59th after the second mile.

“Ashley did catch those jerseys and dropped time each mile,” Kennedy said. “That was huge for her. She had a phenomenal race, and she belongs in that pack of the strongest runners in the WPIAL. For her last race, she felt really good, and she left it all out on the course. She was proud of the way she raced. She has been such a strong runner for us, and she definitely stepped up to the competition.”

Persia’s finish at WPIALs was a big jump from her run at the championships as a junior when she placed 130th at White Oak Park.

“There were a lot of emotions for her final race,” Kennedy said. “It was bittersweet because she was happy with the way she raced but sad that it was the last race she’ll run in her high school career.”

The Plum girls finished 26th overall in the team standings.

Sydney Anderson and Karolyn Nichols also closed out their varsity careers at WPIALs.

The Mustangs will have experience returning next year, and sophomore Amelia Faust, juniors Maggie Messina and Audrey Bell, and freshman Grace Roedersheimer represented the Plum girls at Cal.

“We’ll also have a couple of girls coming up from the junior high,” Kennedy said. “We’re definitely going to miss those three seniors who will be leaving us. But we’re really building, and each class that comes in buys into the culture of the program.”

The Plum boys finished 21st out of 31 teams in the Class 3A boys race, as junior Nate Mienke and fellow junior Connor Pivirotto placed 75th and 81st, respectively.

Mienke was consistent throughout his race as he was 77th after the first mile and 86th after mile two before making a move to gain 13th spots before his finish in 19:24.3.

“Nate had a great season, and he capped it off with a really nice run at WPIALs in terms of time and pace,” Kennedy said. “He did fall in his WPIAL race. I believe it was coming down the hill. I know numerous other athletes did, too. But he got right back up and kept racing.”

Pivorotto started out 31st after the first mile and was up to 26th after the second mile, but he slowed down the stretch to a time of 19:31.4.

“Connor went out hard and went for it,” Kennedy said.

“He gave his absolute best. Midway through the race, he said he felt that something was a little bit off. The last 600 meters or so we saw him physically hit a wall. The last 100 to 200 meters, he was just trying to get to the finish line at whatever pace he could. It was tough to see when he was having a tough time finishing the race and not feel disappointed for him. He trains and prepares so diligently, and I think it just wasn’t the perfect day for him. But we’re so proud of what he did for us the entire season.”

Sophomore Gabriel Powell, senior Ethan Jones and junior Giustino Racchini joined Pivirotto and Mienke as returning Plum runners at WPIALs.

Sophomore Aiden Steinagle and senior Tommie Marzina ran at WPIALs for the first time.

“The guys have a little more youth and there is nice depth coming back next year,” Kennedy said. “A number of guys really stepped up for us this year. It was awesome to see them training hard through the summer and throughout the season.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .


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