Plum runners look to finish season strong at postseason invitationals

Saturday, October 10, 2020 | 11:01 AM

Livia Paoletti understands she doesn’t have many high school cross country races left.

So the Plum senior is taking nothing for granted over the final weeks of her final season.

“I am so happy we are able to run, especially with all the uncertainty with covid the past couple of months,” said Paoletti, who joined her Mustangs teammates at the Division I, Section 4 championship meet Oct. 7 at Northmoreland Park.

“It wasn’t the same during that time over the summer when we weren’t able to train as a team. I don’t like running by myself. I really like the team aspect with everything we do. But we still were able to prepare well, and we want to finish the season running our best.”

The Plum runners are eyeing a couple remaining opportunities the next couple of weeks with a senior night meet at Boyce Park which leads into the Tri-State Championships at White Oak Park on Oct. 22 and the WPIAL championships at White Oak one week later.

“The kids have great attitudes,” Plum first-year head coach Stephanie Lednak said. “They are really excited and thankful to be out here running. They love to come to practice and just be running and be together. It’s pretty cool to see them come together and work hard.

“I am excited for the kids to have more opportunities to race. Our biggest focus is just going out and competing and testing ourselves against the best. They trained hard all summer and throughout the fall so far, and they deserve to see good results. I hope they can see that hard work pay off over the next couple of weeks.”

Lednak, hired as the new coach at Plum in July, was a standout cross country runner at Kiski Area, before continuing to compete in cross country at Pitt.

She finished 36th at the WPIAL Class AAA championships her senior year and helped the Cavaliers post a fifth-place finish in the team standings.

Lednak, who coached as an assistant at Kiski Area last fall while finishing graduate school, hopes to lead the Mustangs to similar good fortunes during her tenure.

“We started some team workouts the beginning of August,” she said. “It was a little later than typical years, but we made it work. Also, a lot of the kids had been following their own training and running on their own before that. I could see quickly they were pretty dedicated to improving.”

The Plum teams are a mix of youth and experience.

Freshman Amelia Faust placed 12th overall in the girls varsity race at the section championship meet. She posted a time of 22 minutes, 26.7 seconds, nearly five seconds faster than her time on the same course at the Kiski Cavalier Invitational on Sept. 18.

Paoletti placed 16th (23:05.3) at the section meet, while junior Ashley Persia crossed the finish line in 19th (23:23.8). Also competing at the section meet were juniors Alex George (25:02.1) and Sydney Anderson (25:52.6) and sophomore Maggie Messina (26:03.2).

As a team, the Plum girls finished fifth with a 4-4 record.

On the boys side, the Mustangs posted a 3-5 mark. Sophomore Nate Mienke (19:38.7) was 30th in the individual standings. Senior Will Brewer (35th, 20:35.0), sophomores Connor Pivirotto (40th, 21:20.4) and Zach McPherson (41st, 21:21.1) and freshman Gabriel Powell (43rd, 21:37.7) rounded out the top five team scorers.

Lednak said she was pleased with what she saw from her runners on the Northmoreland Park course against some of the top competitors in the WPIAL.

“We had some really strong efforts,” Lednak said.

“We had raced just a couple days earlier at the Bald Eagle Invitational. Having two races pretty close together, they saw that their legs were a little tired. But I was pleased with the way the kids pushed through and how they raced.”

Lednak said prior experience on the Northmoreland Park course at the Kiski Cavalier Invitational on Sept. 18 helped the Mustang runners as they returned for the section championship.

“They felt more confident and comfortable on the course,” Lednak said. “It’s got that really tough hill, so they knew what to expect and knew how to improve upon areas they didn’t feel were strengths.”

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


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