Plum’s Mascilli, Valotta seek big jump at WPIAL championship meet
Friday, October 18, 2019 | 5:33 PM
Justin Mascilli finished 51st in the boys Class AAA race at last year’s WPIAL cross country championships on the Roadman Park course at Cal (Pa.).
It was a 49-place improvement from his sophomore finish.
Mascilli enters his final WPIAL competition Thursday eyeing another big jump in the standings and also his first trip to states.
“Justin’s starting to peak at the right time,” Plum coach Adam Molinaro said. “He’s been running phenomenally throughout the entire season. When the competition gets a little more intense, that’s when he’s at his best. He thrives on good competition. Last year, at this time was where we really saw who he really is. He feels he has a really good shot at qualifying for states.”
Mascilli and fellow Mustangs senior Angela Valotta, a PIAA qualifier as a freshman, lead their respective teams to the WPIAL championships as the races return to Cal.
Valotta ran a career best 19:42 at the Grove City Invitational on Oct. 5. She is hoping to improve on last year’s 49th in the girls Class AAA race at WPIALs and also make a return to states.
“(Grove City) really boosted my confidence,” Valotta said.
The top three Class AAA boys and girls teams at WPIALs automatically advance to states, as well as the top 15 individuals not on one of the qualifying teams.
The Class A girls race kicks off Thursday’s WPIAL competition at 12:45 p.m., and the other five races will follow every 45 minutes.
Fifteen of the 20 Plum runners who competed at Thursday’s Tri-State Coaches Association meet at Roadman Park also ran there last year at the Tri-State meet and at WPIALs.
Molinaro said the experience on the course helped them continue to gear up for the WPIAL races.
“They were able to develop a strategy for WPIALs,” he said. “It was a dress rehearsal for next week. We wanted to make sure they competed, but we also wanted them to continue to prepare physically and mentally. I was pleased with how the team did. All of the ones that ran there last year improved their times pretty significantly, anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes.”
Mascilli led the way for the Plum boys at Tri-States with a 22nd-place finish (17:30) in the Class AAA race against many of the top runners he will see at WPIALs, including course record holder Patrick Anderson from Mt. Lebanon who again took the top spot (15:45).
“Justin was up there in the top group,” Molinaro said. “Hopefully, he can duplicate the performance he did (last week) and maybe drop a few seconds.”
Valotta finished 28th in the girls Class AAA race (20:47).
“She didn’t run as well as she wanted to,” Molinaro said. “Sometimes, cold and windy weather can affect her. It wasn’t the right conditions for her to do well, but overall, she was positive about where she was. The weather is supposed to be better, and I know she will do well next week.”
Junior Livia Paoletti added a 52nd-place finish (21:45) for the Plum girls, who finished runner-up to Oakland Catholic at the Division I, Section 4 championship meet Oct. 2. Sophomore Ashley Persia was 83rd (22:21).
“We all have high (team) expectations going into WPIALs,” Valotta said.
The girls team finished 25th at WPIALs last year and hopes to make a move toward the top 10. They placed 13th in the Class AAA standings Thursday.
The Plum boys also hope to improve on last year’s 21st in the WPIAL team standings. Runners such as freshman Connor Pivirotto hope to give the team a lift.
He was Plum’s No. 2 runner at Tri-States and placed 81st overall with a time of 18:26.
“Connor ran a good race for his first time on the Cal U course, but I’m sure he will do a lot better next week,” Molinaro said.
The Plum boys finished 17th in the Class AAA team standings and 16th among those from the WPIAL.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .