Quaker Valley runners Cohen, Otto stay ahead of the pack

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Sunday, October 10, 2021 | 11:01 AM


One is a senior. One is a sophomore.

Individually, Anna Cohen and Matt Otto represent the top competitors on the Quaker Valley girls and boys cross country teams.

Cohen, a senior who is known as a cerebral student-athlete, has been a solid runner throughout her high school career. Second-year QV coach Ryan Kelly said she is an intelligent runner and competitor.

“My season has gone very well so far,” Cohen said. “I most recently ran an 18 (minute), 51 (second) 5K and won our largest invitational of the season. I’ve been running for Quaker Valley since sixth grade, and I have always wanted to break 19 minutes in the 5K, so I’m excited with that accomplishment.”

Cohen has been qualifying for the WPIAL finals since her freshman season. This year, she has set the pace for sophomores Ellie Cain and Lizzie Szuba, freshmen Cecilia Montagnese and Kwilai Karto, as well as senior Emily Newton.

Cohen is a multi-sport athlete and a Division I cross country recruit. She had narrowed her college choices to Elon and Pitt before finally opting for the Panthers.

“I’m continuing my track and cross country careers at the University of Pittsburgh,” she said.

Cohen’s also a QV trackster, and a member of the National Honor Society, Key Club and student council.

Otto, a standout athlete, is the No. 1 runner on the Quaker Valley boys team.

“My season’s going well,” he said. “I’m grateful that my times have had such huge drops after putting in a lot of work this summer. I’m looking forward to getting in more training leading up to WPIALs and accomplishing the rest of my goals there.”

Otto indeed has had a strong season competing in smaller meets and bigger invitationals, propelling the Quakers to successful showings as a team along the way.

“I think the boys team is running pretty well so far,” Otto said. “It was really fun to train with my dedicated teammates this summer, and it led to them running really good (personal records) in our invites.

“I’m looking forward to how we’ll do at WPIALs. I think if we continue with our progress, our boys team will be very strong in a couple years.”

Otto also competes in track and is a member of the Key Club.

Quaker Valley’s girls took first place, and the boys finished a close second at the P3R River Trail Invitational early in the season. Otto and Cohen won their respective races at that event.

“Due to this strong performance by both teams, we were able to capture the River Trail Cup for the best-combined (team) performance,” Kelly said.

Next up was the 19th annual Red, White & Blue Classic. Cohen finished second thanks to a superb individual effort. Otto placed ninth in his race category.

Cohen then zeroed in on a spot in the winner’s circle at the Blue Devil Invitational, with Otto ending up a close second in the boys varsity race. QV finished fifth in both team competitions.

“Anna is concluding her high school running career with an outstanding senior season,” Kelly said. “Both the boys and girls teams have been successful in section meets and at invitationals this year.”

Along with up-and-coming Otto, other leading runners for the boys squad include freshman Clark LaLomia, juniors Luke Hotchkiss and Freddy McCollough, sophomore Matt Cohen and senior Kadin Johnson.

Seniors Henry Wagner, Johnson, Cohen and Newton are team captains.

“They have helped me and our assistant (John Doucette) with leading our teams this season,” Kelly said.

Both QV squads were 4-2 in section with one meet remaining. Two important races also on the horizon were the MAC championships Oct. 13 and the WPIAL finals on Oct. 28.

“I think our girls team has done really well this season,” Cohen said. “We’ve had some really strong performances at some of our invitationals. I think we have a great shot at doing something big at WPIALs. Hopefully, we can get in the top three as a team and compete at the state championship.”

Much like the sport of golf, a cross country runner’s career doesn’t have to end after high school.

Kelly explained.

“My basic coaching philosophy for cross country is to first and foremost instill a love and passion for running that will last throughout our student-athlete’s life,” he said. “We also incorporate attributes of teamwork, determination, resilience and sportsmanship that are lessons that will last throughout their lives. Cross country is a sport that takes hard work and focused training.

“I want to note that I am particularly proud of this year’s team (members) for their tireless training through the summer months and into our season. Our senior class has been particularly helpful with this.”

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