Returning athletes bolster Riverview track and field teams

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Saturday, April 13, 2024 | 11:01 AM


The Riverview boys and girls track and field teams are fueled by a nucleus of returning, experienced talent, some of whom powered their way to last year’s WPIAL Class 2A championships at Slippery Rock.

Veteran coach Dave Illnicki said a mix of those athletes, along with newcomers who are setting a strong pace, have created an atmosphere of positive growth in several areas on the track, in the jumps and in the throws.

The competitive attitude is not lost on senior thrower Toby Green, who has increased his distance in the shot put for the Raiders boys team.

“The throwers are working hard on a lot of form stuff so we can focus on the little things as everything comes together as the season goes on,” said Green, whose sentiments carry on throughout the teams, regardless of their event.

For senior Jonisha Carlino, there is motivation to get back to WPIALs as part of the 1,600 relay with fellow senior Lola Abraham and juniors Katerina Tsambis and Cailey Trosch.

The quartet finished fifth at WPIALs last year.

“That has been pushing us to work hard together,” Carlino said. “One of our goals is to get back to WPIALs and improve on last year’s finish. We want more.”

The same goals sharpen the focus of members of last year’s fifth-place boys 3,200-meter relay: senior Cohen Hoolahan and juniors Christopher Barnes, Micah Ivy and Holden Deasy.

The Riverview boys continued an undefeated season with wins over Shady Side Academy and Aquinas last Wednesday. They improved to 7-0 overall and 5-0 in Section 3-2A with Monday’s section meet against Quaker Valley and Sewickley Academy closing out the slate.

The Raiders girls stood at 5-2 overall and 3-2 in the section after last Wednesday’s meet. Their only losses in section were to Carlynton and Shady Side Academy by a combined nine points.

Riverview athletes tested themselves April 6 at the Igloo Invitational in Altoona, a traditional early-season meet that celebrated its 47th year in 2024.

The Raiders were in the mix with a number of teams from District 6, unfamiliar foes when compared to the competition in the WPIAL.

Illnicki said his athletes represented themselves well as they brought home several medals among a total of seven top-10 finishes.

Setting the pace was Abraham, with a third in the 400-meter run (1:03.02); senior Audrey Myers, with a fifth in the 100 hurdles (16:98); and the boys 3,200 relay of Hoolahan, Ivy, Deasy and sophomore Braden Longstreth, with a fifth in a time of 8:40.49.

Others finishing in the top 10 were Deasy in the boys 3,200 (sixth, 10:22.51); the girls 3,200 relay of juniors Lily Bauer and Lily Hood, and freshmen Catie Hoolahan and Hannah Hudack (eighth, 11:10.67); Barnes in the boys 1,600 (ninth, 4:39.53); and Bauer in the girls 1,600 (10th, 5:57.33).

“We only have three section meets with all of them being quad meets, so there isn’t a lot of time to get your feet wet with competition,” Illnicki said. “So, it is nice to have Altoona so the kids can kind of see where they are. They were able to see where they stack up and how competitive they can be.

“It is a nice way to help boost the season at the beginning of April. No matter what the weather is like for the meet, it is a positive experience for them, and they definitely performed well in a number of events.”

Riverview was to return to invitational competition Saturday at the Tri-State Track Coaches Association Championships at West Mifflin and face some of the top Class 2A and Class 3A athletes from the WPIAL and beyond.

The boys team, Illnick said, is fronted by senior captains Carlo Buzzatto (throws and jumps) and Nate Sprajcar (hurdles and jumps) and Hoolahan (distance), while Barnes and Ivy also are leaders in the distance.

Illnicki said he’s high on first-year sprinter Prince Govan to make some waves on the track.

Captains in Myers, Abraham, Carlino and senior Gwyn Fichte (distance) are at the heart of the girls team along with Bauer, a WPIAL qualifier in the 1,600; juniors Elise Barnes (jumps) and Chiara Brun (hurdles and throws); and freshmen Blake Huffman (sprints), Juliette Brun (distance, throws), Hudack (distance) and Penny Stotler (throws).

“This is probably one of the best teams I’ve had when it comes to attitude, working hard, being supportive of each other and motivating each other,” Illnicki said. “I am blessed to have a group of seniors who are fantastic leaders. It definitely starts from the top down. We have a dynamic group of younger athletes who are buying into it all. They see Toby Green working hard, they want to throw further. They see Lola jumping and sprinting as fast as she can, and they want to get better.

“I think it goes further than just within the track team. The success of the football team, the girls soccer team, the girls basketball team gets them excited and gives them confidence to compete. They know they can compete. It’s an attitude the whole school has that Riverview has a really dynamic group of kids coming through who are embracing athletics as well as academics.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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