Ringgold sophomore repeats, runners get WPIAL preview at Tri-State cross country meet

Thursday, October 21, 2021 | 7:19 PM

Cross country runners competing in the WPIAL championship on Oct. 28 were able to preview the Cal (Pa.) course Thursday at the annual Tri-State Track Coaches Association meet.

Because covid-19 forced the WPIAL to find a new home — White Oak Park — in 2020, many underclassmen got to test their skills on Cal’s famous hill around the 2-mile mark. Some of the top female runners — Moon senior Mia Cochran, Brownsville’s sophomore Jolena Quarzo and Greensburg Central Catholic senior Corinn Brewer — skipped the event to rest their legs.

The rest got a taste of what’s ahead.

North Allegheny freshman Wren Kucler (3A girls), Uniontown junior Hope Trimmer (2A girls), Shady Side Academy sophomore Chelsea Hartman (A girls), Butler sophomore Drew Griffith (3A boys) and Winchester-Thurston senior Lance Nicholls (A boys) were first-time winners.

Only Ringgold sophomore Ryan Pajak (2A boys) was a repeat champion.

“I wasn’t pleased with my time,” Pajak said after breezing to a victory in 16:51.63. “I ran 20 seconds faster earlier in the year, and if I run the same way next week, I’ll lose.”

Pajak did acknowledge that he has been running a lot of races the past week and he didn’t have his normal energy. He said he’ll back off a little with his speed work this upcoming week.

Hopewell junior Dom Flitcraft (17:10.25) was second, Quaker Valley sophomore Mat Otto (17:16.55) was third, Deer Lakes senior Carson McCoy (17:33.30) was fourth and Hampton sophomore Jacob Bonnar (17:33.41) was fifth.

Trimmer was pleased with her finish. She placed second in the meet in 2020. She ran a 19:42.19.

Quaker Valley senior Anna Cohen (20:00.30) was second and Chartiers Valley freshman Lilah Turnbull (20:12.31) was third.

“It was definitely exciting to win because I got second in Tri-States last year,” Trimmer said. “It felt good to step up a little. I’ve run this course before, but today I learned where the places I could surge are. I feel more confident now.”

Hampton boys grabbed the Class 2A team title with 57 points followed by Uniontown with 91, Ringgold 115, Beaver 170 and Greensburg Salem 174. Winning the girls title in Class 2A was Our Lady of the Sacred Heart with 104 points. Beaver followed with 111, Ringgold was third with 126 and Greensburg Salem was fourth with 132.

Riverview boys grabbed the team title in Class A with 39 points. Winchester-Thurston was second with 57 points. Winchester-Thurston girls took the Class A title with 55 points. Avonworth was second with 89 and Riverview was third with 107.

Nichols won the Class A boys race, followed by Riverside senior Ty Fluharty (17:27.75). Riverview seniors Parker Steele (18:05.) and Ty Laughlin (18:09.00) were next. Riverview junior Amberson Bauer finished sixth.

“It looks good for next week,” Laughlin said. “There will be other good teams in the mix. We have a good chance in doing well. The hill here is tough. It takes everything out of you. You have to be confident in your abilities.”

Bauer added: “This was my first time on the course. It was good to see the course and good to see what’s coming next week.”

Hartman, who is also a superb swimmer, edged out Avonworth senior Lindsey Hartle. Riverside sophomores Lexi Fluharty and Brooke Wissinger finished third and fourth.

In the Class 3A race, Kucler took top honors by breezing in 18:51.63.

Kiski Area sophomore Eliza Miller (19:13.47) used a late kick to sprint past North Allegheny freshman Robin Kucler (19:14.29), Wren’s twin sister, and Eva Kynaston sophomore (19:14.39) for second place.

Bethel Park sophomore Jenna Lang was fifth running in 19:34.40.

“I need to thank all my coaches, parents and great teammates. They got me a lot faster,” Wren Kucler said. “There are a few hills, but if you don’t worry about it, you can beat them. You don’t know how fast you are.”

Miller said she used the race as a preview for the WPIAL championship.

“I learned there was a lot more loose gravel than I expected and it was slippy down the hills,” Miller said. “That was my goal, to prepare. I started quickly, and that’s my goal next week. I want to stay with the lead pack.”

The boys race came down to Butler sophomore Drew Griffith and senior C.J. Singleton. Griffith passed Singleton, who became ill, during the final mile. Singleton finished second.

“C.J. waved me on,” Griffith said. “I went out pretty fast, faster than I normal do. I hit the hills pretty hard, and I was feeling it at the end and came through.”

Singleton told his teammates and coaches he was having problem breathing.

North Allegheny crushed the girls field in the team race. The Tigers finished with 32 points. Mt. Lebanon followed with 122. Upper St. Clair was third with 134 and Latrobe fourth with 147.

The Tigers boys won with 42 points.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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