Riverview boys cross country begins quest to defend WPIAL title

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Sunday, September 11, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Amberson Bauer and Christopher Barnes finished near the top — third and fourth, respectively — at the traditional season-opening Gateway Invitational cross country meet Sept. 3 at Boyce Park in Plum.

Bauer, a senior, and Barnes, a sophomore, helped the Raiders take second to only Class 3A Fox Chapel in the team standings and defeat the likes of Class 3A Kiski Area, Plum, Gateway, Penn Hills, Franklin Regional and Baldwin.

Sophomore Holden Deasy was right there in eighth in the individual Gateway Invite standings, and junior Cohen Hoolaham grabbed a top-20 finish in 18th overall.

It was a strong start for a Riverview boys team hoping to maintain its high standing, both in section competition and also on the WPIAL and PIAA stages despite the graduation of standout runners and PIAA qualifiers Parker Steele, Ty Loughlin and Lucas Wilton.

“With the class of 2022 having moved onto college, the boys team has now graduated all seven of the athletes from the 2019 state runner-up team and the more than 30 state and WPIAL medals that they earned in total,” Riverview coach Palma Ostrowski said.

“However, four of the varsity starters from last year’s WPIAL championship return to give the Raiders a chance to stay in the mix.”

In addition to its WPIAL title in 2021, Riverview placed third at the PIAA championships in Hershey.

The Raiders were 9-0 in section last year and captured their fourth straight section title. They entered the season with a 42-meet winning streak dating back to a 2017 loss against Indiana.

Riverview will run in section meets against several Class 2A teams, such as local foes Burrell, Deer Lakes, Freeport, Highlands and Knoch, as well as Hampton, North Catholic and Avonworth.

Hampton and North Catholic finished 1-2 in WPIAL Class 2A last year. The Talbots were seventh at states, and the Trojans were ninth.

“While the competition upgrade will provide opportunities to challenge us even beyond the last few years, we obviously will not be winning a fifth section title in a row, and we will have to pick and choose our battles carefully against these bigger schools as we don’t want to burn out our athletes prior to WPIALs and hopefully states, the events that define cross country seasons,” Ostrowski said.

The team gained a measure of momentum coming into the season with participation in the Mad Marathon Relay in Warren, Vermont, in July. Two Riverview teams of five entered the event and took first and second.

The winning five — Bauer, Barnes, Deasy, Hoolihan and senior Luke Migely — covered the hilly course in 2 hours, 52 minutes, 7 seconds, breaking the relay record for the 12-year event by more than seven minutes.

The second Riverview group clocked a time of 2:59:13. Third place finished in 3:34:43.

Bauer, a multi-time WPIAL and PIAA medalist in cross country and track, is being recruited by several Division I college programs as a middle distance specialist.

Barnes and Deasy battled through injuries as freshmen but were able to be strong contributors at WPIALs and states.

Hoolahan, who also plays on the Riverview boys soccer team, and Migely join a group of seniors hoping to make their mark, including Jack Betler, Dan Roupas, Christian Polichik, Declan Hawk and Ziad Jaffar.

Sophomores Micah Ivy, Levi Roupus and Will Orbin are joined by newcomers in sophomore Jamie Favo and freshmen Braden Longstreth and Adam Lawson.

The Raiders girls are primed for a run at another top 10 WPIAL Class A finish and also a shot at a top-four placing that would qualify for states.

A mix of seven returning runners, including individual state qualifiers Lily Bauer and Gwyn Fichte, and several young newcomers, has Ostrowski optimistic.

“We believe we should be in the top 10 (at WPIALs) for the eighth consecutive year,” Ostrowski said.

“Making states, however, is another matter. Mohawk, OLSH and Winchester (Thurston), the top three from last year , each have five or six returners, so they will be tough to displace. If we stay healthy, we hope to battle for that fourth spot with Eden, Shady Side Academy, Aquinas and others. But there is very little margin for error.”

Riverview finished 9-1 (second place to Class 2A Knoch) in section last year and went on to take sixth at WPIALs.

Fichte, a junior, led the team at WPIALs with an individual 16th-place finish and an individual spot at the PIAA championships in Hershey.

Bauer, who finished 10th at the Red, White & Blue Invitational and placed first in six of 10 dual meets, made her WPIAL debut and took 24th, joining Fichte at the state meet.

She opened her season at the Gateway Invitational on Sept. 3 at Boyce Park in Plum and placed sixth overall (24:35.8) against runners from Fox Chapel, Kiski Area, Franklin Regional and Baldwin.

Riverview took fourth in the team standings.

Also back are senior co-captains Olivia Wilton, Kylie Longstreth and Sarah Sullivan; and junior Audrey Myers and Jonisha Carlino.

The Raiders, Ostrowski said, will be bolstered by the varsity debuts of freshmen Rosa Lascola, Grace Johnson and Murphy Hawk.

Lascola took 17th at the Gateway Invitational.

“The girls had a decent summer and a good couple of weeks of preseason,” Ostrowski said.

“It is a ‘tough ask’ for them to compete against all of the big Class 2A programs in our section. If we can keep their spirits up through the section gantlet, it may benefit us when we get to race against schools our size at WPIALs.”

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

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