Riverview boys finally grab WPIAL cross country team championship

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Thursday, October 28, 2021 | 9:12 PM


The Riverview boys cross country team was stuck in a scene from the movie “Groundhog Day” for the past several years.

The Raiders, from 2016 through last year, had finished runner-up to Class A team champion Winchester Thurston.

That changed Thursday at Cal (Pa.).

Riverview, led by an experienced group that includes senior captains Parker Steele, Ty Laughlin and Lucas Wilton, placed all five of its scoring runners in the top 26 to win the WPIAL team title with 76 points.

Winchester Thurston, with four in the top 25, was second with 90 points.

“It feels amazing to be able to accomplish this,” said Steele, who led Riverview with a fifth-place finish in the individual standings (17:55.3).

“After the past five years of coming so close, it is great to be able to do it with this group of guys. Now, we will see how it goes (at states) next week. It’s a completely different race with a whole other group of great teams. It will be fun for sure. We will be ready to run again and will try to bring home the state title.”

Laughlin finished 10th (18:19.5), and junior Amberson Bauer took 14th (18:33.2), followed by Wilton in 25th, freshman Christopher Barnes in 26th, freshman Holden Deasy in 27th and sophomore Cohen Hoolahan in 44th.

“I am just so happy for all of them,” Riverview coach Palma Ostrowski said. “I’ve had this experience with my girls team a couple of times, winning WPIALs, and I knew what that felt like. I just wanted that same thing for the boys. We were able to beat three really good programs.”

Riverview, denied a trip to states last year because of covid restrictions, placed second to Winchester Thurston at the 2019 PIAA meet.

In addition to the top four boys and girls teams, the top 20 individuals not on one of those four teams also advanced to states in Class A. In the other classes, it’s three teams and 15 runners.

Riverview will be taking a pair of girls runners to states after sophomore Gwyn Fichte (22:17.3) and freshman Lily Bauer (22:49.2) placed 16th and 24th.

“I wasn’t even sure if I could do this because a couple of weeks ago, I slightly sprained my knee,” an emotional Fichte said. “I thought that this would be completely down the drain. So this is kind of overwhelming. I’ve been hoping for this for a while.”

Fichte’s and Bauer’s finishes helped Riverview place sixth in the girls team standings with 211 team points.

Riverview runners tackled the Cal (Pa.) course and its challenging hill at Tri-States last week and during an additional practice run.

“We all wanted to make sure we were ready to attack the course well, and I think we did that,” Bauer said. “It felt really good, for me, to know where the hill was and what to expect. I am really proud of myself, because I was really stressed out before the race because it was my first one.”

Gracie McShea, a senior running her final WPIAL race, placed 59th (24:37.1).

In the Class 3A girls race, won for the third time in a row by Moon’s Mia Cochran, Kiski Area sophomore Eliza Miller finished fifth.

Miller’s goal was try to stay with Cochran early, and she did. She achieved her goal of placing in the top five. Now she wants to earn a medal at the PIAA championship Nov. 6 in Hershey.

“The race was a little more iffy than I thought it would be out there,” Miller said. “I wanted to place this year in the top five, and I did. It was the same as last year. My race didn’t go as well as it did last week because the course was real muddy.

“It was difficult on the downhills, but I’m pleased. I definitely want to medal at states this year because I didn’t last year. That’s my biggest goal.”

In the Class 2A girls meet, a pair of Alle-Kiski Valley sophomores qualified for states. Burrell’s Grace Nesko ran to a 19th overall finish in a time of 21:56.2, while Knoch’s Emma Haugh was right behind Nesko by a half-second in 20th (21:56.7). Haugh led the Knights to 11th place in the team standings, while Burrell took 14th.

Last year at White Oak Park, Haugh placed 10th, just six seconds away from states under the PIAA covid restrictions limiting the number of states qualifiers in girls Class 2A to seven. Nesko didn’t run at states as a freshman.

In the Class 2A boys race, won by Ringgold’s Ryan Pajak, Deer Lakes senior Carson McCoy (17:39.7) took fourth.

“I didn’t feel too great at the start, but I just kind of tucked it in and made sure I got to states,” McCoy said. “We came up fast, but it was tough running down the hill because it was muddy.

“To have success in cross country is cool. The most success I’ve had came in track came when I won 1,600 at states. Being able to come out and compete well in cross country, too, is definitely motivating.”

In Class 3A boys, Fox Chapel finished third in the team race, qualifying for the state meet. Jack Lorence led the way with a ninth-place finish.

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