Riverview boys try to defend their WPIAL Class A cross country title

Wednesday, October 26, 2022 | 8:39 PM

The Riverview boys cross country team struck WPIAL gold last year as it won the Class A crown after five straight runner-up finishes to Winchester Thurston.

Three of the top four finishers from the 2021 team, which took third at the PIAA championships, graduated. But senior Division I recruit Amberson Bauer, 14th individually at WPIALs last year, is back to lead the Raiders on Thursday as they hope to contend for more gold at the WPIAL championship at Cal (Pa.).

Sophomores Chris Barnes and Holden Deasy were 24th and 25th, respectively, in their WPIAL debuts last year on the Cal Roadman Park course.

“Boys single-A is loaded with four of the top six teams in the state,” said Riverview coach Palma Ostrowski, who expects Eden Christian, Winchester Thurston and OLSH to also be at or near the top. “We do have the target on our backs as defending champs. I believe the race will be ridiculously close where the top four teams could all be within 20 points.”

Riverview is seeking its ninth trip to states. It also would have qualified in 2020 had it not been for covid restricting advancement to only the WPIAL champ.

Kiski Area junior Eliza Miller is the top returning finisher among any of the Alle-Kiski Valley individuals.

Fifth last year, Miller has her sights set on challenging for a WPIAL title in girls Class 3A.

She didn’t run at last week’s Tri-State championships at Cal, but she has had several top finishes, including wins at the Kiski Invitational, the Section 4 championships, and the Westmoreland County Coaches meet.

“Eliza’s had some excellent training, and being a junior, she has the necessary experience at this very challenging race,” Kiski Area coach Tom Berzonsky said. “She knows the opportunity she has, and she’s excited about it.”

Miller, junior Tatiana Holt and freshman Sydney Heinack lead a Cavaliers girls team hoping for big things in the standings.

WPIAL races will run in classification segments starting at 11 a.m.

The Class 2A girls kick everything off, and will be followed by the Class 2A boys at 11:45.

Class 3A takes the stage next with the girls at 1 p.m. and the boys at 1:45.

Class A caps the day with the girls at 3 and the boys at 3:45.

The top four teams and the top 20 individuals not on those four teams in girls Class A and boys Class A and Class 2A will qualify for states Nov. 5 in Hershey.

Girls Class 2A and Class 3A will have the top three teams and 15 individuals advance.

The Class 3A boys will feel the squeeze as the PIAA designated that only the champion and runner-up teams and top 10 individuals will qualify.

“We found out about a month into the season, sometime in early September,” said Plum coach Stephanie Kennedy, who sees Mustangs seniors Nate Mienke and Connor Pivirotto among those in state-qualifying contention. “It was a surprise, but it gave all the teams a heads up.

“It’s an honor to run at the WPIAL meet and even a bigger honor to qualify for states. Now that they tightened those standards, it’s an even bigger deal. That decision was out of our athletes’ control. It comes down to preparing and racing fast and stepping up to the challenge.”

The Fox Chapel boys lost their top two runners to graduation from last year’s PIAA-qualifying Class 3A third-place team, but junior Rowan Gwin and sophomore Ethan Vaughan return and are set to lead the Foxes.

The Kiski Area and Burrell boys teams will venture into new races this season. The Cavaliers, led by freshman Sam Plazio, the Westmoreland County boys champ, dropped down to Class 2A.

Plazio also placed eighth overall in the Class 2A boys race at last week’s Tri-State meet at Cal.

He helped the Cavaliers take fifth behind Hampton, Uniontown, Elizabeth Forward and New Castle.

The Bucs, fronted by the running of junior Alex Platt and senior Levi Hass, will join Riverview in Class A. The Burrell girls remain in Class 2A and are led by senior Kadi Bauer, who is expected to challenge for a spot at states.

“Kadi is looking really solid right now and running well at the right time,” Bucs coach Chris Letgers said. “We just think she has to go in and run her race and let things fall where they may.”

Burrell junior Grace Nesko, 19th last year and a PIAA qualifier, will not be able to run because of a nagging hip injury.

“It is rough on her,” Letgers said. “She had been steady in coming around, which is nice for the other girls who really look up to her. She just wasn’t able to run for well over a month. She had pretty high hopes for this year about what she could do at states, not just what she could do at WPIALs. But she does have another year, which is good.”

Other 2021 state qualifiers back to lead their teams at WPIALs include Fox Chapel junior Claire Kelley in Class 3A, Knoch sophomore Emma Haugh in Class 2A, and Riverview junior Gwyn Fichte and sophomore Lily Bauer in Class A.

With Fichte and Bauer in the lead, the Raiders girls placed sixth last year.

“Defending champion OLSH, defending state runner-up Mohawk and Tri-State champion Winchester Thurston appear to be locks for three of the four state spots,” Ostrowski said. “Shady Side and Eden Christian round out the top five in the Milesplit rankings, but I like our chances. We defeated Shady Side in a section dual and finished ahead of Eden at Red White and Blue.”

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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