Riverview cross country program ready to build on success

Sunday, September 10, 2023 | 5:47 PM

The Riverview boys and girls cross country teams ended last season at the PIAA state meet in Hershey after strong finishes at the WPIAL championships at Cal (Pa.).

The returning Raiders runners, along with some new blood, hope to build off that successful ending to the 2022 season. Coach Palma Ostrowski said they got a jump on those plans and expectations with positive runs at the season-opening Gateway Invitational on Sept. 2 at Boyce Park in Plum.

The Riverview boys, behind a fifth-place finish in 17 minutes, 44.39 seconds from junior Christopher Barnes, placed second overall to Fox Chapel in a field of mostly Class 3A teams that also included Plum, Franklin Regional, Central Catholic, Penn Hills, Baldwin and Gateway.

“We have eight runners which have registered times in the 18s, and I believe two more that will be there shortly,” Ostrowski said of her boys lineup.

“We don’t think any other single-A program in PA can say that. However, you can only run seven (at WPIALs), and they need to perform on championship day to make states.”

The Raiders girls were fourth in the 13-team Gateway Invite field behind Fox Chapel, Baldwin and Franklin Regional as returning junior Lily Bauer led the charge in ninth overall (22:49.36). Four of Riverview’s top five earned a medal by placing 20th or better.

“The girls came into the season with more confidence, and I expect we will be better during the regular season,” Ostrowski said.

“However, there were not a lot of top-runner graduates across the WPIAL, and there are still five or six really good girls teams (Winchester Thurston, OLSH, Mohawk, Shady Side, Eden, Laurel), so we will have to peak at the right time again to have a chance at getting back to Hershey.”

The Riverview boys had to say goodbye to several key graduates including Amberson Bauer, a WPIAL medalist last year who also medaled (21st) at the PIAA championships. He is a freshman at Division I William & Mary.

The Raiders finished 9-1 in section meets, were third at Red, White & Blue Invitational and second at Tri-States and won the 57-school McQuaid Invitational in New York State before placing third in WPIAL Class A and fifth at states.

“Graduating seven strong seniors sort of makes 2023 feel like a rebuilding year, but we are very fortunate to have four returners who combined have run in seven PIAA cross country championships and six PIAA track and field championships, so the cupboard is not bare,” Ostrowski said.

Barnes helps lead the core of returning runners. Four of the top five from WPIALs and states are back including junior Holden Deasy, senior Cohen Hoolahan and junior Micah Ivy.

Deasy was close behind Barnes on the challenging Gateway Invite course. He took seventh overall in a time of 17:52.54.

Ivy placed 10th, and Hoolahan finished in 16th.

They are joined by three other letterwinners in juniors Levi Roupas and Will Orbin and sophomore Braden Longstreth.

“WPIALs is going to be a great contest,” Ostrowski said.

Winchester Thurston is strong yet again, and they are the champ until somebody beats them. Eden Christian is very strong at 1 and 2, giving them a lead which will be hard to overcome. Our ranking suggests we should be in the mix, but they don’t decide these things on paper, so we’ll see what happens.”

The Riverview boys have qualified for the PIAA championships seven times since 2015, and the Raiders girls have gone to states three times. Only one other school — North Allegheny — has gone more combined times with 16 (eight boys, eight girls).

Winchester Thurston also owns 10 qualifications since 2015 (eight boys, two girls).

The Riverview girls went 6-4 in Division II, Section 4 meets last year and were the top Class A team in the combined Class A/Class AA section. The Raiders placed third at WPIALs and 17th at states.

The top six runners from last year — Bauer, seniors Gwyn Fichte, Jonisha Carlino, and Riley Russell and sophomores Grace Johnson and Rosa Lascola — are back to lead the team.

Bauer finished 19th at WPIALs last year and 81st at the PIAA championships.

“Despite an early-summer ankle sprain from basketball workouts, Lily had a good second half of summer and looks ready to once again be a top-25 WPIAL performer, just as she has been in both of her previous years in cross country and track,” Ostrowski said.

Fichte was 24th at WPIALs in 2022.

“Gwyn is further ahead at this point than the previous two years, so we are excited for her senior year,” Ostrowski said.

Murphy Hawk, a sophomore, also returns hoping to increase her role in the team lineup.

Riverview got a spark at the Gateway Invite as freshman Hannah Hudak ran to a 15th-place finish in 23:43.82, one spot ahead of Johnson in 16th.

Fichte (20th) rounded out the Raiders medalists, and junior newcomer Lily Hood was Riverview’s fifth runner in 29th overall.

Hood, Hudak, and freshmen Catie Hoolahan and Juliet Brun are dual-sport athletes in the fall as all four also are members of the Riverview girls soccer team.

“It’s tough for them to compete against all of the big double-A programs in our section,” Ostrowski said. “If we can keep their spirits up through the section gauntlet, 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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