Riverview ready to take a run at WPIAL cross country favorites

Tuesday, October 22, 2019 | 5:46 PM

The Riverview boys cross country team finished runner-up to Winchester Thurston in Class A at WPIALs each of the past three seasons.

The Raiders, led by juniors Mason Ochs and Gideon Deasy, would like to overtake the Bears on Thursday as the championships return to the Roadman Park course at Cal (Pa.), but the team knows it will be a stiff challenge against the WPIAL and PIAA favorite.

“Winchester Thurston is a well-deserved favorite,” Riverview coach Palma Ostrowski said. “We narrowed the gap against them at (the Freedom Invitational), so we hope to be closer on Thursday, which we could use to build to a top-five finish at Hershey.”

Riverview, a program-best eighth at states the past two seasons, knows it also will have to hold off the challenge of teams such as Eden Christian, third at WPIALs last year.

Ochs hopes to challenge for top individual honors after finishing fourth last year. Deasy took ninth.

The Alle-Kiski Valley is expected to be well-represented Thursday in both team and individual pursuits to the PIAA meet, which is set for Nov. 2 in Hershey.

The Class A girls race kicks everything off at 12:45 p.m. with the other five races to follow every 45 minutes.

The top four boys and girls teams in Class A and the top three in Class AA and AAA automatically earn trips to states. The top 20 individual finishers in Class A and top 15 in Class AA and AAA not on one of the qualifying teams also will earn berths to states.

Fox Chapel senior Christian Fitch expects to again be in the mix for a top finish in Class AAA and also help the Foxes, fifth in the team standings last year, challenge for a spot at states with the likes of Butler, Norwin and Mt. Lebanon.

Fitch, a three-time state qualifier and a 2018 PIAA medalist, was a personal-best third at WPIALs last year behind Mt. Lebanon senior Daniel Anderson and North Allegheny senior Daniel McGoey, the defending champion.

Anderson, the 2018 PIAA champion and the Tri-State meet winner at Cal (Pa.) last week, owns the Roadman Park course record (15 minutes, 45.47 seconds).

The Knoch boys, runners-up to Riverview in this year’s Division II, Section 1 standings, are hoping to improve on last year’s ninth-place Class AA finish and challenge for a spot at states. Senior Braden Zukowski placed 21st at WPIALs last year and punched his ticket to the PIAA meet.

Highlands senior CJ Thimons is in position to return to states in Class AA after missing by one spot last year. He placed 21st at WPIALs as a sophomore and earned a berth to the PIAA meet.

The Knoch girls, who returned the top six runners from last year’s 10th-place team in the Class AA standings, added some new faces to an already deep lineup and unseated Riverview for the Division II, Section 1 title.

Led by senior Sammy Jo Barnes, sixth individually at WPIALs last year, the Knights also hope to challenge for a spot at states.

“We’re pretty excited,” Barnes said. “At Tri-States, we got to see some teams we hadn’t raced before. It was also nice to get back on the course. It’s been a while since the Cal U Invitational (Aug. 31).”

Seniors Grace Sisson and Brooke Krally, fourth and 20th, respectively, in the Class AAA girls standings at WPIALs last year, are ready to help lead the Fox Chapel girls.

The Foxes enjoyed PIAA trips the past three seasons and finished as runners-up at WPIALs in 2016 and 2017 before finishing third last year. last year’s WPIAL individual runner-up Sarena Seeger was lost to graduation.

“I’d say a top-10 finish at WPIALs would be a good goal for us,” Fox Chapel coach Tom Moul said.

Plum senior Angela Valotta qualified for states as a freshman but fell short the past two seasons. She said she is in good position to challenge for a PIAA return and also help the Mustangs girls team, runners-up to defending WPIAL Class AAA champion Oakland Catholic at the Division I, Section 4 championship meet earlier this month, make a move in the team standings.

The Riverview girls, fourth last year in Class A and again a state qualifier, hope to be in the mix again. Ostrowski said Vincentian, North Catholic and OLSH have separated themselves, but the Raiders, led by seniors Marina Pietz and Mikaela Collins and junior Ally Johnson, are ready to battle with the likes of Shenango and Serra Catholic for a PIAA spot.

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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