Riverview runners chasing WPIAL, PIAA gold

Thursday, September 10, 2020 | 10:10 PM

When Mason Ochs broke the tape at the finish line at last year’s WPIAL Class A cross country championships at Cal (Pa.), he realized his dream of becoming a WPIAL champion.

The Riverview senior also had a smile on his face knowing he, along with fourth-place individual finisher and fellow senior Gideon Deasy and a mix of other veteran and younger runners, helped contribute to another standout team performance. The Raiders boys finished as runner-up for the fourth year in a row and qualified for states for the fifth consecutive time.

At states, the team recorded its best-ever finish as they placed second to WPIAL champion Winchester Thurston.

Fast forward to the start of this season, and Riverview again is one of the favorites for both WPIAL and PIAA gold. For Ochs, just being able to compete is a blessing after much discussion about the coronavirus pandemic and the questions of whether or not a season would happen.

“We were definitely kind of holding our breath a little bit,” said Ochs, who went on to place eighth individually at states in 2019.

“It was definitely encouraging to hear the officials talk about cross country being one of the more safe sports. We understand there are changes this season, but we’re just excited to have the chance to run.”

Both the Riverview boys and girls teams begin competition this week, and the annual Red, White & Blue Classic on Friday at White Oak Park. Ochs said, will be a nice early-season test.

The Class A boys race will be at 5 p.m., and the girls will follow at 6. The races for Class AA and AAA will be Saturday.

“We look at this race as one of our fastest meets of the year, up there with the Grove City meet,” said Ochs, the fastest Class A runner at last year’s Red, White & Blue and the fourth fastest in Class A and AA combined.

“We always see it as a chance to get some early-season (personal bests). It will be a little different feel this year because they changed the course (from Schenley Park). We are looking forward to some good competition. We want to perform well.”

Ten letterwinners, including the top five from the state runner-up squad, are back. Joining Ochs and Deasy in the lineup are juniors Lucas Wilton, Parker Steele and Ty Laughlin, who placed 22nd, 25th and 29th, respectively, at WPIALs last year.

Others expected to contribute to the boys squad are senior Aidan Sebastian and sophomores Luke Migley, Amberson Bauer, Jack Betler and Daniel Roupas.

In the preseason PA Milesplit rankings, Riverview is second in Class A behind state power Jenkintown from District 1. Riverview finished 28 place points ahead of Jenkintown for second at states last year.

The Raiders are one of four teams from the WPIAL (North Allegheny, Butler and Seneca Valley) to be ranked in the top 20 for all classifications.

“The boys had a really good summer, by normal standards, but this group’s 2019 success places them on a different scale with the other great teams in Pa.: Winchester Thurston, Jenkintown and Penns Valley,” coach Palma Ostrowski said.

“It’s sort of hard to know exactly where we are since they missed a track season and haven’t really had the opportunity to compete since last November at Hershey. As I remind the boys, they ran their perfect race last year to get their silver medals at states, and there are a lot of good teams looking to replace us on the podium. Nothing is guaranteed, so it is important to enjoy the process of competing and trying to become excellent again.”

The Riverview girls lost just one section race last year, and that came at the hands of undefeated section champion Knoch.

The Raiders went on to placed seventh at the WPIAL Class A championships with senior captain Ally Johnson finishing 37th individually (23:30) in the race at Cal (Pa.).

She was just eight spots and 25 seconds away from earning a berth to the PIAA championships.

Johnson is joined in the lineup by a group of three sophomore letterwinners in Olivia Wilton, Kylie Longstreth and Anna Smith.

Ostrowski also is looking for contributions from sophomore Sarah Sullivan and freshmen Audrey Myers, Gwyn Fichte and Jonisha Carlino.

“The girls have put in a nice summer of work, especially given the unusual circumstances of covid restrictions,” Ostrowski said,

“After making states in 2018 and falling a little short in 2019, this year is more of a rebuilding year, but we are hoping for steady improvement of a very young team.”

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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