Riverview runners return to Hershey with team trophies in their sights

Thursday, November 2, 2023 | 5:21 PM

The Riverview boys and girls cross country teams both ran at the PIAA Class A championships last year.

They hoped to do it again this year.

Mission accomplished.

The Raiders boys squad, led by an 11th-place finish from junior Chris Barnes, won its second WPIAL title in three seasons last Thursday at White Oak Park and head to states Saturday in Hershey with the goal of earning a fourth top-five finish since 2019.

“At last year’s state meet, the WPIAL placed all four of its qualifiers in the top six,” Riverview coach Palma Ostrowski said. “A similar scenario could emerge this year as the WPIAL once again has four of the top six ranked teams (Riverview, Eden Christian, Ellwood City, Winchester Thurston).”

“We will try to avoid the inversion which happened at last year’s meet when WPIAL champion OLSH finished sixth and behind all the WPIAL qualifiers that it had beaten the week before.”

The Riverview girls, fronted by junior Lily Bauer’s 12th-place finish in 20 minutes, 48 seconds, her first WPIAL individual medal, raced to second overall at WPIALs. It is the team’s second straight trip to states and first WPIAL team trophy since 2006.

“After a third-place finish at WPIALs in 2022, the Raider girls finished 17th at the PIAA meet,” Ostrowski said. “This year’s silver finish at WPIALs suggests they could improve on that. Last year, we were big underdogs at WPIALs and were essentially just happy to make it to Hershey, and we ran like it. This year, we were able to realistically plan for WPIALs as if we might make it to states. We were much closer to winning WPIALs, so that traditionally means you can be competitive in Hershey.

Junior Lily Hood and freshman Hannah Hudack have some business to attend to before they can run in the top seven Saturday morning at Hershey.

Both are members of the Riverview girls soccer team that will be playing Friday at Highmark Stadium against Freedom with the WPIAL Class A championship on the line.

Freshmen Juliette Brun and Cate Hoolihan also are double-sport participants with soccer and cross country. They also will be in Hershey on Saturday.

“All four dual-sport athletes are a delight, and each worked hard all summer and fall with both teams,” Ostrowski said. “They have each earned the right to be part of these two similar journeys. Being in the elite of the WPIAL in any sport is hard, as District 7 is so deep. High school athletics should, at least in part, be about challenging yourself and creating memorable experiences. These girls will certainly have the opportunity to do that this weekend.”

Hood won the crucial tiebreaker to give Riverview the edge over Winchester Thurston in the standings and allow them to lift the runner-up trophy. She finished 57th overall in a time of 23:36.

The Class A girls race and team standings at WPIALs were very close with the top five teams separated by 11 points.

Mohawk won the title with 127 points, just one point ahead of Riverview and Winchester Thurston.

Burrell senior Grace Nesko will run at states for a second time after placing seventh in the Class 2A race at WPIALs (19:34.8). She ran in Hershey as a sophomore and took 78th.

Injuries took almost her entire cross country season last fall, so she is grateful for the opportunity to cap her career with one final run on the state’s biggest stage.

“I am excited to go down there again with the chance to improve on my time from two years ago (21:22.8),” Nesko said.

Nesko potentially faced a tough decision earlier in the week. She also is on the girls soccer team, and the Bucs played Tuesday in the semifinals. The championship game is Saturday at Highmark, the same time as the Class 2A race in Hershey.

But with Burrell’s 3-0 loss to Shady Side Academy, that decision was rendered moot.

“It would’ve been great to run at Hershey and also play for a WPIAL title in soccer, but I am just grateful to have had the success I’ve had in both sports this fall,” she said.

Nesko had a chance to make states in soccer, too, as the Bucs took on South Park on Thursday night in the Class 2A third-place game at Gateway.

The Alle-Kiski Valley will be well represented overall at states as there is a mix of runners with past PIAA experience and newcomers ready to test themselves.

Kiski Area senior Eliza Miller returns to states for one final high school race. She took 11th in the Class 3A race at Hershey in 2022 and was fourth at WPIALs (18:04.0) last week.

Others returning to states include Miller’s Cavaliers teammates, sophomore Sam Plazio and senior Paul Roberts (boys 2A), as well as Freeport junior Michael Braun (boys 2A) and Fox Chapel senior Rowan Gwin (boys 3A).

Making their individual PIAA championship debuts are Apollo-Ridge senior Sienna Jackson (girls A) and sophomore Breydon Orvosh (boys A), Knoch senior Ava Santora (girls 2A), Kiski Area junior Justin Gross (boys 2A), Fox Chapel junior David Black (boys 3A) and Plum senior Gabriel Powell (3A boys).

PIAA Cross Country Championships

When: Saturday

Where: Parkview Cross Country Course, Hershey

Class A girls: 9:30 a.m.

Class 2A girls: 10:15 a.m.

Class 3A girls: 11 a.m.

Class A boys: 11:45 a.m.

Class 2A boys: 12:30 p.m.

Class 3A boys: 1:15 p.m.

Team trophies: 1st and 2nd in each boys and girls classification

Medals: Members of top two teams in each classification and top 25 individual finishers

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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