Riverview track and field athletes aim to maintain section success
Saturday, April 3, 2021 | 11:01 AM
After being denied an opportunity to compete and defend section championships last spring, members of the Riverview boys and girls track and field teams got back to competition March 27 at the Altoona Igloo Invitational.
It was the first glimpse of what Riverview coach Dave Illnicki hopes are productive seasons.
Riverview athletes, he said, are eyeing top finishes right from the start, and that continued last Tuesday with a nonsection dual-meet sweep of Aquinas Academy at Riverside Park.
Among their several goals this season is to earn times, heights and distances that are among the top 16 in their events for qualification to the WPIAL Class AA championships May 20 at Slippery Rock.
The teams will have opportunities to hit those qualifying marks in Section 4-AA matchups against Clairton, East Allegheny, Neighborhood Academy, Shady Side Academy, South Allegheny, Springdale and Trinity Christian.
Riverview’s boys team finished section competition undefeated in 2018 and 2019 to earn back-to-back section crowns.
Illnicki feels the talent is there in a number of events to make a run to a third straight title.
“The boys team is looking forward to a solid year,” Illnicki said. “Missing last year hurt, but they are excited to build upon what the kids from the recent past had done.”
Coming off the success of the cross country team in the fall, Illnicki said the distance team is expected to be a main unit of success.
Senior captain Mason Ochs earned medals in the 1,600-meter run (seventh) and 3,200 run (sixth) at WPIALs two years ago, and the 3,200 relay, with Ochs, juniors Lucas Wilton and Parker Steele in the mix, placed sixth at the 2019 championships.
Those three were joined by junior Ty Laughlin and sophomore Amberson Bauer at the Igloo Invitational. Ochs (second) and Steele (sixth) medalled in the 3,200 run as did the 3,200 relay (fifth).
Senior Gideon Deasy has shown past success in middle distance and distance events, including a sixth in the 800 at WPIALs in 2019. But because of an ankle injury that affected him in cross country and basketball, he is putting his talents to use elsewhere this spring, most notably in the pole vault, the javelin and the long, triple and high jumps.
“He’s excited to try something different, something out of his comfort zone,” Illnicki said. “I think he’s enjoying the challenge, and he wants to help the team win however he can.
Sophomore John Patsey, also a starter on the baseball team, is hoping to make a name for himself in the hurdles and has shown success in his early attempts, including a seventh-place medal in the 300 hurdles at the Igloo Invite.
Illnicki said junior Micah Black, a key member of the basketball team, will compete in the sprints, while senior Matt Frazier, a team captain with Ochs, is expected to earn key team points in the throws.
Others on the track hoping to make an impact include sophomore Jack Betler and freshmen Cohen Hoolihan and Spencer Myers. They were a part of first-place finishes against Aquinas.
The Riverview girls team joined their boys counterparts in winning a section title in 2019, and current seniors Victoria Dietrichs and Alexis Sykes were in the mix in the 3,200 relay which placed 12th at WPIALs at Slippery Rock.
Dietrich showed that she should be a factor this spring as she raced to sixth overall in the 400 (1:05.67) at the Igloo Invitational.
“She is performing at a high level early in the season, and it will be exciting to see her develop and see what she can do this year,” Illnicki said.
Dietrich is one of five girls team captains with fellow seniors Alyse Johnson (distance), Lizza Novikova (jumps, pole vault), Sydney Wilson (sprints) and Katie Zatawski (shot, discus, long jump).
Illnicki said the eight-member senior class overall has shown strong leadership as the team returns to competition after missing last year.
Dietrich also helped the 1,600 relay, along with Sykes, junior Gracie Flanick and sophomore Maci Orbin, place sixth (4:42.53) at the Igloo Invite.
Junior Gracie McShea also kicked off her season in the 300 hurdles at the Igloo Invite, and she won both hurdles events against Aquinas. She also runs the 400 relay and is a pole vaulter.
Sophomores Olivia Wilton and Sarah Sullivan, Illnicki said, are helping Johnson anchor the distance. Those three, along with freshman Audrey Myers, won the 3,200 relay against Aquinas.
Also claiming wins against Aquinas were freshmen Lola Abraham (100 dash, long jump, triple jump, 400 relay) and Gwyneth Fichte (800 run), and sophomores Taylor Billet (discus, javelin) and Alexandria Bibza (shot put).
“There is a nice mix of experienced kids and those younger ones who are really showing great promise early in the season,” Illnicki said.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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