Runners of varying experience levels mix together on Norwin cross country teams

Saturday, September 18, 2021 | 11:01 AM

As experienced and trail tested as the girls cross country team is at Norwin, the boys team is just as inexperienced.

But this could have the makings of a nice yin and yang situation for coach Brian Fleckenstein and the Knights.

Fleckenstein doesn’t just see the boys blending into the herd during meets and going through the motions this season.

“I’m really proud of how the boys have stepped up this year,” Fleckenstein said. “We have had great leadership without a lot of returning varsity experience. Sometimes not having that experience can go a long way because you just go out and run and don’t get too cerebral. You just run with the other team.

“They have worked so hard and I’m excited to see the improvement from them as a team and as individuals as the year goes on.”

Junior Andres Breauchy is the only returnee with race experience, running in the fifth or sixth spot last fall. But sophomore Noah Wilson showed varsity-level skill as a freshman, and senior Luke Weyandt returns from injury after a strong sophomore season.

Senior Micah Gaydos also is expected to be a consistent top-five runner.

Newcomers to watch include seniors Oliver Hinson and Max Christopher, although neither has raced at the varsity level before.

A swimmer who came out for cross country, junior Jack Chaney also is a first-year runner who shows promise.

Fleckenstein also thinks freshman Enzo Jiancristoforo will be a key conributor.

As for the girls, the top seven runners return from last year, including junior Emma Jiancristoforo, sophomores Audra Fedor, Rosemary Gaydos and Avery Davis, junior Rebecca Testa, sophomore Julia Walko and senior Alexandra Walton.

Junior Anna Defazio also should be a top contributor and looked strong in the season-opening Marty Uher Invitational at Cal U, where the girls finished 10th and the boys 13th.

A potential top-five runner is freshman Carlie Goretzka, while freshman Anna Rakvic has been pushing to break the top seven, Fleckenstein said.

“We always preach the ‘strength of the wolf is the pack’ mentality,” the coach said. “And that is definitely our strength on the girls side. We are very deep and need to continue to progress to make that jump into the elite teams in WPIAL.”

Fleckenstein said many teams and leagues around the country have gone away from section meets in the sport. But the WPIAL still holds them, and he could not be happier about that fact.

“This is high school sports and there’s something to say about competing against that rival school head to head without an emphasis on time,” he said. “Running for your team and teammates is a life lesson that lasts a lot longer than any time on a course.”

Preseason training is a slow build in cross country, and coaches try to break up any monotony that can build up.

“We have really emphasized the long run this summer and will continue that through the fall,” Fleckenstein said. “Some of our runners have built up to a 90-minute run and over 10 miles.

“Cross country is largely aerobic, and that’s the main system we focus on throughout the season. The kids like going to the trail and so do I because I get to keep up with them on my bike and do my check-ins with every kid and group.”

Norwin also did what Fleckenstein called “destination runs,” that included runs at Schenley Park, kayaking, swimming and other activities.

“Anything we can do to promote exercise and getting outdoors is always a bonus,” Fleckenstein said.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at


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