Shaler Area’s Hennen, Kalbaugh gain experience at PIAA meet
Thursday, November 8, 2018 | 7:42 PM
Samantha Hennen and Dalton Kalbaugh didn’t bring back any medals from the PIAA Class AAA cross country championships.
What both gained is confidence and perspective. Despite it being the first trip for each runner, the Shaler Area duo was a little disappointed with how they performed.
But the collective experienced gained will be helpful for both runners, who will be back next season.
Kalbaugh, a junior, moved at a 5-minute, 32-second pace and finished 46th 17 minutes, 10 seconds.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Shaler coach Justin Eskra said. “The last kid we had was Caleb Blakely that made states and that was five or six years ago. He might have been caught up with the emotions of being there, but overall his performance was solid.”
Hennen, a freshman, placed 58th, ran at a 6:40 pace and finished in 21:40.
Eskra pointed out to Hennen her performance put her in good company. Eskra believed with how competitive the WPIAL was at the race — North Allegheny won the boys and girls state crowns — having a time in the top 100 was a solid benchmark.
Hennen didn’t think she would make states — or be the best runner on the team.
“Being a ninth grader, to get to the state meet and be one of the best is a huge accomplishment,” Eskra said. “When they tabulated the single, double and triple-a girls’ times together, she had the 14th best time at the course. She was inside the top 100 in single, double and triple-a. That is out of 685 girls.”
Eskra hopes Hennen — along with the other athletes returning — will allow the Titans to push for a higher team finish.
“We have everybody back except one senior,” Eskra said. “There’s a ton of talent that is going to be sophomores and juniors next year with experience to help out.”
Kalbaugh helped lead a turnaround for the Shaler boys program. The Titans finished 14th as a team at WPIALs and Eskra hopes to push for a top 10 finish next year.
“We finished 14th out of 35 teams,” Eskra said. “That was a goal, we are good enough to compete with teams that outrun us. The younger guys bought into that, and next year we’ll be a top 10 team.”
Shaler’s turnaround season comes to end
The Titans were able to get their football program moving back in the right direction. Shaler’s momentum got tripped up in a 37-0 road loss to West Allegheny in the opening round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs Nov. 2.
The No. 12-seeded Titans (4-7) were limited to 155 yards in their first playoff appearance in seven seasons.
Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.