Shaler cross country looking forward to new venue for WPIAL meet

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Sunday, October 18, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Shaler cross country coach Justin Eskra believes the WPIAL may have stumbled upon one positive during the uncertainty of the covid-19 pandemic.

Instead of heading down to Cal (Pa) for the district’s Class AAA championships, runners will compete at White Oak Park on Oct. 29. In what Eskra anticipates will be a fast race — as there will be fewer spots available for the PIAA Championships — he thinks spectators, coaches and athletes will all prefer the setup.

“It’s not the challenge with the huge incline hill that Cal has,” Eskra said. “Everyone likes the White Oak course better. It’s more spectator friendly.”

Also, some of the Titans’ potential state hopefuls have had some practice there. Tyler Paszkowski ran a new personal best time of 16 minutes, 28 seconds at the course on Oct. 7 during a fourth-place finish at the Bald Eagle Invitational. Ryan Paris also had a personal best, finishing in 16:53.

While the WPIAL recently had to move away from its traditional spot at Cooper’s Lake Campground in Slippery Rock, Eskra doesn’t want to see the race moving regularly.

The Titans typically open the season at the Red, White & Blue Invitational, which usually takes place at Schenley Park in Pittsburgh. This year, it was moved to White Oak.

“I think most coaches would prefer it to be in one spot, especially if they have a course they like and have a race strategy for,” Eskra said. “We’ll run three times this year at White Oak. The kids will have a good feel for where they can push during the race and where they’ll struggle.”

For the boys team, the Titans have dialed back their daily mileage since the season started.

On the girls side, Shaler has taken a different tact for preparing for WPIALs. State hopefuls Danielle Eshelman and Samantha Hennen have been keeping their mileage up throughout their training early in the season.

Eskra expects when they taper for WPIALs, they will see large drops in their times.

“Day in and day out, they are pushing themselves to see what their max is,” Eskra said. “They are running on tired legs, but that’s OK. At the end of the season, we want them to be 100% full recovered versus peaking too early.”

Shaler will want to make sure it has the right plan in place.

Only one full team, plus the top 10 individuals not a part of that team, will be heading to Hershey. Eskra is hoping to make another trip out east.

“It’s going to be tough on the girls side,” Eskra said. “North Allegheny, Seneca Valley and Pine-Richland are all really strong. I would imagine the individuals are all going to be pushing hard since only one team will go.”

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