Signal Item cross country preview: Young runners get chance to shine
Thursday, August 29, 2019 | 6:00 PM
Cross country season opens with many of the Carnegie-area teams looking to replace their top runners. The good news? Most of the teams were young last season and have plenty of experience coming back.
A look at the teams:
Coach Eric Shafer’s girls return most of their top seven from last season, including sophomore Erin LaQuatra, the Crusaders’ No. 1 runner from a year ago.
“I would like to see her qualify for the state championship,” Shafer said, “and I think she has a chance to do that.”
Juniors Lizzie Volz, Sarah Barron and Abby Sysak were Bishop Canevin’s two-through-four runners at last year’s WPIAL championship. They are joined by newcomers Emma Sysak, a freshman, and first-year junior Olivia Carney, who has track and field experience.
The boys team lost four seniors from its top seven, including No. 1 Dante DeFrank. Trey Varley, the team’s No. 2 last season, will slide into the top spot. Tony Cicchino and Matthias Hurst are the only other returning runners. Shafer’s team is rounded out by three first-year juniors: Adam Reyes, Jack Mickle and Sam Nicolella.
“Mostly, what we want to do is have those guys develop for next season,” Shafer said. “This is a building year for sure.”
The Cougars boys team will be looking to replace its two top runners: Desmond Corrado (injury) and Mark Phillips (soccer), both of whom made the PIAA meet last season.
Corrado, coach Scott Kemmler said, could return by October. Until then, his spot will be filled by first-year runner Michael Kozy, who placed second in a recent four-team scrimmage meet.
“In my mind, there is no question he will qualify for states,” Kemmler said.
Freshmen Chase Brandebura and Max Samangy are expected to be in the Cougars’ top five along with Aaron Anthony and Sebastian O’Leary.
The girls, meanwhile, return all but one runner from their top seven. Kemmler is particularly high on sophomores Brooklyn Prepelka and Gwen Kalimon, his Nos. 1-2 runners of a year ago.
Also back are sophomore Ellie Exler, junior Martial Delrosario and seniors Maggie Reigle and Jane Grabowski.
The girls team might battle numbers issues during some meets, as five players split time with the soccer team.
The boys and girls teams lost PIAA qualifying runners Elias Zajicek and Kiki Thornton, respectively. On the girls side, right behind Thornton last season were three sophomores who return: Alyssa Dunn, Grace Struna and Kate Pipilo.
Coach Lori Poe expects returners Abby Betts and Grace Magilson to improve, and Thornton’s younger sister, Riley, a junior, joined the team for the first time.
“The girls are really close friends,” Poe said. “It’s about running for each other, not just about individuals.”
In recent seasons, the boys team has had a succession of state-caliber runners: Joe Westrick, Czar Tarr and Zajicek. Poe, who also coaches the boys team, doesn’t see someone like that emerging this season — yet — but likes the team’s depth.
“I think we have a nice pack of runners,” she said, “but I don’t know if there’s going to be a breakout who will be in the top 25 (of the WPIAL).”
Senior Henry Anderson and junior Isaac Vance will battle for the Colts’ top spot. Sophomore Ethan Snyder and senior Austin Krieger were among the team’s top seven last year, and Poe is expecting a big jump from Frank Kuna.
She also has a promising first-year senior, Zach Byrd, whom she said can challenge for a top-three spot on the team.
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