Sweeping WPIAL cross country titles a ‘dream come true’ for North Allegheny runners

Thursday, November 1, 2018 | 7:39 PM

It goes without saying that sweeping the WPIAL Class AAA boys and girls championships is a major accomplishment for the North Allegheny cross country program.

But more then that, Tigers coach John Neff says it represents an important lesson that transcends sports, one that can be taught verbally but figures to be more profound when learned through the first-hand experience of earning a pair of first places in the team standings of a grueling competition like running.

“It was a dream-come-true kind of day. The thing I like to see is when the kids see the payoff from their hard work,” Neff said.

“Unfortunately, there can only be one champion and thousands of kids are there and they’ve been working hard all year, too. But I felt thankful for our kids. They got to see that what they do in June, July and August, and even many years prior to that, that there is a payoff for it all.”

On Oct. 25 at Cal (Pa.)’s Roadman Park, the NA girls scored 45 points as a team to take first place while the boys notched a score of 63 to take the title.

The result was the same for both teams, bringing a championship trophy home to North Allegheny. However, they arrived at their finish in different ways.

The boys were buoyed by junior Daniel McGoey, who put together an impressive time of 16 minutes, 1 second to take first place overall.

“Dan is as hard a worker as any kid that I’ve ever had. He’s got supreme talent, there’s no doubt about it, but he’s a really hard worker,” Neff said. “To see him work hard and be put into a situation where it’s anybody’s ballgame, and to see him take charge and win that race, I’m so happy for him.”

Behind McGoey, Zachary Kinne (16:50) took eighth place, Andrew Kollitz (17:00) earned 13th, Stephen Nalepa (17:09) finished 20th, and Ethan James (17:10) placed 21st to help the Tigers earn gold.

Conversely, the North Allegheny girls ran in a close pack and had five team members place in the top 13 to rack up its impressively low score and corresponding first-place finish.

First among the pack was Keeley Misutka (19:28), finishing sixth overall. Just behind was Caroline Daggert (19:28) in seventh, Rachel Hockenberry (19:44) placing ninth, Hannah Lindgren (19:46) finishing 10th and Ally Christy (19:55) earning 13th.

“There’s no doubt that was a really strong performance from the girls, but it wasn’t a fluke in any way, shape or form,” Neff said.

“Our workouts are just a mob of girls coming through really fast, all bunched tightly together, every rep. It’s a special thing to have that depth of talent on a team, as we have with the girls. Any one of those girls, on some other team’s we’ve had, would be our No. 1 runner. It’s something else to have them all here at the same time.”

The teams were scheduled to run one more time this season, in the PIAA Class AAA championships, which were held Saturday in Hershey, after deadline for this edition.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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