Top 10 A-K Valley sports moments of 2019

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Monday, December 30, 2019 | 6:11 PM


As the sun sets on another year in local sports, it’s time to look back on the best stories of 2019 in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

There were championship streaks, returns to glory and records broken. The final year in the second decade of the 2000s featured comeback victories, long playoff runs and success that reached beyond the high school level.

They say hindsight is 2020, but here are the top 10 local sports stories of 2019.

Establishing a dynasty

The Burrell and Kiski Area wrestling teams were the picture of dominance in 2019.

The Bucs won their 13th consecutive WPIAL Class AA team wrestling championship when they defeated Freedom, 54-21, at Chartiers-Houston in February. The streak started in 2007, and through several coaching changes, the Bucs have found themselves atop the WPIAL podium ever since. Current coach Josh Shields has won six of the 13 titles.

Kiski Area, meanwhile, won its third straight WPIAL Class AAA crown with a 49-17 victory over Seneca Valley. The Cavaliers also placed third at the state tournament.

Breakthrough season

The Fox Chapel boys golf team had been on the brink of capturing a WPIAL team title and had finished second three out of the past four years, including losing by a stroke to Central Catholic in 2016.

This year was different, as the Foxes captured their first WPIAL Class AAA team title since 2006 when they earned a 12-stroke win over Upper St. Clair. The Foxes went on to win the first PIAA title in school history and set a new state team scoring record with a total of 284.

Senior Scott Bitar became the third Fox Chapel golfer since 2014 to win a WPIAL Class AAA individual title.

Queens of the court

No team in the WPIAL was able to prevent the senior-laden Freeport and Knoch girls volleyball squads from adding to their trophy cases.

After dropping the first game of their postseason opener, the Knights won 12 straight games and finished it off with a sweep of Thomas Jefferson in the AAA title match to win their third straight WPIAL crown.

Freeport rallied from 2-0 deficits in both the semifinals (Frazier) and finals (North Catholic) to win its fifth WPIAL title since 2010.

Knoch seniors Skylar Burkett, Kennedy Christy and Hannah Rowe and Freeport seniors Madeline Clark, Mackensey Jack and Lauren Lampus were named all-state.

Power in the pool

Zoe Skirboll wasn’t phased by the moment at the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA swimming championships last February and March. In her inaugural high school season, the Fox Chapel freshman won gold at both.

She first raced to victory in the 100-yard breaststroke at WPIALs in a record-setting time of 1:00.96.

At states, Skirboll went under two minutes in the finals of the 200-individual medley (1:58.75). It was the first state title for a WPIAL competitor in the girls Class AAA 200 IM since Mt. Lebanon’s Kaitlyn Orstein in 2004.

Skirboll shared championships honors at WPIALs with Deer Lakes’ Adam Morrison, who claimed his first title in the boys Class AA 500 freestyle (4:40.05).

Cashing in on his shot

Knoch graduate Jordan Geist continued to make his mark in the shot put at national and international events. The highlight for the University of Arizona junior standout came in August, when he captured a silver medal at the Pan American Games.

Geist was in fourth place after the first two throws of the finals, but he rose to the occasion and let go a throw of 20.67 meters (67 feet, 8 inches) in his final attempt to claim the runner-up spot.

Geist’s accomplishments in 2019 also included a third at the NCAA championships in May and a gold medal at the North America, Central America and Caribbean Under-23 Championships.

Atop the record books

With a career total of 4,752 yards, Deer Lakes’ Aris Hasley became the all-time leading passer in Alle-Kiski Valley football history. He surpassed the mark of 4,083 yards set by Highlands’ Seth Cohen. The 5-foot-10 signal-caller finished his senior season with 2,368 passing yards and 24 touchdowns.

All alone

In the spring, Fox Chapel’s Robby Shymansky captured a PIAA Class AAA singles title with a three-set win over Great Valley’s Sameer Gangoli in the PIAA championships. He also won a WPIAL title, defeating Allderdice’s David Missry in the finals in straight sets.

For the third straight year, Knoch’s Laura Greb captured the WPIAL Class AA singles title. Greb bested teammate Brooke Bauer in the finals.

After a year away from high school tennis, Fox Chapel’s Charlotte James returned to her high school team and captured her first WPIAL Class AAA singles title. She won PIAA doubles titles as a freshman and sophomore.

A photo finish

A Burrell Bucs 400 relay team of Jocelyn Vickers, Allee Kuhns, Madi Walsh and Olivia Kelly first won WPIAL gold at Slippery Rock, then traveled to Shippensburg and clocked a time of 48.99 seconds – which bested Burrell’s school record of 49.22 — and beat Philadelphia’s Paul Robeson High by one-tenth of a second to capture the state title.

The Bucs were also the only WPIAL relay team to win gold at the state meet.

Reigning at the rock

Deer Lakes’ Kiera Cutright claimed her second straight WPIAL Class AA girls 300-meter hurdles championship with a win in 45.29 seconds at Slippery Rock.

The victory by Cutright, now a member of the track team at Point Park, was one of four individual gold medals won by Alle-Kiski Valley athletes at the meet.

Burrell graduate Kaylen Sharrow, now a freshman at Clarion, bested the field in the Class AA girls 100 hurdles (15.45), while Josh Yourish, now a freshman at Division I George Mason, brought home the title in the Class AA boys 800 run (1:58.28).

In boys Class AAA, Plum’s Hunter Linhart won the discus championship with a top throw of 147-6. He now is a member of the football team at Westminster.

One shining moment

The Lancers made a school-record run through the PIAA Class 3A boys basketball playoffs, and it included the first two state playoff victories in program history.

Deer Lakes (18-8) defeated Brookville in overtime in the first round and Forest Hills in the second round. The Lancers saw their season end with a loss to District 10 champion Sharon. It was their first trip to states since 1985.

Honorable mention

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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