Top A-K Valley squads chase WPIAL team track titles

Wednesday, May 3, 2023 | 6:24 PM

Rain and cold temperatures at the start of May prompted the WPIAL to make changes to the schedule of the Class 3A and Class 2A track and field team championships.

The postponements could lead to better performances.

Originally set for Tuesday, the meets now will be Thursday, and several Alle-Kiski Valley teams will be in action.

Taking part are the Burrell girls, the Riverview boys, the Apollo-Ridge boys and both teams from Kiski Area and Knoch.

“The move was a positive thing for the girls,” Burrell coach Steve White said. “You are looking for peak performances, and with these meets and a lot on the line, you want the best conditions as possible. Running in wet and cold conditions is challenging. We were really happy the WPIAL made the change.”

Burrell finished second in Section 4-2A to Knoch at 6-1. The Bucs, a regular competitor in the WPIAL team playoffs, last made the team finals in 2018 when they finished runner-up to Shenango.

Burrell won it all in 2017.

The Bucs will face host West Mifflin, California, Quaker Valley and McGuffey. Quaker Valley is the defending WPIAL team champ.

“It definitely will be a challenge,” White said. “Small but mighty has been our theme. We’ll be ready to compete. We’re going to battle the best we can and let the cards lay out as they are.”

White said the team gained a lot of momentum from positive finishes at the Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association meet at Latrobe. The Bucs brought home eight top-eight finishes, led by a fourth in the 1,600-meter run from senior Kadi Bauer.

Each of the two boys and girls classifications will conduct four semifinal meets, and the winner of each of those meets will gather Tuesday at Peters Township (Class 2A) and West Mifflin (Class 3A) to determine WPIAL team champions.

The weather forecast is more favorable to hold the semifinals Thursday as it calls for cloudy skies, temperatures in the upper 50s and only a slight chance of a shower.

The Apollo-Ridge boys finished undefeated (7-0) in Section 4-2A and edged Knoch for the title. It is the Vikings’ first section title since 2014. They will compete in the team playoffs for the first time since 2019.

Apollo-Ridge will travel to Greensburg Central Catholic to take on Mohawk, East Allegheny and the host Centurions. GCC qualified for the 2022 finals.

The Vikings competed at the Indiana County Invitational last Saturday. Senior Jacob Mull had a big day with a first in the 200 dash and a second in the 100 dash. Fellow senior Darek Baustert placed first in the long jump, second in the high jump and third in the 100 dash.

“The guys were ready to go and in the right frame of mind to compete (Tuesday), but they’ll be happy that the temperatures will be around 15 degrees warmer,” coach Bob Desiderato said. “I think it will make for better results. The guys have been resilient, and they will be ready to perform.”

Kiski Area made a clean sweep of Section 4-3A as the boys and girls teams won titles with 5-0 records.

The change from Tuesday to Thursday, coach Tom Berzonsky said, created some conflicts with some athletes possibly not being able to compete.

Berzonsky said that discussion at practice Tuesday yielded a desire from the teams to still compete. The boys will take on Mt. Lebanon, Moon and Belle Vernon at Canon-McMillan, while the girls will also be at Canon-McMillan against the host Big Macs and Mt. Lebanon.

“The change was something out of our control,” Berzonsky said. “We, as a coaching staff, will control what we can control. I know the kids competing Thursday will be ready to do the best they can.”

Kiski Area athletes also will compete Friday at the annual Baldwin Invitational.

This is the sixth year in a row that both the Cavaliers boys and girls teams qualified for the WPIAL team playoffs. The Kiski boys are in the playoffs for the seventh straight year.

The Riverview boys continue their recent run of consistency.

The Raiders, who finished 7-1 and a close second to Quaker Valley in Section 3-2A, are in the playoffs for the eighth year in a row.

Riverview will make the long trip north to Shenango in Lawrence County to face the host Wildcats, as well as Hopewell and Knoch.

Shenango and Hopewell both finished as undefeated section champions. The Wildcats captured the 2022 WPIAL title, defeating GCC, South Park and Riverside.

Riverside saw its four-year WPIAL-win streak snapped.

Riverview was well represented on the medal stand at the City of Hermitage Invitational on Saturday.

The Raiders brought home seven top-eight medals led by John Patsey’s bronze in the 300 hurdles and an additional third from the 1,600 relay of Patsey, Jack Betler, Micah Ivy and Alex Schultheis.

“With so much going on at this time of the school year, changing on such short notice does present challenges,” Riverview coach Dave Illnicki said. “I am really excited for the team and the challenge of going up to Shenango and facing two section champs and a traditional power down from Class 3A in Knoch.

“We have a very young team, and our learning curve is steep. But we are getting better each week. I know we will show up and perform.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at

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