Top runners on Penn Hills cross country team set for competitive season

Saturday, August 20, 2022 | 8:38 PM

Austin Stuchul and Sawyer Kinney went east to make improvements for the Penn Hills cross country team this fall.

Attending a cross country camp at Shippensburg University provided both runners with a tremendous amount of perspective. When the team practices started for the fall, Indians coach Lee Zelkowitz saw the improvement right away.

Being at the camp allowed them to get a few runs in per day and meet a variety of people.

“I’ve had kids go to the camp before,” Zelkowitz said. “It’s a good supplement to our training. It’s set up on a college campus, which is nice. There are a lot of trails around there. It’s a nice environment. They were able to meet kids from other teams and get perspectives from other coaches.”

Stuchul, a senior, led the Indians at the WPIAL Class 3A championships last season, placing 79th with a time of 19 minutes, 27.30 seconds. Kinney was Penn Hills’ second finisher, coming in 113th with a time of 20:03.10.

Zelkowitz said he expects junior Owen Templer to be able to keep up with Stuchul and Kinney.

“I’ve seen tremendous improvement,” Zelkowitz said. “We just had a time trial (Aug. 16), and they are way ahead of where they were last year. Austin is a team captain, and he loves the sport. He loves cross country and track and is improving every year.”

Penn Hills will have eight to nine runners for the boys team this season. The Indians won’t have enough girls to compete in dual meets. Penn Hills has only three girls out for the team.

The Indians are in Section 4-3A with Armstrong, Fox Chapel, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Kiski Area, Plum and Woodland Hills.

Zelkowitz said assistant coach Ryan Donnelly has made a major impact in getting kids into the program from the middle school level.

Penn Hills is hoping to continue to grow the program.

With what the Indians have now, Zelkowitz believes some of his top runners can have competitive races at the WPIAL level this season.

“Austin and Sawyer can compete,” Zelkowitz said. “We want to see them get in the mix with the better guys in the WPIAL and compete this year. Owen has stepped up and impressed with his training and has improved by leaps and bounds.”

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