Varley, LaQuatra, Kozy follow siblings’ lead to PIAA cross country championships

Thursday, October 31, 2019 | 9:11 PM

When it comes to playing sports, a younger sibling usually follows in the footsteps of the older. Bishop Canevin sophomore Trey Varley took the opposite route.

His brother, Dominic, two years younger, started running cross country in third grade. Trey said he wasn’t even aware cross country was a sport, but his brother seemed to be enjoying it, so when Trey got to sixth grade, he gave it a try.

Four years later, Varley is a PIAA qualifier.

Varley finished 26th in the WPIAL Class A race Oct. 24 at Cal (Pa.) to earn a spot in the PIAA meet. He finished in 18 minutes, 33 seconds and became the first sophomore boy from Bishop Canevin to qualify for the state cross country meet.

He joined classmate Erin LaQuatra and Carlynton’s Michael Kozy on Saturday in Hershey.

“I didn’t feel like it was my best, but I definitely felt good (at WPIALs),” Varley said. “I knew the whole time I was on the edge (of qualifying), but it wasn’t until I finished that I realized I was definitely in.”

Varley also earned a second piece of school history. Fellow sophomore LaQuatra qualified in girls Class A, marking the first time Bishop Canevin has qualified a boy and a girl for states in the same season.

LaQuatra took the more traditional route: Her older sisters, Elise and Elena, were top runners at Chartiers Valley.

“Whenever they were in high school and I was in grade school, I used to run with them all the time,” she said.

Erin earned family bragging rights as neither of her sisters qualified for states. Elise missed by one place as a junior, and Erin had a close call at the WPIAL meet.

North Catholic, which finished third, had the Nos. 2, 3 and 10 finishers. But, coach Eric Shafer said, there was some question as to whether the Trojans would qualify as a team. If not, their runners who placed in the top 10 would have taken three PIAA individual qualifying spots — the top 20 finishers not on the four qualifying teams made states — and LaQuatra likely would have missed out.

She made it safely (22:53), four spots above the cutoff, thanks to a strong finish. With one mile to go, she was in 33rd place but surged past eight runners to place 25th.

“This race was by far the best finish she has ever had,” Shafer said. “She hasn’t always been a strong finisher. For her to move up eight positions like that shows her maturity as a runner.”

Kozy, too, took a cue from an older sibling, his sister Katie, a standout multisport athlete for the Cougars. This is Kozy’s first year of cross country, and he said he came out for one reason: to make states.

“We saw steady progress all season as he ran in the bigger races,” coach Scott Kemmler said. “He was always finding himself on the awards podium. To this day, he is not a great runner per se. He’s just a great athlete who has a mentality to push through.”

Kozy placed 18th in the boys Class A race at 18:16. His starts remain a work in progress, but, Kemmler said, he has the strength to run consistently and not fade during miles two and three.

“The invitationals helped me a lot,” Kozy said. “Especially the Red, White & Blue. There were a lot of teams there. The WPIALs is a different environment, but I didn’t feel intimidated.”

Kemmler said he expects Kozy to take another step forward next season when teammate Desmond Corrado returns from hip surgery. With Corrado pushing Kozy, and vice versa, Kemmler could have a pair of Cougars in Hershey next season.

Varley could have company, too. Dominic will join the varsity next season.

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