WPIAL runners sweep 3,200-meter races at PIAA championships

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Saturday, May 28, 2022 | 5:40 PM


SHIPPENSBURG — Eden Christian’s Sean Aiken attempted the 3,200 meters for the first time a couple of months ago, and he really didn’t like running nearly two miles.

“I personally don’t enjoy the two-mile,” he said. “I don’t know how many guys actually do, but it definitely had to grow on me.”

Fast forward to Saturday, and the junior had a gold medal around his neck for winning the 3,200 meters at the state championship. A week after winning the WPIAL title, Aiken added the state title with a 9-minute, 13-second effort in the PIAA Class 2A meet at Shippensburg University.

“It’s starting to set in a little bit,” Aiken said. “(Winning a state title) has been a dream for awhile, so it’s pretty cool to finally accomplish that.”

His victory, which was maybe the most unexpected of the four, helped the WPIAL sweep the 3,200-meter races Saturday morning at Seth Grove Stadium.

Moon’s Mia Cochran won the 3A girls race, Brownsville’s Jolena Quarzo won 2A girls and Butler’s C.J. Singleton won 3A boys. Cochran and Quarzo each set a PIAA championship record.

Aiken set no records, but his winning time was nearly 14 seconds faster than his previous best. But, consider, he has run the 3,200 only a handful of times.

Aiken’s preferred distance is the 1,600, and he finished fifth in the state in that event Friday. He first tried the 3,200 at the urging of others.

“My coaches and my family thought I was more of an aerobic guy,” Aiken said. “So, I decided to try it out and see what I can do. At first it was more to just get the school record. After having a little bit of success, I decided to stick with it.”

He’s now had more than “a little” success.

Aiken defeated runner-up Logan Strawse of Juniata Valley by about a second in Saturday’s 3,200 race. Riverside’s Ty Fluhart was third.

Aiken trailed for much of the race, and he didn’t take the lead until there were around 400 meters left.

“My plan was to just stick right in there and let the other guys dictate the pace a little bit,” he said, “and then wait for around two to three laps to go to start racing. I felt like it played out pretty well.”

Class 2A girls

Brownsville junior Jolena Quarzo must like running early in the morning.

For the second consecutive day, Quarzo ran the first race on the schedule, and again she was the first to cross the finish line.

A day after winning a gold medal in the 1,600-meter run, Quarzo had a record-setting performance in winning the Class 2A 3,200-meter run in 10 minutes, 19.41 seconds, breaking her sister Gionna’s mark of 10:25.91.

Quarzo set the pace early in the race and gradually pulled away from the pack. She actually lapped one runner three times and numerous other runners once.

“I didn’t even know that I lapped someone three times,” Quarzo said. “I just knew when I was at 5:06 through the first mile I had a chance. Then I heard the announcer tell the fans to encourage me through the final four laps. That was neat.

“I was pretty tired, but I said ‘keep it at a good pace because you’re so close to the record and just keep going.’ I was definitely going for the record.”

Quarzo won the 1,600 on Friday for the first time. This is the second time she’s won the 3,200 at the state meet, joining her sister. The Quarzos have won the last four 3,200-meter run gold medals.

“I talked to my sister on Friday and she told me she wanted me to get the record,” Quarzo said. “She told me that I had already run a 10:27, that it shouldn’t be a problem for me. Just go out confident and set a good pace and you should get it.”

Quarzo said after she got through the mile, she felt confident she could get the record.

“I started feeling it after I hit the mile,” Quarzo said. “I want to get between a 5:05 and a 5:10, so when I hit it and was told I got a 5:05, so I said this is good and keep it good. The first mile was fast, so I could back off.”

She said she never expected to run a 10:19.

Class 3A boys

Butler’s C.J. Singleton was excited to win a state cross country title last fall on a tree-lined course in Hershey, but said that couldn’t compare to his Saturday in Shippensburg.

“We’ve got probably 1,000 people here,” he said of the Butler fans at Seth Grove Stadium. “It feels like a basketball game. They’re all cheering as you come down that final stretch. It’s really cool.”

The senior surely heard them as he neared the finish line for the 3,200-meter run in 8 minutes, 57 seconds, earning his first PIAA track medal. He won by nearly five seconds over runner-up Rory Lieberm of Danville.

Singleton had finished second in the 1,600 meters on Friday.

“I’ve been chasing it for awhile,” he said of the gold medal hanging around his neck. “I wanted it last year and didn’t get it. I finally got one.”

The Notre Dame recruit took the lead immediately, but also stayed patient and avoided any tactical mistakes.

“I just wanted to sit as long as I could,” he said. “I was probably supposed to win this, but you know anything can happen at these state championships. I tried to sit. I didn’t want to beat myself, so I didn’t start to go until like a mile in.”

His performance helped Butler win the team title for Class 3A boys.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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