WPIAL cross country championships to feature numerous changes

Tuesday, October 27, 2020 | 6:26 PM

One thing is for certain this fall in high school sports: Things are a lot different because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That includes the WPIAL cross country championships Wednesday and Thursday. Yes, that’s the first change for this year’s meet. It will be held over two days rather than the typical one.

The site also is new. Cal (Pa.) could not host the event, meaning the WPIAL had to move it to White Oak Park in eastern Allegheny County.

There also are changes to how the event will be run.

Each classification will have two heats each for the boys and girls. The presumed fast heat of the race (both boys and girls), determined by the WPIAL cross country committee, will go first.

The committee tried to put both the boys and girls teams together so once their races have completed, the runners will leave the park and allow schools in the second heat to enter and race their heat.

Sound confusing? It’s actually less complicated than it sounds.

“Other than being a loop course, which I don’t prefer, I like White Oak,” WPIAL cross country committee member Tom Norris said. “They’ve done a nice job here, and they’ve acted on many of my recommendations. They’ve done a fantastic job here.”

While the Cal (Pa.) course features a big hill similar to the PIAA championship course in Hershey, White Oak has a steep hill runners must run twice during the race.

“I like the course,” North Allegheny senior Keeley Misutka said. “Running the Tri-State Coaches race gives us a chance to look at the WPIAL course. I’m pumped about my time.”

Belle Vernon senior Grace Henderson has placed three times in the WPIAL Class AA race. She likes the new course because there are fewer hills.

“This course is much faster than California,” Henderson said. “I like it better because of the way it runs. The huge hill in the middle at California burns your legs out for the second half of the race. The times at WPIALs will definitely be faster.”

Henderson won the Tri-State Class AA title last week in 19:20.29. Shenango’s Carmen Medvit (19:18.5) won the Class A title, and North Allegheny’s Misutka (18:13.33) won Class AAA.

Butler’s C.J. Singleton (15:41.43), Ringgold’s Ryan Pajak (16.11.30) and Winchester Thurston’s Patrick Malone (16:34.16) won the boys races.

Greensburg Salem expects to be in contention in the Class AA boys race behind Quintin Gatons, Ethan Kelley and Charles Johnson, who all finished in the top 10 at Tri-State. The Golden Lions girls, led by Natalie DiCriscio, also should contend, along with Knoch, which won the state title last season.

Carson McCoy, a junior from Deer Lakes, finished third in the Class AA boys race at the Bald Eagle Invite at White Oak Park on Oct. 2. Ringgold won the Class AA girls and boys races at Tri-State.

Riverview and Winchester Thurston were 1-2 in the Tri-State Class A boys race and should also battle at WPIALs. Mason Ochs, the WPIAL runner-up a year ago, leads the Raiders.

North Allegheny swept the boys and girls Class AAA races at Tri-State. Scott Nalepa, Gregory Kossuth and Jackson Hickel lead the NA boys. Misutka and Eva Kynaston pace the NA girls.

The meet begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday, when the first heat of the Class AA boys event will be run, followed by the fast heat of the Class AA girls. Those schools involved will leave the park to allow the second heat of the Class AA boys to race at 11 a.m., followed by the second heat of the Class AA girls at 11:45 a.m.

The times of all four races will be entered into a computer to determine the placewinners.

Class A boys and girls follow in the afternoon. The fast heat of the boys is 1:30 p.m. and the girls at 2:15 p.m. The other heats follow at 3:30 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.

The Class AAA teams compete Thursday afternoon with the boys fast heat at 1 p.m. and the girls fast heat at 1:45 p.m. The other heats are at 3 and 3:45 p.m.

The other change is the number of entries each district receives to advance to the PIAA meet Nov. 7 at the Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey.

Each class gets one full team. In Class AAA, the top 10 individuals who are not part of the winning team will advance. In Class AA and A, only seven individuals advance.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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