WPIAL shines at PIAA cross country event with 4 champions

Saturday, November 4, 2023 | 9:17 PM

Cross Country is alive and well in the WPIAL.

It was a golden day as four of the six PIAA individual champions and two teams brought back titles from Hershey on Saturday.

The individual champions were: Butler senior Drew Griffith (3A boys), Ringgold senior Ryan Pajak (2A boys), Mohawk junior Jaxon Schoedel (A boys) and Mt. Lebanon senior Logan St. John Kletter.

The team winners were the North Allegheny girls (3A) and Hampton boys (2A). The Riverview boys (A) finished second.

“It was good to see the teams from the WPIAL have success here,” North Allegheny coach John Neff said.

Griffith, who owns the state record, became the third Butler boy to win a state title. He joins C.J. Singleton (2021) and Howard Hammonds (1961) as Golden Tornado champions.

His winning time was 15 minutes, 23 seconds. Lower Merion sophomore Nicholas Mazzeo was second (15:44) followed by North Allegheny junior Jack Bartram (15:50). Griffith had been battling a cold during the WPIAL championship.

“I felt fine,” Griffith said. “It’s an amazing feeling to win a state title. I led from the start and pretty much controlled the pace. It was a dream come true.

“Butler has such a good tradition, and it’s nice to be honored with the other great runners.”

Griffith and St. John Kletter celebrated at Hersheypark after the race.

The top 25 finishers in each classification received medals. Also earning medals were Fox Chapel senior Rown Gwin, who placed 16th, and Butler senior Owen Dressler, who placed 22nd.

Council Rock North was the Class 3A boys team winner, edging La Salle College, 134-136. North Allegheny, the WPIAL champion, finished sixth with 185 points.

“It was a great race,” Neff said. “The top six teams were within 50 points each other. It was a really tight race.”

Pajak is the second Ringgold runner to earn a gold medal. He joined 1973 champion Mel Boyd.

His winning time was course record 15:21. Placing second was Lampeter-Strasburg senior Colin Whitaker (15:37). Elizabeth Forward senior Patrick Burgos was third (16:02), and Hampton senior Dale Hall took fourth (16:12).

Other WPIAL medalists were: Freeport junior Michael Braun (ninth), Montour senior Julian Kletz (tenth), Hampton junior Chris Belch (11th), Beaver senior Eli Bechdel (16th), Quaker Valley junior Clark LaLomia (17th) and Kiski Area sophomore Samuel Plazio (23rd).

Hampton finished with 66 points. Its runners were Hall, Belch, senior Jacob Bonnar, senior Layne Haught, junior Nathan Gardner, freshman Josh Wukitch and freshman Lu Santos. Grove City finished second with 89 points.

Schoedel (16:09) edged out Eden Christian senior Nathan Garrett (16:21) by 12 seconds. Schoedel is the first Mohawk runner to win a state title.

Greensburg Central Catholic senior Nick Szekely was sixth (16:48). Other WPIAL medalists were Winchester Thurston junior Eli DeSimone (tenth), Eden Christian senior Ethan Haring (12th), Neshannock junior Brendan Burns (19th) and Riverview junior Christopher Barnes (22nd).

Annville-Cleona won the Class A title with 91 points. Riverview was second with 137. Earning silver medals were Barnes, junior Holden Deasy, junior Micah Ivy, freshman Ashton Saunders, senior Cohen Hoolahan, sophomore Braden Longstreth and junior Levi Roupas.

The Raiders boys were 11th after the first mile and moved up 104 points to get into contention in the second mile.

“I was so proud of our boys and how they battled today,” Riverview coach Palma Ostrowski said. “We stressed all week not to go out too fast so that we would have energy for ‘the aloha hills’ during the middle of the race.

“I was worried we stressed it too much because the boys were pretty far back at the mile. But Micah, Ashton and Cohen really came through, cumulatively moving up 85 team points in that second mile.”

St. John Kletter said she executed her game plan. She didn’t start as quickly as she did at the WPIAL championship. Her winning time was 18:13.

“I was sitting back for the first mile, but by mile two I was in control,” said St. John Kletter, who was the first female runner from Mt. Lebanon to win a state title. “I had a great race, and it was fun running with my teammates one more time.”

North Allegheny senior Eva Kynaston finished second with a time of 18:19. Kiski Area senior Eliza Miller was seventh (18:46), North Allegheny freshman Robin Kucler was 11th (18:54), North Allegheny senior Erin McGoey was 18th (19:09), Latrobe junior Emerson Skatell was 20th (19:12) and Mt. Lebanon senior Caroline Adams was 24th (19:17).

The North Allegheny girls won their sixth consecutive PIAA title with 80 points. Abington Heights was second with 127. The Norwin girls placed fifth with 191 points.

“We had a different strategy this year,” Neff said. “We wanted Eva, Robin and Erin to set the pace and let the other girls run in a pack. It was nice to see them go out and execute.”

The other Tigers running were junior Camille Swirsding, junior Elizabeth Pizon, junior Kendall Lucas and senior Maia Getz.

The Norwin girls who ran were sophomore Annie Czajkowski, senior Rosemary Gaydos, senior Julia Walko, freshman Jillian Ryba, senior Audra Fedor, freshman Addison Farrah and freshman Anna Dansak. Mt. Lebanon placed eighth.

The Class 2A girls winner was Lewisburg sophomore Baylee Espinosa (18:48). North Catholic freshman Gracie Plastino was second (19:12).

Other WPIAL medalists were Uniontown junior Grace Trimmer (seventh), West Allegheny Fritzman (ninth), North Catholic sophomore Madeline Meeuf (10th), Montour senior Lakyn Schaltenbrand (14th) and Woodland Hills sophomore Annabel Johnson (15th).

Danville was the team champion with 82 points. North Catholic was fourth (163), and Montour was fifth (172).

Moravian Academy sophomore Virginia Krause won her second consecutive Class A title. Her time was 18:50.

Elk County Catholic senior Gracie Neubert was second (19:14), and Riverside senior Lexi Fluharty, the WPIAL champion, was third (19:28).

Other WPIAL medalists were Eden Christian junior Hope Haring (fifth), Seton-LaSalle senior Danielle Tomley (10th), Aquinas Academy senior Alexis Abbott (11th), Shady Side Academy senior Chelsea Hartman (12th), OLSH junior Gianna Mosca (15th), Winchester Thurston sophomore Abigail Weinstein (22nd) and Mohawk senior Natalie Lape (23rd).

Elk County Catholic won the team title with 63 points. Notre Dame Green Pond followed with 71, and Winchester Thurston was third with 190 points.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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