NEW CASTLE —
The heat proved to be the toughest opponent for runners at the WPIAL Cross Country Championships at Cooper’s Lake yesterday.
The Laurel and Shenango high girls teams were able to keep their cool, finishing in first and second place, respectively, in the Class A race to qualify for the PIAA Championships.
For the Lady Spartans, the victory signifies the first time Laurel has made the state meet in cross country as a team. It is the third WPIAL team title in school history, joining a football title in 1980 and a volleyball crown in 2000.
The Shenango girls also made history with their second-place finish. It’s the first time the girls team has made it to the PIAA Championships in school history.
Emily Maxwell won the individual championship for the Lady Spartans, finishing at a time of 20:14 in the field of 161 finishers. Bishop Canevin’s Caroline DeFrank was second at 20:33. Madeline Schmiedeknecht from Winchester Thurston finished third with a time of 20:39. The top three schools and top 15 runners from each class advance to the PIAA Championships on Nov. 3 at Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey.
“It was better than I expected,” Maxwell said. “I knew that from the start I didn’t want to go out too hard, especially with a day like this with the heat so oppressive. I wanted to stay with that lead pack, though, not let them get too far ahead.”
Laurel was first in the event with a score of 100. Shenango was second with 117. Vincentian Academy was third with 132. Mohawk finished 11th with a score of 291.
The unexpected October heat got to the runners, including Neshannock’s Lizzie Manickas, who led for the majority of the race until passing out in the home stretch. Three races were delayed by at least 10 minutes each because all ambulances were driving runners to local hospitals. Races resumed when at least two ambulances were available at the event.
“She’s a competitor, and she wanted to do well today,” Lady Lancers coach David Antognoli said of Manickas, who finished third in the event last year. “I think that took over for her, and she went out too fast. She’s a tough girl. She’ll bounce back, it’ll just take her a little time.”
Maxwell, who trailed Manickas until the 800-meter mark, didn’t realize her opponent had passed out.
“I saw her in front of me, I could tell she was tired.” Maxwell said “She didn’t look well. I had no idea she passed out.”
Maxwell, a senior, will be making her fourth appearance in the PIAA event. She is hoping her experience will pay dividends.
“There’s a lot to learn at states, especially going in your first time, it’s a whole new world,” Maxwell said. “It kind of helps you with the bigger and faster crowds.”
Alison Filer (11th overall) finished second for Laurel with a time of 21:20. Next was Kristin Dicks (26th, 22:29) and her sister Brooke Dicks (27th, 22:30), who came in a second apart. Freshman Kacee Caughey (47th, 23:37) rounded out the top five for the Lady Spartans.
“This is what we were working for all year, and I knew we could do it,” Laurel coach Greg Schmitt said. “I’m excited for the whole girls team. They worked really hard all year. It’s a huge improvement for our school and where our program came from.”
For second-place Shenango, youth dominated the field.
Freshman Katie Bruce (fourth, 20:44) led the way for the young squad, which didn’t have any senior runners in the event.
“I’ve been training all summer and over the winter,” Bruce said. “It’s scary going up against some of these girls because they’re all a lot older and more experienced than me, but I think it makes you better. I’ve never been to states before so I don’t really know what it’s like. It feels really good. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”
“Katie doesn’t know how good she could be,” first-year coach Phil Thompson said. “She started out in 18th place at the mile, and she finished fourth. Someone jumping up that much is unbelievable. It shows how much power and how much skill she has as a runner. You wouldn’t even know if you look at her, because she’s so humble. That’s what makes her a better runner.”
Elizabeth Salem (21st, 22:13) was next for the Lady Wildcats. Courtney Fontana (30th, 22:40), Carly Danielson (31st, 22:41) and Rachel Reamer (45th, 23:31) were the rest of the top five finishers for Shenango.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these girls,” Thompson said. “They pushed themselves all season. I’m sure at some points they hated us, but we’re looking like the good guys now. No credit goes to us, it really goes to all the girls. It’s all about dedication. I’ve never seen a team have more dedication and will than this group.”
Mohawk also will be sending a freshman to the PIAA Championships in Breyona Wagner (eighth, 21:00).
“I feel good,” Wagner said. “My team’s really supportive of me and always cheers me on. I practiced as hard as I could at practice. I am trying to do everything I can.”
Mackenzie Moon (61st, 24:16) was next for the Lady Warriors. Joelle Bromey (78th, 25:09), Katelyn Byers (87th, 25:40) and Holly Duncan (94th, 26:03) were the other top finishers for Mohawk.
CLASS AA GIRLS
More history was made in the Class AA girls race. New Castle junior Andrea Lansdowne became the school’s first girl to make it to the PIAA Championships.
“It’s so exciting,” Lansdowne said. “I’ve worked hard since last year, and my time has dropped six minutes. It’s emotional.”
Lansdowne finished 22nd overall with a time of 21:37. Since runners from teams that qualify automatically advance, only one girl from qualifying schools can be counted in the top 15. This allows runners finishing outside the top 15 to qualify.
“Andrea is amazing,” New Castle girls coach Susan Harlan said. “She’s the hardest worker on our team. She’s a great teammate. She never misses practice. She’s just a leader.”
Quaker Valley won the team title with a score of 65. The field included 210 finishers. Julie Friend of Uniontown won the event with a time of 19:23.
New Castle finished in 16th with a score of 517. Caitlin Adamo (88th overall) was second on the team with a time of 24:09. Rebecca Paul (110th, 24:57), Rachel McNickle (149th, 27:18) and Gabby Matarazzo (154th, 27:41) were the other top finishers for the Lady ’Canes.
“They did so great, we’re so proud of them,” Harlan said. “I think we’re just going to get better and better each year. I’m excited for our future.”
Ellwood City Lincoln finished 29th as a team with a score of 743.
Mallory Angelucci (98th) finished first on the team with a time of 24:38. Abigail Horton (124th, 25:49) was next, followed by Paige Mason (127th, 25:51), Goldie Bookamer (196th, 31:20) and Janelle Fox (204th, 32:44).
North Allegheny won the boys AAA race handily with a score of 50. Fox Chapel finished second with 136.
Brent Kennedy (Kiski Area) won the race with a time of 15:59. Ethan Martin (Fox Chapel Area) was second with 16:04 and Ean DiSilvio (Taylor Allerdice) was third with a 16:13.
New Castle finished 27th with 741. Trevor Blackwell (38th, 17:33) led the ’Canes. Alex Shepherd (164th 19:35) and Corey Niles (166th, 19:35) were next. Chris Mazzanti (177th, 19:48) and Ryan Abraham (200th, 20:43) were the other finishers.
Quaker Valley dominated the Class AA boys race with a 66. Mars finished second with a score of 132. There were 211 finishers.
Tyler Rigby (South Park) was the winner with a 16:59. Marshall Bruce (Beaver) finished second with 17:04. Zack Black (Blackhawk) was third with 17:05.
Ellwood City finished 19th with 551. Matthew Reed (33rd, 18:27) was the top runner for the team. Tatsumasa Abe (90th, 19:47) was next. The other finishers were Wesley Larry (107th, 20:07), Alex Tomak (150th, 21:15) and John DeCaro (180th, 23:01).
Mohawk finished 30th with a score of 861. Sam Whippo (146th, 21:07) was first. Next was Dakota Lee (164th, 22:03). Andrew Henley (175th, 22:43), Matthew Carran (190th, 24:17) and Nick Matsukas (201st, 25:53) were the finishers for the Warriors.
Strong efforts from Shenango and Laurel boys in Class A action didn’t result in a trip to the winners’ podium. However, individual efforts qualified runners from both schools and Neshannock for the PIAA Championships.
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart won the event with a score of 113. Vincentian Academy finished second with 125. Shenango finished fifth with 160. Laurel was in seventh with a score of 194 and Neshannock came in 13th with a 365.
Ryan Archer (Vincentian Academy) won the race with a time of 16:34. Spartans junior Ethan Wilson finished second overall in the field of 185 finishers with a time of 16:38. Ryan McGuire (Trinity Christian) was third with 16:49.
“This is my third time going to states,” Wilson said. “I think I’m going to medal there this year. I did run track this year and that definitely helped to keep me in shape.”
Wilson also experienced troubles with the heat.
“It was definitely different from the cold week,” he said. “It’s nice that it’s dry, but it messed with a few heads.”
Edwin Cracraft (36th, 18:38) was second for the Spartans. Clint Glenn (53rd, 19:20), Bryan Taylor (55th, 19:21) and Robert Schrantz (59th, 19:33) were the other finishers for the team.
The Wildcats will be sending two boys to Hershey. Juniors David Waldschmidt (20th, 18:05) and Andy McCann (21st, 18:11) qualified for the event.
“The heat was unbearable,” Waldschmidt said. “Coming down the last half-mile, I didn’t think I was going to make it to the finish. I was getting a little dizzy, but I just kept with it to the end. There were a lot of top runners out there today. It was really fun and really competitive. It was just the heat was crazy.”
For Waldschmidt, the success was a long time coming. Battling injuries last year, he was determined to make it to the PIAA Championships in his junior season.
“I had stress fractures in both my legs, so I was out for all the track season in a walking boot,” Waldschmidt said. “Then, I had a lot of problems with my eyes seeing double vision. I had surgery and was out six more months with that. I was really excited for this year.”
McCann wouldn’t let the heat bother him.
“It’s just mental determination is what you really need to win races,” McCann said. “Our team clearly showed we had it today. It feels great to get to states as a junior.”
Zach Matuch (32nd, 18:28) finished next for Shenango. Nico Pagley (37th, 18:39) and Kyle Campbell (61st, 19:35) were the other finishers for the Wildcats.
The Lancers will be sending junior Robbie Kroner to the state meet. He finished 12th overall with a time of 17:33.
“It was definitely a hot one,” Kroner said. “On top of that, the dust that’s flying around here made for some tough weather conditions. I tend to run well in hot weather, but the dust made it tough. Overall, it was a good race. It feels pretty good to qualify for states.”
Senior Matt Turner (49th, 19:08) was second for Neshannock. Ron Calvert (70th, 20:02), Adam Alkhafaji (110th, 21:20) and Chris Clark (143rd, 22:34) were the other finishers for the Lancers.
Photo Gallery, Story: Laurel, Shenango cross country teams lead local runners at WPIAL Championships
NEW CASTLE —
The heat proved to be the toughest opponent for runners at the WPIAL Cross Country Championships at Cooper’s Lake yesterday.
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