High school notebook: Kiski Area runner headed to national meet

Kiski Area's Brent Kennedy competes at the PIAA Class AAA cross country  championship earlier this season in Hershey.  PAUL CHAPLIN, The Patriot-News
Kiski Area's Brent Kennedy competes at the PIAA Class AAA cross country championship earlier this season in Hershey. PAUL CHAPLIN, The Patriot-News
| Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Brent Kennedy's exploits in cross country are taking him, well, across the country.

The standout runner from Kiski Area qualified for the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships Dec. 8 in San Diego.

Kennedy, a junior who won the WPIAL Class AAA title this past season and finished second at the PIAA meet, took ninth at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional qualifier on Saturday at Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, N.Y.

Kennedy finished in 15 minutes, 50.2 seconds.

Kennedy ran a 15:59 to win the WPIAL title and 15:52 at the state meet in Hershey.

“This puts him in a position where he's one of the top runners in the country,” Kiski Area coach Tom Berzonsky said. “There are only 40 kids in this race. It's a great accomplishment.”

The national race, which showcases the country's top boys and girls prep runners, will be contested at Balboa Park. The event, which is formally known as the Kinney Cross Country Championships, began in 1979.

“I was so focused on (winning) states,” Kennedy said. “Once that was over, I had a little sour taste in my mouth. That gave me motivation over the next two weeks to keep working.”

Berzonsky said he and Kennedy have been training behind the scenes for his early-winter surge.

Kennedy decided not to play basketball for Kiski Area.

“We kind of kept it quiet,” Berzonsky said. “We started about a month (after the high school season), knowing (nationals) were coming up.”

Kennedy seeks the best competition to gauge his talents. And he studies up on other runners.

“It was great to go against some of the best around,” Kennedy said. “I like to look for the best competition.”

Kennedy said he is looking forward to meeting and competing against defending national champion Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.).

A native of Kenya, Cheserek ran a brow-raising 14:51.5 to win last year.

Three other Pennsylvania boys, all seniors, qualified for nationals: Austin Pondel of Corry Area, Max Norris of Harriton and Brendan Shearn of Big Spring. Pondel was third in PIAA Class AAA and Norris was fourth.

Shearn finished second at the state Class AA meet.

Bieber fever

Fox Chapel basketball player Erin Mathias missed all of last season after she had knee surgery. The junior forward was weak in the knees last week but for a different reason. Mathias won an online contest to meet Justin Bieber before the pop star's concert Nov. 20 at Consol Energy Center.

Mathias greeted Bieber backstage before the show and had a few photos snapped of her with the mop-topped teen singer.

“I entered this contest a week before (the concert),” said Mathias, a Duke recruit. “I was one of 10 girls to win. It was really cool; we were all freaking out.”

The thing that stands out in the photos isn't Bieber. It's Mathias. She is 6-foot-3. Bieber is 5-6.

“Yeah, he's not too tall,” Mathias said with a laugh.

Down the road, Mathias hopes to meet her favorite athletes, who are more her size. NBA stars Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant are among them.

Softball showcase

Kiski Area freshman softball player Kelsey Kinnamon was picked for the 19th Queen of Diamonds Showcase set for Jan. 5-6 at Kent State.

Kinnamon is a pitcher and outfielder. She plays travel softball for Team Pennsylvania in the summer.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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