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Weather could play a factor at PIAA cross country championships

| Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, 11:59 p.m.
Christopher Horner
North Allegheny senior Josh Zemet (right) keeps pace with front-runners during the WPIAL Class AAA boys championship race Oct. 25, 2012, at Cooper's Lake, near Slippery Rock. Zemet finished in seventh place to lead the Tigers to the WPIAL AAA cross country team title. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Mt. Lebanon junior Jillian Hunsberger finishes third in the WPIAL Class AAA girls championship race Oct. 25, 2012 at Copper's Lake. Mt. Lebanon had four girls finish in the top seven to win the AAA cross country team title. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

It's a sport that competes in the wilderness during a season (fall) and in a part of the country (Pennsylvania) that make for as unpredictable and diverse weather conditions as can be found.

Color the area's PIAA cross country championship qualifiers unconcerned with the fact they'll be running in conditions that could be completely different than what they did last week at the WPIAL championship meet.

Nine boys teams, nine girls teams and 30 other individuals from the WPIAL qualified for the PIAA cross country championships Saturday at the Parkview Cross Country Course in Hershey.

Whereas the WPIAL championships were staged in summer-like, dry, 80-degree weather Oct. 25 at Cooper's Lake in Slippery Rock, the temperature Saturday in Hershey will be roughly 30 degrees cooler. While rain is not in the forecast for Saturday, the course is expected to be wet and muddy after a week of rain associated with Hurricane Sandy.

“Our kids have a history of running well in the mud and rain,” Mt. Lebanon girls coach Ron Schreiner said. “At this point of training, it's all between the ears. Hot, cold, rain, sun, it's about running your best race and getting refocused to have the same intensity and same determination we had in winning the WPIAL down at Hershey.”

Mt. Lebanon enters the PIAA meet as the WPIAL Class AAA champion, outpacing fellow PIAA-qualifying teams North Allegheny and North Hills at the WPIAL championships last week.

WPIAL Class AA champion Quaker Valley joins runner-up Uniontown and third-place Knoch as PIAA Class AA girls entrants. WPIAL Class A teams competing in Hershey include Shenango, Vincentian and champion Laurel.

WPIAL boys teams who will run at PIAAs are North Allegheny, Fox Chapel and Mt. Lebanon in Class AAA; Quaker Valley, Mars and South Fayette in Class AA; and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Vincentian and Northgate in Class A.

North Allegheny, Quaker Valley and OLSH won WPIAL championships last week at an unseasonably warm Cooper's Lake.

“You have to perform no matter what,” North Allegheny boys coach John Neff said, “but you certainly prefer to run on a cold, rainy day rather than a hot day like that last (week).”

The Tigers are eight-time reigning WPIAL Class AAA boys champions, and they have a team that is deep enough to match the PIAA title the 2010 North Allegheny runners won.

The Tigers had five of the top 14 finishers at the WPIAL championships, led by senior Josh Zemet.

“The guys do look up to him — being 6-foot-3 helps,” Neff said. “He's poised and confident and a very good role model, definitely the guy that the younger guys look to.”

North Allegheny's other top runners are sophomores Matt McGoey, Seamus Love and Scott Seel and junior Cordon Louco.

WPIAL Class AAA boys runner-up Fox Chapel features the Martin twins — juniors Ethan and Colin. Allderdice senior Ean DiSilvio placed third at the WPIAL meet.

Kiski Area junior Brent Kennedy had the low time of any male runner at the WPIAL championships (15:59). Individual champions of the other boys classifications were Vincentian's Ryan Archer in Class A and South Park's Tyler Rigby in Class AA.

Among female runners, Shaler sophomore Brianna Schwartz by far had the best time among females in the WPIAL championships (18:32). Schwartz, WPIAL Class AA champion Julie Friend of Uniontown and Mt. Lebanon's Jillian Hunsberger all placed the top 15 of the PIAA meet last season.

Hunsberger, Kelly Potts, Julie Kocjancic and Audrey Gordon each finished in the top seven of the WPIAL Class AAA championship meet, leading Mt. Lebanon to the team title.

“Those four are just a few seconds apart, and you always hope you can pack like that,” Schreiner said. “It's all about packing with us. Some teams have a star — we have a star, but we have four pretty good stars.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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