Steep hill scuttles title shot for Kiski Area's Kennedy
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Kiski Area junior Brent Kennedy made a strong run at the PIAA Class AAA boys cross country title, but after emerging from the “Aloha Hills” section of the course, he had to say goodbye to that goal for this year.
West Chester Henderson junior Tony Russell (15:45) took a comfortable lead after hiking over a series of steep rises in the middle of the race and won the championship.
Kennedy (15:52) ended up outdueling Corry senior Austin Pondel (15:56) for runner-up honors.
Fox Chapel junior Ethan Martin (16:00) placed fifth.
Although Kennedy fell short of a state championship, he earned the distinction of being the highest-finishing runner from the WPIAL in any of the six state finals Saturday at the 3.1-mile Parkview Course in Hershey.
“It's bittersweet,” Kennedy said. “I had high hopes of winning the title. I put myself in a position that I liked. I just didn't have it. Russell made a good move coming out of the Aloha Hills.”
Kiski Area coach Tom Berzonsky praised Kennedy.
“To compete against some of the best runners in the country and be in it with about a mile or half-mile to go is a great accomplishment,” Berzonsky said. “He did great, but he knows there's room for improvement.”
Last week Kennedy captured his first WPIAL title, and Martin followed him across the finish line.
Martin said he was pleased with his performance Saturday.
“I was shooting for a top-five finish ...” Martin said. “I almost got passed at the finish line, but I was able to hold off that runner (Harriton senior Max Norris).”
The top 25 finishers in each race earned a medal.
Ethan's twin, Colin (16:22) claimed 16th place.
Only two local teams qualified for state competition. The Knoch girls took 11th place in Class AA, and the Fox Chapel boys were 12th in Class AAA.
The top finisher for the Knoch girls was freshman Abby Jones, who placed 55th (20:35).
The PIAA expanded boys and girls cross country from two to three classes this season, but the WPIAL was shut out in individual and team titles for the first time in the last three years.
Runners and coaches generally agreed the course was in good shape with only a few minor muddy spots, despite heavy rains this week.
And the chilly temperatures bothered bundled-up fans more than some competitors, who were challenged by unseasonably hot conditions during last week's WPIAL championships.
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