Steep hills scuttle PIAA title shot for Kiski Area's Kennedy
HERSHEY –– 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 good-bye to that goal for this year.
West Chester Henderson junior Tony Russell, 15 minutes, 45 seconds, 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) beat Corry senior Austin Pondel (15:56) for runner-up honors. Fox Chapel junior Ethan Martin (16:00) finished 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 (Saturday). Russell made a good move coming out of the Aloha Hills.”
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 past 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 warm conditions during last week's WPIAL championships.
Shaler sophomore Brianna Schwartz was the top local runner in the three girls' races.
In Class AAA, Schwartz (18:39) took third place behind Unionville junior Courtney Smith (18:16) and Pennridge sophomore Marissa Sheva (18:36). Schwartz admitted the cold affected her.
“My hands were frozen,” Schwartz said.
“I was pushing up that last hill and pumping my arms, and they felt heavy.”
The North Allegheny boys, who have won eight consecutive WPIAL titles, were the highest-finishing local team.
They took fourth in Class AAA and were led by senior Josh Zemet (16:20), who placed 15th.
Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-224-2696.