Sewickley Academy cross country program continues to grow
Sewickley Academy cross country coach Derek Chimner sees growth in his team.
The Panthers — despite losing runners to graduation, international travel and transfer — have 22 members this season, up from 17 last year. He credited a strong middle school program.
“Lori Yost is the middle school coach, and has done great job of getting kids interested,” Chimner said. “Cross country is a hard sport to get people out for because it is all running. And with the success of the soccer and golf teams, kids would rather go out for that.
“But she has been working on getting boys and girls out.”
The benefits should show this year as four freshman runners on the boys team — Griffin Mackie, Ben Clouse, Teddy McClain and Tim Hamlon — are looking to make up for the graduation of Will Kleeman and Patrick Dellinger.
Two other spots will open as junior Pieter Hansen, who was the team's top finisher at the WPIAL Class A championship last season with a time of 19:15, has been working on returning from an injury sustained during the track season. Chimner is hoping Hansen returns near the end of the season.
Sophomore Evan Ragoowansi will miss the season, spending the fall semester in Switzerland, though he has been practicing with the team to stay in shape.
But with the return of runners such as juniors Owen Hipwell, Ayrton Mutagaana and Wyatt Geller, the team is setting the goal high.
“We have a great set of boys,” Chimner said. “We are looking to hopefully make a push for getting a few into states.”
The girls team lost Tori Pawk to graduation from a squad that finished seventh at the WPIAL Class A race. The team also had its top finisher, Carly Little, transfer to Pine-Richland.
It returns senior Maggie McClain, who finished 17th at the WPIAL championship with a time of 22:11 to qualify for the PIAA meet, where she ran a 22:42.
“She has been working very hard,” Chimner said. “Every day through the summer, she has been running around, and she has been in the gym. She has been spending countless hours getting ready for cross country and lacrosse in the fall.”
The girls squad will look to junior Hilary Paul and a handful of freshman to fill out the roster.
“As a whole, we want to see the team improve race to race,” Chimner said.
“We want to see improved times week to week.”
The team will need to contend with a difficult Section 2-AA schedule that includes Quaker Valley, Vincentian and Avonworth. The team also has a nonsection meet against Shady Side Academy on Sept. 11.
The schedule begins at the Red, White & Blue Classic at Schenley Park on Sept. 7.
“The course goes into the woods, on grass, on fields, on rocky areas and goes up and down hills,” Chimner said.
“It is a great way to prepare the kids on what they will see on other courses throughout the year. On top of that, pretty much every school is there.
“They get to see competitions from Class AAA, AA and A. It is a good way to see competition and get an idea on how to improve times as months go by.”