Gateway Invite set for 25th running
More than a dozen area high school boys and girls cross country teams will battle for early-season bragging rights Saturday morning at the 25th annual Gateway Invitational on Gateway's Boyce Park course adjacent to Patrol 1 Pavilion.
There again will be varsity, junior varsity and middle school races. The high school course is a 5K (3.1 miles), while the middle school course is 1.6 miles.
The varsity girls race kicks everything off at 9 a.m., and the varsity boys race is at 9:30.
The morning continues with the JV boys race at 10 and the JV girls race at 10:30.
The middle school boys runners will start at 11, and the middle school girls will begin at 11:20.
“It should be a competitive meet again,” Gateway head coach Tom LaBuff said.
LaBuff said he expects more than 12 varsity and JV teams, as well as nine middle school squads.
Baldwin is the defending varsity boys team champ, and the Highlanders have won the Gateway Invite boys crown four of the past five years and six times since 2003.
Fox Chapel senior Ethan Martin is back to defend his varsity boys individual title. Last year, Martin ended a string of three straight first-place finishes by Baldwin runners.
LaBuff expects Fox Chapel, Plum and Baldwin to be contenders for the boys team title this year.
Kiski Area also would've been a contender, LaBuff said, but the Cavaliers boys and girls teams will not run at the Gateway Invite this year.
“Kiski has a nice boys runner in Brett Kennedy, and it would've been nice to see him battle the Martin brothers,” LaBuff said.
Kennedy won the WPIAL Class AAA boys title last year, and Ethan Martin was second.
Ethan's twin brother, Colin, took fifth at WPIALs in 2012.
Sophomore Liam Connolly was the top finisher among this year's returning Gateway runners at last year's Gateway Invite. He took 23rd.
Hempfield junior Morgan Ansell, 19th in the girls AAA race at WPIALs last year, knows nothing but success at the Gateway Invitational.
Ansell won the varsity girls race as a freshman in 2011, and she defended her crown last year.
Hempfield also has taken the girls team title the past two years. In 2011, the Spartans snapped Norwin's string of six straight girls team titles.
LaBuff said Hempfield's attempt to win a third straight title will be challenged by Laurel Highlands, West Allegheny and Fox Chapel.
Sophomore Katey Heasley, in her first varsity meet, led the Gateway girls with a 29th-place finish at last year's Gateway Invite.
Also expected to compete in the varsity races Saturday are Franklin Regional, Highlands, Riverview, Norwin, Bethel Park and Penn Hills.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.