Gateway runners ready for competition
The Gateway varsity boys and girls cross country teams scrimmaged Greensburg-Salem and West Allegheny on Tuesday for a taste of competition after numerous workouts since the start of the preseason camps on Aug. 12.
Competition really ramps up Saturday morning, as the Gators squads host the 25th annual Gateway Invitational meet at Boyce Park.
“They want to do something besides train,” coach Tom LaBuff said. “It's starting to sink in now. They want to compete and show what they can do.”
The Gateway girls return the top five runners from last year's WPIAL squad that placed 27th in the team standings.
Senior Tamisha Williams, the only Gateway runner to finish in the top 100 on the individual list (82nd), is back, along with her twin sister, Tameka.
Sophomore Katey Heasley is back and hoping to improve on a positive freshman year, and junior Ricky Kapp and sophomore Maria Reynolds also want to make an impact this fall.
“The girls team will be pretty solid,” LaBuff said.
“I don't think we have one clear-cut frontrunner. We're going to score well with a pack.”
The five returning runners will be joined by freshmen Victoria Kiesling, Emily Poach and Laura Trozzo.
Poach also is on the girls volleyball roster, and, LaBuff said, she hopes to participate in both sports this fall.
On the boys side, sophomores Liam Connolly, Jose Figueroa-Rivera and Trey Kubic lead the way.
“They have a terrific attitude,” LaBuff said. “They will be a fine representative in varsity events.”
Connolly placed 111th last year in his first WPIAL meet, and the boys team took 22nd.
LaBuff expects him to challenge for a state qualifying spot this season.
As for Figueroa-Rivera and Kubic, LaBuff said they have the talent and the right attitude to rise to the occasion and be in the mix for a state qualifying mark, but, LaBuff added, time will tell.
LaBuff said freshmen runners Sean Baird, Andrew D'Alicandro and Jackson Perry are making good progress in their first seasons with the program.
LaBuff said he anticipated the lower numbers — six boys and eight girls — coming into the season, “but it continues to be a surprise and it's getting more and more difficult to get kids to want to do the necessary work. There are a number of other programs who are struggling with numbers. The kids that we do have are working extremely hard.”
LaBuff said some of his runners have struggled with certain types of injuries, and because of that, individualize training workouts have been established for those runners in addition to the overall team training.
“We are doing things to try and keep their mileage down so they are less likely to get hurt,” Ionta said.
“Katie Heasley, like a number of others, is so dedicated that when I asked her at the end of track season to take some time off until she was well, she took off a couple of weeks, and for her, that was enough. She never really recovered 100 percent. She's still running with some shin splints. They are nothing more than an aggravation at the moment, but others are going through things like that.”
Gateway will run a nonsection meet against Altoona and Greater Latrobe at Boyce Park next Wednesday at 4 p.m.
The big Red, White and Blue Invitational is Sept. 7 at 8:30 a.m. at Pittsburgh's Schenley Park.
The Gators teams again will compete with the other section squads in a single section championship meet on Oct. 1 at Schenley Park. Dual-meet scores will be tabulated against the other teams to determine the boys and girls section champs.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at email@example.com.