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North Allegheny cross country begins season strong at Red, White and Blue Invitational

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The North Allegheny boys and girls cross country teams have all the potential to make an immediate impact and replace several varsity runners lost to graduation.

Last season, the North Allegheny boys won the WPIAL title and finished fourth in the state behind graduates Josh Zemet and Mike Meehan. The girls finished second in the WPIAL, but will need to replace Alex Gambill and Maddie Nellis — two strong varsity runners.

Coach John Neff is optimistic that this year's team can be just as good as in year's past.

“If we come out every day to practice and work hard and try to get better, I see no reason why we can't compete for a WPIAL title again,” Neff said. “We have the talent, and as long as we stay focused, we should be OK.”

The Tigers got an impressive start at the 10th annual Red, White & Blue Invitational at the Schenley Park Oval earlier this month. The boys placed first and the girls finished third.

“I have to say I'm very happy with how both teams competed for this early in the year,” Neff said. “I saw a lot of good things from everyone, but I think all the runners have their sights set on getting even better.”

On the boys end, Matt McGoey, Cordon Louco, Seamus Love, Scott Seel and Hunter Wharrey all finished in the top 10 individual times, while Nicholas McClure and Peter Savchik weren't far off the pace, finishing in the top 20.

The girls were led by standout sophomore Madeleine Davison who placed third overall and has caught the attention of Neff early on. Caroline Bojarski, Erin Keelan, Katie Guamaccia, Caroline Cwalina, Madissen Stiener and Caitlin Carmody all performed well for the Tigers.

Despite acknowledging the talent on the roster, Neff wants to stress the importance of not getting too optimistic too early in the season.

“I have to stress that it's still very early and the next few weeks will determine a lot,” he said. “We're in a good spot, but we haven't arrived just yet.

“This group knows that, and they're going to practice and train to get even better.”

While Neff said he is happy with the early outcome at the Red, White & Blue, he struggled to show any sense of surprise. North Allegheny has had no problem developing runners over the years and stepping up when it's his or her time.

“Over the years, I've just seen so much talent come through here,” Neff said. “These kids just start paying attention from the get-go and try their best to get better each year. That's why some of these kids are where they are today.”

The boys and girls teams will have the benefit or running rigorous, competitive section meets that will help prepare them for the postseason matches.

Always one of the top programs in the WPIAL, if recent history is any indication, it's hard to imagine either North Allegheny team not competing for another title.

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

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