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Young Latrobe cross country teams gaining experience

| Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Latrobe cross country coach Todd Simpson admits it's been a bit of an adjustment this year after losing half his team to graduation.

“(Myself and the few upperclassmen) have to teach these younger kids the way we do things,” Simpson said. “It needs to be a little more vocalized.”

This year, Simpson has only one senior on each the boys and girls teams, a big change for a squad that featured 16 seniors a year ago.

“That was nearly half of our team,” Simpson said of last year. “We're completely the opposite (this year).”

Lone senior Kevin Augustine returns as the Wildcats' top runner. At last year's WPIAL championships he was the team's top finisher with a time of 17 minutes, 41 seconds. This year, he ran his fastest time (15:51) at the Red, White and Blue Invitational on Sept. 7.

Juniors Nate Jackson and Cord Leone also return to a boys team that finished 15th at WPIALs last year.

“We're a fairly small team this year,” Simpson said. “We're pretty strong one through three.”

Rounding out the top five so far through three meets have been sophomores Chase Nemchieck and first-year runner Jacob Gorfich.

“I'm looking for them to get more experience and see how this (year) goes,” Simpson said. “I'm hoping to get a solid year in with the underclassmen.”

Just like Augustine is to the boys team, the girls are led by senior Katie Slivko, who is returning from a serious illness at the end of last year.

“She's launched right to the head of the team,” Simpson said. “I'm expecting her to put her best time in the books any day now.”

Buried behind five seniors last year, Slivko has come back strong, and ran her personal best of 20:57 at last year's Red White and Blue Invitational.

Taylor Klasnic and Janine Schomer were top-seven finishers as sophomores on last year's team that finished 13th at WPIALs, and both have been top team finishers so far this season. Klasnic finished with a 20:56 at this year's Red, White and Blue Invitational.

“We think the girls we have now have some great potential, and we look forward to seeing them realize that,” Simpson said.

Freshman Isabella Landry, as well as sophomores Alyssa Rock and Abby Novotny, also have broken into the top five this year.

Justin Criado is a freelance writer.

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