Young South Fayette girls cross country squad continues to surprise
Due to a lack of experience, South Fayette cross country coach Joe Winans didn't think his girls team could be as strong as years past.
But as the weeks go by, meeting or improving on its eighth-place finish at the WPIAL Class AA championship from last season race could be a realistic possibility.
“I keep telling the girls every time we go home from a meet to keep surprising me,” Winans said. “I knew we had some good girls up front with our top three. But our fourth, fifth and sixth runners had too much of a gap with the front group.
“I told them if they can pull the second group up, you can close to as good if not better than last year at the WPIAL race. The way they are improving, it continues to surprise me.”
The Lions started the season with a 32nd-place finish at the Red, White and Blue Invitational – a race that features runners from Class AAA, AA and A from across the WPIAL and PIAA as well as West Virginia.
Jump forward a week and the team finished in 16th at the 55-team Slippery Rock Invite.
“We have done so well at the invites,” said lone senior Katie Maloney. “Going out to them really pushes us. It give us an idea of what WPIALs will look like.”
Maloney is joined by junior Morgan Gimigliano and sophomore Sydney Lerda as the team's leaders. All three runners got WPIAL race experience last season.
“We are trying to help the younger racers improve their times,” Gimigliano said. “We have some talented freshmen that are having an impact, which is good because we have only one returning senior.”
Junior Taylor Timmons, sophomore Paige Franjione and freshmen Jenne Harasin and Madison Zombek also are looking strong.
As the team enters the weeks leading up to the WPIAL race, it will run in three invites – including the TSTCA Invitational, which is held at the same location as the WPIAL race.
The Lions are hoping the experiences will help lead the way success at WPIALs and a trip to Hershey.
“It would mean the world to have our top three make it to states,” Lerda said. “We have as high of expectations as last year. It helps push us to get better.”
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-388-5813.