Fox Chapel's Ethan Martin, Shaler's Schwartz win Tri-State meet titles
There wasn't much out of the ordinary at the Tri-State Track Coaches Association Cross Country Championship at Cooper's Lake in Slippery Rock on Thursday.
While first-time fans may have found the conditions to be a bit adverse, the biting rain and inches of mud didn't catch the runners by surprise.
“It seems like every year here at Cooper's Lake the weather is just against us,” North Allegheny senior Michael Becich said. “I was expecting the worst.”
Mt. Lebanon won the boys team title, with 97 points and an average time of 17:14, followed by North Allegheny (164) at 17:29. Villa Maria (184) was the winning school for the girls at 21:18.
Fox Chapel seniors Ethan and Colin Martin, both Michigan recruits, placed first and third, respectively, in the boys race.
Grove City junior Aaron Benka finished between the brothers in second. Ethan Martin edged Benka by a hair, as the two runners each finished in 16:34.
Martin has been dealing with Achilles tendonitis throughout the season. It was unclear if he would even participate.
“My coach was worried that I would flare up,” Martin said, “but he said it would be smart to get this race under my belt again and understand what I need to do next week (at the WPIAL meet).”
Shaler junior Brianna Schwartz placed first in the girls race with a time of 18:31.
“Obviously my time wasn't as good as I wanted it to be,” Schwartz said, “but I felt really good and I'm really excited for WPIAL's next week.”
Vincentian freshman Marianne Abdalah came in second at 18:58, followed by North Hills senior Mary Malone at 19:26.
“I've run it before so I already knew the course and where to plant myself,” Abdalah said.
The first-year runner should be a top finisher for years to come, but already has her sights set on the Cooper's Lake course record of 18:04, set by Latrobe's Natalie Bower in 2008.
“I was only 30 seconds behind my time today, so I'm hoping that if it's a dry day I'll do a lot better and try to break the record if I can,” Abdalah said. “And if I can't get it this year, then I've still got three more years.”
North Allegheny's second-place finish came without its top five runners. Coach John Neff thought resting his stars would give his team the best shot at another WPIAL championship next week.
“We've had a lot of races coming down the stretch. The high school season is really packed with a lot races,” Neff said. “I just thought we want to be fresh for next week and the following week.”
Colin Martin didn't completely agree with his philosophy.
“Right before the race I saw the (North Allegheny) guys, but they told us they weren't racing today. They were just doing a workout to get ready for next week, which is honorable,” Martin said. “You want to have an idea of what you're getting into next week. I think today is valuable because now you know you're going to have to wear bigger spikes for next week.”
WPIAL champions in Class AAA, AA and A will be crowned at Cooper's Lake on Oct. 24.
Races begin at 12:45 p.m.
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.