Quaker Valley, Sewickley Academy cross country teams prepare for WPIAL run
The Quaker Valley boys cross country team has built a dynasty the past six seasons by winning a WPIAL Class AA title each year.
But the Quakers might be in store for the toughest championship race yet.
“I have been coaching the team for 18 years, and we have won 10 titles,” Quaker Valley coach David Noyes said. “I don't think many of those teams saw a stronger competitor than South Fayette this year. They are not just contenders for the WPIAL title but the PIAA title.”
Quaker Valley has WPIAL and PIAA title aspirations of its own as the squads will battle it out Thursday at Cooper's Lake Campground in Slippery Rock. Much of the Quakers' success could depend on the status of an injury.
Junior Xavier Lang suffered a hip injury and has been trying to get back to form for the WPIAL race.
“We are tight with runners one through five,” Noyes said. “That 40-second spread is where we need to be. If we have to rely on our sixth runner, that might throw it off.”
Noyes said the rest of the boys team is ready. While seniors Luke Kropf and Rob Veltre and junior Charlie Kristo have been tested on the big stage before, Quaker Valley's surprise of the season will be getting his first taste of the WPIAL race.
Freshman Zach Skolnekovich has shown natural ability throughout the season and led the Quakers to a first-place finish at the Midwestern Athletic Conference Invitational on Oct. 10. Skolnekovich finished first with a time of 17:12.
The girls squad has been battling sickness, but Noyes said the team has been able to get some nice practices in.
Hanna Bablak has shown progress this season. The sophomore finished second at the MAC Invite with a time of 20 minutes, 24 seconds.
“She got a big boost after making the state meet in track for the mile,” Noyes said. “She did a little bit better this summer in training than her freshman season. It will be interesting to see what she can do over the next couple of years.”
The team has a mix of old and new faces as seniors Ashley McKendry and Mary Grace Beson, juniors Caroline Westwood and Natalie House and freshmen Bearett Tarris and Anna Pawloski have looked strong. The talent will be needed as the squad heads into a packed WPIAL Class AA race Thursday as the four-time defending champion.
“The girls team's focus is to make it to states. We have done it every year since 1998. They don't want that streak to slip,” Noyes said.
The Panthers' cross country teams prepared for the WPIAL title races by running at the Tri-State Coaches Association Invitational. The race is held at Cooper's Lake Campground in Slippery Rock — the same site as the WPIAL races.
The boys team finished 24th out of 70 teams. Freshman Griffin Mackey led the way with a time of 18:07 to finish 87th.
Other finishers included junior Pieter Hansen in 121st (18:27), junior Owen Hipwell in 156th (18:43), junior Reils Oneil in 187th (18:58), freshman Tim Hanlon in 208th (19:12), freshman Ben Clouse in 341st (20:31) and junior Wyatt Geller in 348th (20:38).
The girls squad had only three runners in the race and wasn't ranked as team. Senior Maggie McClain finished 224th with a time of 23:33. Sophomore Teddy Oh was 433rd (27:24), and junior Hilary Paul was 447th (27:54).