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Southmoreland sophomore duo qualifies for PIAA championship

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Paul Paterra | The Independent-Observer
Sophomores Ben Bickerton (left) and Riley Beistel qualified for the PIAA championship cross country race, which will take place Saturday in Hershey.

Southmoreland will have a one-two punch of sophomores representing the school in Saturday's PIAA cross country race in Hershey.

Riley Beistel returns to the state championship meet on a strength of an 18th-place performance in Class AA in the WPIAL championship held Oct. 24 at Cooper's Lake in Slippery Rock. Beistel posted a time of 20:52. Ben Bickerton placed ninth in Class AA with a time of 17:17.

The top three teams in each classification advance to the PIAA meet, as well as the top 15 finishers in each race from non-qualifying teams.

“I was really excited,” Beistel said about qualifying for a return trip to Hershey. “I feel like there was more pressure for me to make it (this year), because I made it last year.”

Beistel finished 124th out of 239 runners in Class AA in 2012.

She's looking to improve on that finish this year and feels the experience of last year can only help her in Hershey.

“I'm real excited, but I know now this year that I have to get out of that huge group,” Beistel said. “Last year, I just got stuck with a bunch of people and I think I can do better than I did last year if I do that. (I) have to sprint really. really fast at the beginning. I did, but not as fast as I could have. I'm going to do that this year and see how it goes.”

Beistel would like to see a number with, at the most, two digits by her name for a place finish as opposed to the three from last year, but has a simple formula for her approach.

“I'm just going to do my best,” she said.

She was actually the lone Southmoreland girl to participate in the qualifiers at Slippery Rock.

Bickerton, obviously, is quite happy to have qualified for the PIAA race.

“I just missed by one space last year and I was very disappointed about that,” he said. “Over the year, I just trained hard and told myself I was going to make it this year.”

It might even be an understatement to say Bickerton “trains hard.” He can often be seen running somewhere in Scottdale. He admits it's something he thoroughly enjoys.

“I love to run,” he said. “I can run two times a day, three times a day. I could run all day if I was allowed. It's just something I love to do. I never get bored with it. I never get tired of it.”

He's hoping to grab a spot in the top 20 or 30 in Hershey.

“I heard it's a hard course,” Bickerton said. “I heard there's a lot of hills, so I figured I'd get out fast, not too fast, through the first part of the race.”

Coach Don Gilpin admitted to being “tickled pink” that his two sophomores qualified for the race.

“I'm very happy to have two kids who are dedicated and want to do well,” Gilpin said. “I think they worked hard all year. They're deserving of it. They trained hard all year and that's what they were training for to make states.”

Gilpin said Beistel's experience of running at the PIAA race in 2012 can serve her well.

“It's a different animal out there,” Gilpin said. “Riley knows that. She found out what it's like to run in a state meet. She found out what a big race is like. It was a big learning experience for her. Everything's new to (Ben). He just goes and runs. That's all he wants to do. We'll see what they both can do. They're both good kids and they worked hard at it.”

Beistel is happy to have another Southmoreland Scottie running the course this weekend.

“I'm glad. I was lonely last year,” she said. “All the other people were warming up with their teammates. It's nice to have somebody else.”

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or

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