Vincentian freshman wins PIAA cross country title
HERSHEY — Those who haven't yet heard of Marianne Abdalah soon will.
That's because the Vincentian Academy freshman has her sights set on becoming a four-time PIAA Class A cross country champion.
She won her first Saturday at the Parkview Cross Country Course near Hersheypark by blowing away the competition.
Abdalah finished the 3.2-mile course in a personal best 18 minutes, 24 seconds, a course record for Class A. The WPIAL champion smashed her mark of 19:11 on the course when she ran in September.
“After the first mile, I dropped my competitors,” Abdalah said. “That was my goal, when the hills started I picked it up. I love the hills.
“It's great to win as a freshman. I really want to win all four years. I have to cross my fingers that another freshman doesn't come up.”
WPIAL girls actually dominated the Class A race. Avonworth senior Beth Shenck finished second in 19:20, Winchester-Thurston senior Madeline Schmiedeknecht finished sixth, Eden Christian sophomore Lauren Gromack was seventh and Riverview sophomore Molly Kennedy was eighth. Four others also finished in the top 25.
“That really showed how strong the WPIAL is Class A,” Abdalah said. “Competing here early this season helped me prepare.”
Abdalah started running when she was 7. Her parents, Marvin and Kim Abdalah, were runners in college.
“They kept encouraging me to win, and then I started to like it,” said Abdalah, who attended North Allegheny schools as a youth. “Now I love it. Coming to a smaller school was good for me.”
Shenck was hoping to stay with Abdalah, but she knew quickly the battle was for second place.
“I wasn't expecting to finish second,” Shenck said. “I'm happy to get a medal.”
It really wasn't a great day for the other runners from the WPIAL. The competition across the state proved to be strong.
The North Allegheny boys finished second in Class AAA. West Chester Henderson finished first with 60 points followed by the Tigers with 97.
North Allegheny senior Cordon Louco said it would have taken a superb effort to beat West Chester Henderson.
“Second place is better than no place,” Louco said. “We were determined to do something great and we did. “
North Allegheny finished fourth in 2012, third in 2011 and first in 2010. Louco was a freshman on the 2010 squad.
“Getting a medal means the world,” Louco said. “We're a close group, a family. This is one of the best feelings of my life.”
The top WPIAL finishers were: Class AAA boys — Fox Chapel senior Colin Martin, seventh; Class AA boys — Uniontown senior Nate Edenfield, fourth; Class A boys — Eden Christian senior Carter Smith, ninth; Class AAA girls — Mt. Lebanon sophomore Kelsey Potts, fourth; and Class AA girls — West Allegheny senior Alexis O'Shea, third.
Martin, Edenfield, Smith, Abdalah, O'Shea and Shaler senior Brianna Schwartz were WPIAL champions. Schwartz ended up fifth in Class AAAA.
O'Shea was happy to place, but disappointed she didn't win.
“I was hoping to do better,” O'Shea said. “But the girls who placed ahead of me were stronger than I expected. I did run my best time here, and this was my best finish.”
Edenfield also was happy to medal.
“My time was good and I ran well,” Edenfield said. “Last year, I was happy to make it. This year, the experience helped and I saw more things. It was fun.”