Plum cross country teams open at Gateway Invitational
The Plum boys and girls cross country team members ran an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday at Boyce Park to get acclimated to the atmosphere of an upcoming race, whether it is a dual meet or an invitational.
The Mustangs have had the conditioning part down pat, as the team members have logged many miles throughout Plum Borough over the spring and summer months.
“I thought we ran well at the intrasquad scrimmage,” veteran head coach Joe Ionta said. “The teams have a lot of potential.”
The Plum teams kick off their season at the 24th annual Gateway Invitational on Saturday morning at Boyce Park.
More than a dozen teams will be in action, and the races begins with the varsity girls at 9 a.m., followed by the varsity boys race at 9:30.
The junior varsity boys and girls races will be at 10 and 10:30, respectively.
The Gateway Invitational again will feature middle school races. The boys race will be at 11, with the girls race at 11:20.
“The kids are excited,” Ionta said. “They are looking forward to running against kids in different- color uniforms. There are always great teams at the Gateway Invitational. It always gives us a good idea of where we are to start the season.”
Ionta said the number of runners on both teams really have impressed him. A total of 54 runners are on both teams – 29 girls and 25 boys.
“They are all working hard, and the weather has really cooperated,” he said.
Five of the top seven Plum varsity girls finishers at last year's WPIAL championship meet return this season.
Ionta said goodbye to graduates Liz Addison and Steph Tomaro, but he welcomes back seniors Gina Valotta, Courtney Liberatore and Mia Pietropola; junior Chrissy Joyce; and sophomore Abby Sebuna.
Senior Jordan Rupp missed most of last year because of injury, but, Ionta said, she is running well at the start of the season and hopes to make an impact.
Of the top 10, four might be freshmen, as, Ionta said, Josie DiClaudio, Maddie Biertempfel, Kayla Anderson and Ana Benitez hope to be in the mix.
The Mustangs boys varsity squad also returns five of the top seven WPIAL finishers from last season.
Brendan Demich and Chris Boggess graduated, but the top three from WPIALs – Luke Jennings, Alan Yocca and Adam Molinaro - return.
Also back are juniors Andy Marzullo and Eddie Amori.
Ionta said Amori was the top runner for the boys team last year until injury hampered his season efforts, especially his efforts at WPIALs.
“It looks like Eddie is back to prime form,” Ionta said.
Sophomores Tyler Mo- wer, Pat Caughney, Liam Butler and Danny Bergless and freshmen Jake Susalla, DuJuon Bill, John Raggiunti and Bill Rhoades, Ionta said, all are hoping to make their marks this season.
“Gateway, Kiski Area, Fox Chapel, Pittsburgh Central Catholic (boys) and Oakland Catholic (girls) are all outstanding squads,” Ionta said.
“It will be a very challenging season for both teams. We hope to be competitive against the top teams and improve as the season goes on. Both squads have a great work ethic, and I know they will improve.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.