Quaker Valley boys, girls cross country aim to defend WPIAL titles

| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, 8:59 p.m.

The Quaker Valley High School boys cross country team has high hopes of winning its sixth straight WPIAL Class AA title this year.

But a lack of depth might prevent it from repeating as PIAA champion.

Quaker Valley was the first WPIAL boys cross country team to win a PIAA Class AA title since 1976.

Quaker Valley returns several top runners, including WPIAL individual champion Roy Hadfield. But reserves are inexperienced, which could pose a problem if starters are injured.

Quaker Valley lost Nat Fox, Matt Cooper and L.J. Westwood to graduation. All placed in the top eight at the WPIAL championship.

Fox, the WPIAL runner-up, was fifth at the PIAA championship.

“Repeating at WPIALs is probably a more realistic goal for us than winning again at states,” coach Dave Noyes said. “But if we stay healthy and work hard, anything can happen.

“I remember several years ago, we lost some runners. Our boys worked hard to put themselves in a position to become a state championship (caliber) team.”

Besides Hadfield, a senior, the Quakers return junior Rob Veltre, senior Josh Szymanski and sophomore Xavier Lang.

“We'll be really disappointed if we can't repeat (as WPIAL and PIAA champions),” said Veltre, who finished 11th at the WPIAL championship. “There's more pressure on us than there was a year ago, but we don't let that bother us.

“We're trying to stay focused and encourage our young runners by giving them advice when we feel they're doing something wrong.”

The Quaker Valley girls team has lofty goals after winning its third straight WPIAL title a year ago.

Returning are seniors Lauren Ferris, Abby Rausch and Rachel Skolnekovich, as well as junior Ashley McKendry.

Freshman Hannah Bablak and junior Mary Grace Beson are first-year starters.

“The girls have more depth than the boys,” said Noyes, who also coaches the Quaker Valley girls team. “Hannah is a strong runner who did well in middle school. Mary Grace, our eighth runner last year, worked hard over the summer.

“We're counting on both of them to step up and contribute so we can win WPIALs again and improve our finish at states.”

The Quaker Valley girls team was third at the PIAA championship last fall.

The Sewickley Academy boys and girls teams expect to be serious contenders for WPIAL titles after moving to Class A.

It is the first year there is a Class A in WPIAL cross country. In previous years, teams competed only in Class AA or AAA.

The Sewickley Academy boys were 25th and the girls ninth at the WPIAL Class AA championships last season.

“Being with schools our size (in Class A) should make us much more competitive,” said Louise Pegg, in her first year as Sewickley Academy boys and girls coach.

“Competing in Class A is definitely going to help,” said senior Tori Pawk, a member of the girls team. “We're all counting on improving as individuals and as a team.”

The girls will be without WPIAL champion Caitlin Bungo, who graduated and now competes at Villanova University.

Junior Carly Little is being counted upon to ease her loss.

Little, a transfer from Peters Township, placed ninth at the WPIAL Class AAA championship as a freshman.

“Carly was injured last year,” Pegg said. “We're hoping she's healthy enough to compete.”

Pawk, sophomore Julia Zwetolitz and junior Maggie McClain also start for the Sewickley Academy girls team.

For the boys, returning from last year are sophomores Pieter Hansen, Owen Hipwell and Wyatt Geller, as well as seniors Will Kleeman and Patrick Dellinger.

Evan Ragoowansi shows promise as a freshman.

“Our boys have a lot of depth,” Pegg said.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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