Gateway competes on new Bushy Run course
With its debut in the books, Penn-Trafford's new cross country home received positive reviews.
Franklin Regional and Gateway joined the Warriors on Sept. 12, when Penn-Trafford hosted its first home meet at Bushy Run Battlefield on a warm, sunny day at the state park in Penn Township.
The Gators competed against both teams in the nonsection meet, while the Warriors and Panthers did not keep score against each other, as they will race in a three-team section meet on Oct. 2 in Latrobe. Franklin Regional won against Gateway, 22-34 in boys and 27-30 in girls, while Gateway topped Penn-Trafford, 22-36 in boys and 26-29 in girls.
The new course was the biggest news of the day, however, as Penn-Trafford successfully made the move to a new, more scenic course than the path around the high school's campus it previously used.
“At first, I didn't like the idea of switching (courses), especially because it's my senior year,” said P-T's Chelsia Poole, who was third in the girls race and the Warriors' top finisher.
“Now that I've run it, I'm not going to lie, I really like the course.”
The home team's runners weren't the only fans of the course, as the hilly terrain provided a fair challenge for the runners of all skill levels. Franklin Regional senior Luke Schott won the boys race with a time of 17 minutes, 17 seconds, which makes him the first course record holder for a high school meet.
“I love the course. I think it's a lot better. It's a big upgrade from their campus course,” Schott said. “No one really likes the campus courses. It's nice to get out in parks and placed like this.
“I liked how you got to go back through the woods, and it was challenging with all the hills. It was a nice variety.”
The new course begins and ends at adjacent start and finish lines by the parking lot and pavilion at the park.
Runners work mostly uphill for the first mile, as they zig-zag along the area above the pavilion. The second mile begins with a gradual downhill run through the woods, which eventually brings runners out to the area near the park entrance on Rt. 993.
After crossing the driveway with roughly one mile remaining, runners face a descent that leads into a final, steep climb along the perimeter of the grounds, which eventually brings them to a tree line through the middle of the park that marks the path back to the finish line.
“I liked how part of it is through the woods for the runners, but the spectators can see a decent amount of it across the field,” Gateway senior Ben Farina said. “You could definitely put lots of runners in one race. I think we had 50 kids today, and I didn't have any issue making turns or passing.”
“It could have been marked a little better, but it is the first time here,” Gateway senior Tyler Palenchak said. “This has some good ups and downs, where you can pick up your tempo on the downhills and work the uphills. It's a bit tougher than average.”
Behind Schott in the debut boys race was Palenchak, who finished in 17:52, and Franklin Regional's Ian Griffith, who was third in 18:19. P-T's Jonah Graffius was fourth with an 18:20, and Gateway freshman Liam Connolly was fifth in 18:21.
In the girls race, Franklin Regional seniors took the top two spots, as Kaitlyn Figurelli finished in 20:24 and Danielle Vensel finished in 21:02. Poole's time of 21:09 was third, and she was followed by teammate Sarah Taylor in 21:25 and Gateway freshman Katie Heasley, who rounded out the top five in 22:21.
Gateway runners competed at the Boardman Spartan Invitational in Boardman, Ohio, last Saturday.
The boys squad finished 30th in the team standings, and Connelly led the Gators with a 101st-place finish in a time of 17:40.52.
“The boys varsity Division I race featured more than 40 teams,” Gateway head coach Tom LaBuff said. “They made an announcement that the field included five of Ohio's top 10 teams, and I know that at least four of Pennsylvania's top teams were there as well, so it was a state-championship-level competition.”
The Gateway girls squad came in 21st out of 35 teams, and three runners placed in the individual top 100.
Junior Tameka Williams came in 71st (21:21.37), while Heasley was 85th (21:44.17), and junior Tamisha Williams was 98th (21:51.82).
“The girls team continued to show steady improvement,” LaBuff said. “They all ran well in a field that was almost as deep as the boys varsity race.”
Gateway continues to gear up for an all-in-one-day Section 4-AAA event Oct. 2 at 4 p.m. at Pittsburgh's Schenley Park Oval course. All nine section teams will be there, and the boys and girls section titles will be decided that day.
“The coaches got to- gether and devised this plan to make for a better training schedule for the runners (less meets) and to save the districts money on transportation,” LaBuff said.
The Gators are slated to compete at the Uniontown Invitational on Saturday.
The course is at Penn State's Fayette Campus and the races are scheduled to start at 9 a.m.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.