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Plum cross country teams fare well at Grove City Invite

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Lou Raggiunti | For The Plum Advance Leader
Plum junior Alan Yocca nears the finish line at the Gateway Invitational on Sept. 1, 2012.
Top high school sports
Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:00 p.m.

The Plum varsity boys cross country team finished behind only host Grove City at last Saturday's Grove City Invitational, and head coach Joe Ionta said he was pleased with the group's solid performance.

“Grove City probably is one of the top AA boys cross country teams in the state,” Ionta said.

“They are big time. They finished third at the Red, White and Blue Invitational last month. It was a great challenge for our boys. We knew what we were up against.”

Junior Eddie Amori placed seventh overall (17:08), while freshman Jacob Susalla (10th, 17:20), senior Luke Jennings (11th, 17:23), junior Alan Yocca (12th, 17:40), senior Adam Molinaro (13th, 17:40), junior Andy Marzullo (17:53) and sophomore Tyler Mower (44th, 19:20) rounded out the boys scorers in the varsity race.

“All of the boys (achieved personal records),” Ionta said.

“It would've been nice to come away with a win, but we had to be realistic. We asked them to transfer their practice workouts to the meet, and they did that.”

The Mustangs boys ran at Grove City only a couple of days after a strong performance at the Section 4-AAA championship meet at Pittsburgh's Schenley Park Oval.

Plum finished 5-3, and lost to section champion Fox Chapel (27-28), Kiski Area (27-29) and Pittsburgh Central Catholic (27-29) by a combined five points.

“Even though we were 5-3 at the section championship meet, we came within 15 seconds — we're talking one place here and there — of winning the section title,” Ionta said.

“We really made a statement there and surprised a lot of people. That was a positive thing for the boys. They've worked hard all year. We has almost as good of a week as you can have.”

The Plum girls finished third at the Grove City Invitational behind West Seneca West (N.Y.) and host Grove City.

Seniors Gina Valotta (21:22) and Courtney Liberatore (21:26) finished 12th and 13th, respectively, to lead the Mustangs girls, while freshman Ana Benitez was 19th (21:43).

Rounding out the top seven for Plum were senior Jordan Rupp (29th, 22:13), junior Chrissy Joyce (36th, 22:35), senior Mia Pietropola (42nd, 23:04) and junior Carly Izydore (55th, 23:55).

Benitez competed in a varsity race for the first time this season. For the first couple of weeks, she battled back from an injury.

She ran the JV race at the section championship meet last week and placed first overall.

“They came out of Grove City with a little bit more confidence than when they went in,” Ionta said.

“West Seneca West is a very good team from New York, and Grove City also is a strong team. All of the girls also PR'd, and some PR'd by an entire minute from what they've done this year.”

Ionta said running on the Grove City course will help them prepare for the upcoming Tri-State Track Coaches Association and WPIAL championships.

Both meets are at the Cooper's Lake Campground course near Slippery Rock University.

“Grove City is probably closer to Slippery Rock's course than any other course we run on all season,” Ionta said.

“The courses around here are a little more hilly and challenging.”

Plum will honor its seniors on Monday before a dual meet against Penn-Trafford on the Mustangs' home course at Boyce Park. The meet is set to begin at 3:30 p.m.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at

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