Adding Class A race shakes up WPIAL championship meet
The addition of a third classification shook up Thursday's WPIAL cross country championships.
The district crowned individual and team champions in the newly created Class A, and former Class AAA standouts made a big impact in Class AA on an unseasonably hot afternoon at Cooper's Lake Campground near Slippery Rock.
Vincentian senior Ryan Archer (16:34) and Laurel senior Emily Maxwell (20:14) made history by claiming the first-ever WPIAL Class A titles. They finished third and sixth, respectively, in Class AA last year.
And in AA, South Park senior Tyler Rigby (16:59) and Uniontown senior Julie Friend (19:23) captured their first WPIAL championships. They leaped forward from 40th and 14th-place finishes in AAA last season.
Continuing the theme of firsts, Kiski Area junior Brent Kennedy (15:59) and Shaler sophomore Brianna Schwartz (18:32) won the AAA crowns.
Impressively, Archer's time was good enough to win the AA race. He said the addition of Class A reduces large differences in the enrollment of schools in the same division but admitted he wouldn't mind competing individually in AA.
“This makes it fairer for teams,” Archer said. “But, as far as individuals, I'd rather see a more competitive state race. Still, it's pretty cool to win (the first WPIAL Class A title).”
Maxwell, who got off to a strong start, said she knew from the beginning of the race she'd have a better chance to win this year.
“This is just incredible,” Maxwell said. “Ever since last year, it was my goal to win a WPIAL title. With the new class, it's cool to say I was the first winner of that class.”
Rigby's improvement was the largest among the winners, but he still was challenged by the heat and competition. He held off Beaver senior Marshall Bruce (17:04) but collapsed at the finish line.
“I was trying to drink as much water as I can,” Rigby said. “I poured a bunch of water on me to stay cool. As for the race, I tried to do what I always do. I definitely exhausted myself. My buddies picked me up and got me to treatment. I was definitely blurry. I lay on ice for awhile, and I was fine.”
Last year, Friend suffered from dehydration and stumbled down the home stretch before being treated.
“It went better than I thought it would (this year),” Friend said. “I was afraid the heat would get to me, and I'd pass out. I hydrated a lot over the past week.”
In the girls' team standings, Laurel won Class A for its first WPIAL title, Quaker Valley won in AA, and Mt. Lebanon took top honors in AAA.
In the boys' competition, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart placed first in Class A to capture its first WPIAL crown, Quaker Valley won AA, and North Allegheny cruised to its eighth consecutive AAA title.
Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-224-2696.