Hot weather plays big role at WPIAL cross country final
There were champions of all six races, but the biggest winner at the WPIAL cross country championships was Mother Nature.
Unseasonably warm temperatures that peaked above 80 degrees turned the championships at Cooper's Lake in Slippery Rock into a true test of endurance last Thursday, and racers from area schools experienced mixed results in the hot conditions.
Franklin Regional will send its top boy and girl runner, Luke Schott and Kaitlyn Figurelli, to the PIAA final in Hershey this weekend after top-10 finishes, while Penn-Trafford senior Chelsia Poole was the next best Star-area finisher, as she took 27th place in the girls race and is the first alternate to states in Class AAA.
Figurelli placed eighth in 19 minutes, 46 seconds in her race, behind four runners from team champion Mt. Lebanon. Schott was ninth in 16:36 after hanging within four seconds of the leaders past the two-mile mark before dropping back on the final lengthy ascent on the course.
“I'm really happy to get back to states,” Figurelli said. “The conditions today, I'm not a big fan of heat like this. I kept looking at the temperature this week keeping going up, and I was thinking, ‘What is this? This is October!” But I wanted to do well and try to get a good place because I knew the times weren't going to be as good.”
Conditions led to exhaustion on the part of many runners, as multiple runners collapsed on the course and did not finish, while others required intravenous fluids or were taken to the hospital after the race.
The result was a delay to the start of the boys races and a second delay before the Class AAA boys race because no ambulances or emergency personnel were left on site.
That led to nearly an hour between the scheduled start time of the Class AAA boys race and the actual start time, which came after 5 p.m.
“I'm not sure that we ran as well as we usually do because we sat around in this heat so long,” Schott said. “We got here around 11, so there was six hours before we got to run.”
The delays didn't affect Schott as much as many others, and the FR senior said that he accomplished his main goal of a top-10 finish.
“When Single-A boys were running, we were doing dynamics and warming up. Then they announced the delay, so we had to stop and do that again,” Schott said. “I guess the plus to the start being pushed back was that it was cooler when we actually ran.”
Poole also had a strong race, but her time of 20:47 was two seconds behind Seneca Valley's Lauren Sauer, who claimed the last of the 15 individual spots at states and made Poole the first alternate if one of the 15 drop out. Members of the three teams that qualified for states do not count against the WPIAL's 15 entries.
“I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I get a chance,” Poole said. “It was definitely tough out there today, but I gave it everything I could.
“When it's two seconds, you always think maybe you could've gotten one more (place). It's tough to be the first person that misses out.”
The girls teams heading to states are Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny and North Hills, while Franklin Regional placed 11th, Norwin was 19th, and Penn-Trafford was 20th.
The top three boys teams were North Allegheny, Fox Chapel and Mt. Lebanon, while Franklin Regional was 10th, Norwin was 23rd and Penn-Trafford was 26th.
Also competing for Franklin Regional's girls were Danielle Vensel (30th, 20:52), Katja Kochvar (54th, 21:38), Hayley Grajewski (108th, 22:45), Grace Pekarcik (113th, 22:48), Brianca Li (153rd, 24:28) and Allison Holcombe (160th, 24:42).
For Norwin, Abby Pristas was the top finisher in 61st, with a time of 21:58. Behind her were Hannah Rusinko (83rd, 22:18), Cameryn Grudowski (92nd, 22:27), Julia Rosso (125th, 23:08), Rebecca Rohac (142nd, 23:39), Rebecca Peters (150th, 24:02) and Lacey Aley (156th, 24:32).
Running for Penn-Trafford's girls were Sarah Taylor (65th, 22:03), Julia Wimer (88th, 22:23), Delaney Cooper (165th, 24:53), Nicole Patterson (170th, 25:03), Nicole Loeliger (176th, 25:33) and Kelly Matoney (186th, 25:59).
In the boys race for Franklin Regional were Brett Trottier (59th, 17:52), Ian Griffith (68th, 17:57), Mo Sajjad (86th, 18:12), Ben Myers (102nd, 18:25), Tim Mastovich (137th, 18:57) and James Capone (139th, 18:58).
For Norwin, Brandan Moretton was the top finisher in 37th, with a time of 17:33. Behind him were Tyler Laughery (121st, 18:41), Clay Brough (141st, 19:03), Brendon Wagner (161st, 19:26), Andrew Bradley (175th, 19:45), Trey Quealy (178th, 19:48) and Charles Huss (184th, 19:55).
For Penn-Trafford, Jonah Graffius was the top finisher in 44th, with a time of 17:40. Behind him were Daniel Kolonay (101st, 18:25), Brenton Sige (192nd, 20:09), Sean Lane (196th, 20:13), Austin Apelquest (203rd, 20:49), Nelson Phelps (213th, 21:32) and Matthew Defazio (222nd, 22:22).
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or email@example.com.