State finals are ultimate proving ground for local runners
TribLIVE Sports Videos
When the time came for Kiski Area senior Brent Kennedy to educate his younger brother, Eric, a freshman, about the PIAA cross country championship meet this season, the 2012 Class AAA state runner-up provided a synopsis that might have scared a lesser runner.
“He told me the first mile is the fastest mile I'll ever have been in,” Eric Kennedy said. “And I have to stay in it. Otherwise, I'll get caught up in the pack.”
Leave it to the little brother of two Kiski Area distance standouts to take that input and run with it.
“It's not that intimidating,” said Eric Kennedy, who bested all Class AAA freshman boys and qualified for the state meet with a 28th-place finish in the WPIAL championships last week. “It's just a different perspective.”
Steadily growing into a runner as gifted as Brent and former track star Ryan Kennedy, Eric Kennedy awaits the opportunity to see just how fast the best in the state move on the Parkview cross country course in Hershey, and to find out whether he can keep up.
He is one of several Alle-Kiski Valley underclassmen who will compete Saturday in the PIAA championships, which begin with the Class A girls at 9:30 a.m. and end with the Class AAA boys around 2 p.m.
Fox Chapel senior twins Colin and Ethan Martin, Michigan recruits who finished 1-2 in WPIAL Class AAA, are contenders for the state title. But many of the Alle-Kiski runners are hoping simply to medal, as three of the eight local boys qualifiers and five of the nine local girls qualifiers are either sophomores or freshmen — each of the sophomores is a returning qualifier.
“Making it (to Hershey) was my main goal from the beginning of the season,” Eric Kennedy said. “I need a good experience, so when I go back next year, I can look to place.”
Eric Kennedy will have Brent with him in Hershey, but they'll part ways come race time. Brent Kennedy, who committed to Notre Dame earlier this week, has sat out this postseason with a suspected stress fracture in his lower right leg.
While he has tried to get Eric ready for the PIAA event, Brent Kennedy admitted his advice cannot replace actual experience.
“You kind of just have to learn for yourself what it's like to go out at a 5-minute mile pace instead of a 5:30 mile,” Brent said. “Just getting the first one out of the way is big.”
Cavaliers teammate Megan Aller agrees.
Aller, a sophomore, placed 15th in the WPIAL and 54th in the PIAA a year ago. She received advice from Brent Kennedy and others, and she ran the Hershey course the day before the meet. But when the time came to compete for the Class AAA championship, her brain had other plans.
“I took it too hard up the first hill, and I made a big mistake,” Aller said. “I pretty much died after that. … I don't know what I was thinking.”
Now a year wiser, Aller, who took seventh last week in the WPIAL, has a strategy, and she intends to stick to it with the hopes of placing in the top 25 statewide. As Brent Kennedy suggested, a fast start is a must — the trail bottlenecks early, so passing becomes difficult, Aller said. But, as with any other race, energy management is vital.
Due in large part to her freshman year experience, Knoch sophomore Mandi Moxie enters the Class AA with her confidence at an apex. She improved from 16th last year to ninth in the WPIAL. Her next goal is to go from 92nd in the PIAA to somewhere in the top 50.
“I think I'm exactly where I need to be right now,” said Moxie, one of Knoch's four PIAA qualifiers (two boys, two girls). “I think I'm a lot stronger than I was last year, just mentally, too.
“Last year, I feel like I kind of gave up. It was just really difficult for me. This year, I'm prepared, and I'm going to give it everything I have.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Central Catholic boys seal spot in WPIAL semifinals
- Geibel rallies past Greensburg Central Catholic in quarterfinals
- Knoch’s boys, girls make program history at WPIAL meet
- High school roundup: Quaker Valley boys advance to semifinals
- South Park boys soccer team makes quick work of Knoch
- Jeannette junior looks back on soccer season, toward future
- Riverview boys soccer falls to Winchester Thurston in WPIAL quarterfinals
- Thomas Jefferson boys soccer team ousted by West Allegheny
- Belle Vernon Area girls ousted by Montour
- Second-half adjustments help Burrell boys soccer win in 2OT
- Greensburg Salem girls made strides this season