Quaker Valley hopes for pair of cross country titles
With many runners back, the Quaker Valley boys and girls cross country teams are optimistic about sweeping WPIAL Class AA titles for the second time in four seasons and the girls repeating as WPIAL champions.
The Quakers will open the season at the Red, White and Blue Classic meet Saturday at Schenley Park.
“The girls will compete at the same level,” said Dave Noyes, who coaches both squads. “The boys certainly will be in the hunt for a (WPIAL) title, too.”
Sophomore Lucie Kubinski leads the girls. Kubinski was third among individuals at the WPIAL championship last season.
Sophomore Audrey Durbin (ninth), junior Bearett Tarris (12th) and junior Anna Pawloski (15th) also return after competing at the WPIAL tournament.
Junior Isabella Brown, who has competed in track, is a promising newcomer.
“(Brown's) great distance ability will be a huge help (to) our team,” said Tarris, a captain.
Junior Zach Skolnekovich, the defending WPIAL individual champion, is back to pace the boys, who were sixth in the WPIAL last year.
“I just want to improve my times and finish in a top place each race,” Skolnekovich said. “I want to help my team as much as possible each race by challenging for the top spot.”
Senior Thomas Musial and junior Ryan Torbic return after scoring for the Quakers at the WPIAL championship.
Noyes said Musial is a solid second runner.
“He's in (his) best shape,” Noyes said. “He worked hard over the summer.”
Senior Bobby Guild, junior Jake Smiley and freshman Colton Bates also will compete, Noles said.
The Quaker Valley boys and girls teams have captured WPIAL crowns in the same year five times since 2001, most recently in 2012.
The outlook is not as rosy at Sewickley Academy, where the boys team is rebuilding after winning the school's first WPIAL cross country title last year.
The Panthers have three solid runners in juniors Griffin Mackey, Ben Clouse and Tim Hanlon, but the fourth and fifth spots are questionable, coach Derek Chimner said.
Mackey was third among individuals at the WPIAL Class A championship last year. Clouse and Hanlon placed 13th and 27th.
Junior Neill Peirce is a potential fourth or fifth runner, Chimner said.
“He's running well and putting in great (effort),” Chimner said.
Mackey said he is trying to remain positive and help the team back to the PIAA championship, in which it was runner-up to Winchester Thurston a year ago.
“Although we lost a few seniors to graduation, we believe that we have others ready to step up and take their place,” Mackey said. “Everything is focused on getting the team back to states and getting Sewickley Academy (its) first state championship in cross country.”
Clouse said he and his teammates are working hard.
“We all have individual goals (that help the team),” he said.
With nine members, the Sewickley Academy girls team has more depth than it did a year ago, when it finished 16th in the WPIAL.
Senior Katie Duggan and freshman Nella Tsudis will be top competitors for the Panthers, said Chimner, who also coaches the girls.
Duggan said she enjoys working with Tsudis.
“She's going to be an asset,” said Duggan, adding Tsudis may be the team's best runner.
Sewickley Academy kicked off the season with dual meets Wednesday at Shady Side Academy. Results were not available before this edition's deadline.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.