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Riverview exudes pre-meet confidence

| Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Riverview's girls track and field team stunned Freeport in the WPIAL Class AA semifinals last week and avenged a loss from earlier in the season.

Entering the WPIAL finals, the Raiders aren't the favorites again. But another leap forward could put them in contention for the title.

"We're looking at a strong finish," coach Dave Ilnicki said. "Obviously, Quaker Valley is the team to beat. But we're looking to improve from last year. We're going in with greater expectations."

Riverview, Freedom, Mt. Pleasant and Quaker Valley will meet in the WPIAL Class AA team championships at 2 p.m. Thursday at West Mifflin High School.

Last year, Quaker Valley captured the crown, with Burrell, Deer Lakes and Riverview finishing second, third and fourth, respectively. That experience could be a bonus for the Raiders.

Riverview seems to be hitting its stride. In last week's semifinals, many of Riverview's athletes recorded or came close to personal-best times and distances. The jumpers and throwers, in particular, performed well.

"They improved from the first time we competed against Freeport," Ilnicki said. "A matter of inches can make up the point difference."

Riverview sophomore Kathleen Joyce had a spectacular day, piling up points with three first-place finishes (long jump, triple jump and 300-meter hurdles).

Another outstanding performance from Joyce help Riverview make a run at the championship.

"It's good we can focus when it really matters," Joyce said. "We were trying hard to perform well (in the semifinals). Beating Freeport was great. No one expected that from us."

Riverview defeated Mohawk and Center, as well, in the four-team semifinals.

Also earning first-place points for Riverview were Becca McAfee (100), Christi Trilli (1,600), Becky Craig (3,200), Katie Gallaher (high jump), Katie Milantoni (javelin), and the 3,200 relay team of Craig, Trilli, Ali Taylor and Rachel Zentgraf.

Distance running is a forte at Riverview. The girls' cross country team won WPIAL Class AA titles in 2006 and '07.

The steady improvement the Riverview team has shown gives the Raiders confidence going into the championships. They aim to place better than fourth, at least.

"I definitely think we can do that," Gallaher said. "We're going out for Quaker Valley. I think we have a good chance of being second, if not first."

Quaker Valley looms as a big challenge. Last season, senior Christa Rogers won four WPIAL Class AA titles (100, 200, 100 hurdles and 400 relay). However, Freedom and Mt. Pleasant also have outstanding individuals.

"Last year, we entered the championships with a very young team," Ilnicki said. "We had a lot of freshmen. The girls have really improved."

Additional Information:

WPIAL Class AA girls track and field finals

Teams: Riverview, Freedom, Mt. Pleasant and Quaker Valley.

When: 2 p.m. Thursday.

Where: West Mifflin High School.

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