The Red, White and Blue Classic had a change of scenery and weather as area cross country runners had the opportunity to try out the new WPIAL championship course.
The race was held at White Oak Park in McKeesport instead of the Schenley Park Oval in Oakland because of gathering limits brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“What a well-run meet,” said Mt. Lebanon coach Oscar Shutt.
The Mt. Lebanon girls team finished fourth in the Class AAA varsity standings behind Seneca Valley (58) and runner-up North Allegheny (102). The Blue Devil boys team took behind third behind North Allegheny (26) and Butler (101).
“The cross country gods smiled upon the change as it was blue skies, slightly cool and dry conditions that led to fast times,” Upper St. Clair head coach Doug Petrick said. “The athletes loved the new course.”
The Upper St. Clair girls placed sixth, while the Panthers boys team took eighth place.
“The invitational went extremely well,” said Chartiers Valley coach Lori Poe.
The Colts girls team finished in second place in Class AA with 111 points. North Catholic won the division with a score of 102.
“It was awesome to give our athletes a chance to race in a larger meet,” Poe said.
Considering the uncertainty of the season and the cancellation of spring track because of COVID-19, the coaches were delighted to race.
“Having an event like this almost seemed surreal,” Petrick said. “It was a joy to watch the athletes compete and challenge themselves.”
Shutt said he was concerned fall sports wouldn’t be allowed to proceed during the summer months.
“My biggest hope for the rest of the year is to be able to have the athletes continue to have opportunities to compete,” he said.
“We are thankful for every opportunity we have to race and are taking nothing for granted,” she said.
Red, White and BluerRaces were split and held over two days with up to two flights at a time. This modification allowed for more room on the starting line and less athletes per race. The amount of entries per team were also restricted.
Top CV female runners included Kate Pipilo (14th), Abby Betts (18th), Grace Struna (19th), Riley Thornton (30th) and Dani Thornton (37).
Colts boys runners Kaden Crump and Santo Riccardi finished in the top 25.
“Overall, I was pleased with how well everyone raced and reacted to the competition,” Poe said. “We saw a lot of fast times.”
As the season progresses, CV should lower those marks. The Colts will again race at White Oak during the Bald Eagle Invitational Oct. 3 and the Tri-State Coaches Association Meet Oct. 22, which is the final race before the WPIAL championships Oct. 29.
“It was definitely a good preview and gave us some insight into the technical aspects of the course,” Poe said. “So when WPIALs are held, we should be well prepared and familiar with the course.”
Meanwhile, Lebo isn’t looking too far ahead.
During the RWB, Alison Hodgson impressed Shutt with her leadership abilities. She finished in the top 30 along with Caroline Adams and Grace Goslin. Logan St. John-Kletter, Grace Kraemer, Gracie Petrich and Kate Mooney also competed well, Shutt said.
Barak Asher led the Lebo boys, finishing in 10th place in 16:43.12, while Swapnil Rana followed in 13th. Matthew Quinn, Robert Winschel, Trey Reichenfeld, Thomas Quinn and Ryan Cawley also had strong showings Shutt said.
Shutt said he expects his boys and girls team to improve in time for the WPIAL championships.
“The WPIAL has many talented teams, but we hope to be among the top teams at the end of the year and try to qualify for the state meet,” he said.
USC also anticipates improvement.
Top female finishers for USC at RWB were Molly Maher, Sophia Shi, Claire Hoffman, Jaclyn Martinelli, Lydia Rhodes, Jillian Fishell and Morgan Meddings.
Ryan Sarkett and Robert Shontz placed in the top 20 for the Panthers boys team. Sawyer Weinmann, Cole Jooste, Felipe Molacuri, Evan Sarkese and Joseph Markovitz also finished strong, Petrick said.
“This was our first crack at a traditional invite,” Petrick said. “It was great to see teams in AAA have strong performances. This bodes well for the rest of the season, as everyone brings their ‘A-game’ each week.”
Bethel Park freshman Jenna Lang finished in third overall with a time of 18:44.92.
Lang trailed only defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Mia Cochran, who won with a 17:39.38 time, and Shady Side Academy’s Melissa Riggins with a time of 18:13.59.
The South Fayette girls finished eighth overall.
Lauren Iagnemma finished in 21st place. Gabby Baiano, Baylee Carpenter, Lily Colombo, Emma Fleck, Angelina Gabriel and Morgan Lukenich also contributed to the Lions’ score of 199.
The SF boys finished fifth in the team standings. Sophomore Jake Borgesi placed eighth overall with a time of 16:38.19. Aaron Skerbetz, Roman Galioto, Drake Simpson, Zack Warhol, Ryan Ging and Jadon Peterson also ran well for the Lions.