For the second straight cross country invitational of the season, Emily Carter of Bethel Park and Patrick Anderson of Mt. Lebanon set the pace.
Both won their respective races and were crowned champions in the Class AAA division during the Red, White & Blue Classic held Sept. 8 at Schenley Park.
Carter won in record fashion. For the second time this season, she set the standard.
The junior smashed the Red, White and Blue mark with a time of 17:41.85. She previously broke the meet record in winning the Marty Uher Invitational at California University of Pennsylvania, where the WPIAL championships will be contested Oct. 24
“I am very proud of Emily,” said BP girls coach Scott Staranko. “Two meets, two records is a great start to the year for Emily.”
Noting the course had just been revamped only a year ago, Carter downplayed her feat.
“It was not anything crazy or shocking. It’s just a two-year record,” she said. “But, I don’t really try to break records. What time I get is the time I get. I’m just trying to do my best.”
Carter did her best because she followed a tried-and-true strategy. She didn’t go out too fast. She stayed with the girls she knew she had to beat. Then, she outkicked Lea Hatcher from Morgantown for the victory by nearly four seconds.
“I like to put that final burst on at the end,” she said. “Hills and my kick are my biggest strengths. So once I pushed past the other girls on that tiny hill before the final flat, I just wanted to continue building my lead until the end.”
Carter plans to be in a good position by the end of the cross country season. She finished third at last year’s WPIAL championships and 11th at the PIAA finals.
Carter’s top competition locally comes from Mia Cochran of Moon, North Allegheny’s Hannah Lindgren and Keeley Misutka as well as Grace Sisson from Fox Chapel.
Carter will use the Foundation Meet later this month as a tune-up for states. The race is held in Hershey on the course in which the PIAA finals are run.
“My goal in the race is not about my finish,” she said. “Since it is the course that states is on, I want to run the race to learn where I should make my moves and apply what I learn from there for my preparation for states.”
Past experiences, indeed, are helping Carter negotiate her way to success in the early part of the season. While 17:41 is a personal record for her, she said such a fast time is not really the goal for cross country because every course is different. Schenley Park happened to be the flattest course on which she will compete all year.
“My past experiences have helped. I know that I can run with these girls — some I have beaten before. I stay with them, then pass them in the end. Really, though, it’s not about winning. It’s about doing my best.”
Carter and Staranko were also pleased with the rest of the Black Hawks as they ran their best, too. BP finished 14th in the team standings. Other top runners for BP included Anna Janaszek, Sydney Burns, Hannah Crawford, Madelyn Sellati, Lillian Zeminski and Ella Voskamp.
“They have been working extremely hard in practices,” Staranko said, “and it shows at the meets. It’s a great start to the year for our young team.”
Anderson’s great start
Anderson continued his great start, too. He won the Class AAA boys division with a time of 15:44.24, which was 13 seconds ahead of his rival Christian Fitch. The Fox Chapel senior secured second in 15:57.85.
“With Fitch coming back and having beaten me last year, there was a little competition,” said Anderson. “I wanted to get him this year.”
Anderson said he did so by sticking to his strategy. He sought separation on the hills and dominance at the finish.
“We went out and were all kind of together. The whole pack was right behind us even at the first mile-and-a-half,” Anderson said, “but I think at the start of the uphill it started to spread out a little bit. With a half-mile left, I kind of pulled out a little bit.”
Anderson said it all depends on the course, but if a race is tight, he hopes a hill is coming.
“I do work the hills,” he said, “but I like to push no matter what — come at the end. You really have to push to get away and win.”
Anderson added he feels he is in a lot better shape at this point in the season than he was last year when he finished runner-up in the WPIAL and as state champion at the PIAA finals. He is anxious for the Foundation Meet later this month.
Anderson helped the Lebo boys to a runner-up showing in the team standings. The Blue Devils scored 35 points and finished behind North Allegheny, which scored 23.
Lebo’s other top finishers included: Swapnil Rana, Duncan LaDuke, Matthew Quinn, Trey Reichenfeld, Robert Winschel, Kyle Bloch and Sam Chrystal.
The Lebo girls team’s Allison Hodgson finished in the top 30. Elise Hackworth, Grace Kraemer, Gracie Petrich, Emma Toussaint, Caroline Brustoloni and Danielle Duncan helped the Blue Devils to a top 10 finish in the team standings.
SF shows well
The South Fayette boys and girls teams held their own while competing up a division. While the guys secured seventh place in the Class AAA team standings, the girls took third place, behind NA (26) and Seneca Valley (62).
Zach Conner placed 24th while Aaron Skerbetz finished in the 43rd position. Jake Borgesi filled the 53rd slot. The freshman finished with a time of 17:31.44. Additionally, Drake Simpson and Drew Whiteside placed in the top 100.
“The boys race was a strong start for us,” said SF coach Joe Winans. “Zach looked strong and Aaron gives us a good one-two punch. Jack was the fastest freshman in the race, so I’m excited to see how he progresses, not just this year but beyond.”
Winans also noted how Simpson and Whiteside put in a lot of hard work to get themselves ready to make a difference this year. The Lions are hoping to secure a spot as a team for this year’s PIAA championships in November, he said.
Although the girls competed without their No. 1 runner Hailey Poe, who was fresh off competing in the World Triathlon Championships in Switzerland, they had solid performances from Lauren Iagnemma, Gabby Baiano, Angelina Gabriel and Steff Kozak. All placed in the top 70. Delaney Parisi and Morgan Lukenich also submitted top 100 performances.
“Lauren looked strong,” Winans said. “She has been putting in a ton of good, smart work. Gabby also looked good with the freshman (Angelina) right on her heels.”
Winans also noted Kozak, a senior, is healthy after suffering an injury that prevented her from competing in the WPIAL and PIAA championships a year ago.
“The girls have their eyes set on winning a state championship and are doing it with the tested formula of strong front runners pulling ‘low sticks’ and solid depth to keep the spread low,” said Winans, who included Emma Fleck, Parisi and Lukenich in the mix.
The Upper St. Clair girls submitted their best showing at the Red, White & Blue Classic, finishing in fourth place as a team.
Jillian Fishell led the team with a 24th-place performance. Molly Maher, Claire Hoffman, Sophia Shi and Carly Abraham followed next for USC, finishing within 18 seconds of each other for spots 40 through 45.
“They did a phenomenal job running in a pack,” said USC coach Doug Petrick. “Coach (Maureen) Chermak and I were happy for them.”
USC’s Alex Shaw finished 11th overall in the boys race. Kasey Turner, Nate Paul, RJ Shontz and Mahesh Lakshminarayanan were the next Panthers runners in on the score sheet as USC placed 11th overall in the Class AAA boys team standings.
“As coaches, we enjoyed watching Alex and Kasey lead the guys and some of our younger athletes stepped up and performed,” Petrick said.
Petrick said the meet was run well by host Baldwin and Rich Wright. It featured teams from outside of Western Pennsylvania, including Ohio and West Virginia, making for one of the most competitive cross country races of the season.
“It was another amazing event,” he said. “There were a ton of amazing performances in all division races and the conditions were ideal for running, but we always embrace whatever Mother Nature throws at us and keep a positive attitude.”
The Panthers will need one as they embark on section action, which includes Mt. Lebanon, Bethel Park, Peters Township, Baldwin and South Fayette.
“We are excited to shift into section-play mode,” Petrick said. “There’s so many talented teams and athletes in the South Hills. The competition will help everyone get better, and athletes get lots of practice on executing racing tactics. All these factors help runners improve, regardless of experience and ability level. And as the season progresses, their fitness level will improve as well.”
Peters Township senior Zack Marmol placed ninth overall in the boys Class AAA division with a 16:22.69 time.
Stephanie Keelson from Canon-McMillan and Lizzie Brucker from Peters Township had top 20 showings in the girls division.
Mt. Lebanon was runner-up in the boys JV division behind NA, 23-35.
Top performers for the Blue Devils included: Thomas Quinn (third overall) and Eli Lehman (fourth). Weston Barber and Peter Swindal also finished in the top 10 while Ryan Cawley, Jack West, Owen Baun, Ben Asher and Joshua Sabram rounded out the top 20.
Canon-McMillan’s Jamie Nealon finished in 11th place.
South Fayette (third), Lebo (fourth), Chartiers Valley (ninth) and Upper St. Clair (10th) placed in the top 10 in the JV girls team standings. Peters Township finished 14th.
Lebo’s Gabriella Kail finished fifth overall. SF’s Sadie Mohnkern, Peyton Yater and Ally Lerda placed in the top 15.
Other top Blue Devils included: Rowan Ford, Lily Kane, Ally Braunsdorf, Ripley Ford, Annie Kail, Bridget Vigrass, Ryan Brown, Sophie Toussaint, Kathryn Hart, Justine Meta, Kyra McCague, Lily Neemes, Macy Johnston, Anya Clougherty, Ava Prezioso, Hannah Sabram, Grace Ganoe and Zoe Phares.
Other top South Fayette performers were Baylee Carpenter, Jillian Rexrode, Mia Fraps and Mary Connolly.
Top performers for CV included: Grace Magilson, Allison Moses and Abby Betts while Rebecca Demar and Lucia Niharra paced USC. BP’s top runner was Maura Farmerie.
Two top freshmen
Brett Kroboth of Peters Township and Seth Wudkwych from Canon-McMillan finished in the Top 10 during the freshman race. Kroboth finished fifth in 18:34.42 while Wudkwych was ninth in 18:45.67.