Seeger, Fox Chapel girls have high expectations for WPIAL championship meet
Sarena Seeger was satisfied with her first race on the Roadman Park cross country course at Cal (Pa.).
The new site of Thursday’s WPIAL championships also was the setting for Seeger’s win last week in the Class AAA girls race at the Tri-State Coaches Association championships.
“It’s a really difficult course, and it has this super long and steep hill that is a challenge,” she said. “I was thinking that with the hill and everything and still being able to do well, in my opinion, it made me feel really good.”
Seeger hopes she can duplicate or even better last week’s time of 19 minutes, 18.98 seconds Thursday and also improve on last year’s eighth-place individual finish from the final WPIAL championship meet at Slippery Rock’s Cooper’s Lake Campground.
“It really helped me get a good idea of what I should be doing on the course,” said Seeger, who is looking forward to racing the top runners, including defending champion Hannah Schupansky from Oakland Catholic and TSTCA runner-up Hannah Lindgren from North Allegheny.
“I hope to be in one of those top spots and secure my ticket to states.”
The Fox Chapel girls squad again will challenge for a WPIAL title as Seeger joins returnees Annika Urban, Brooke Krally, Grace Sisson, Anna Folkerts and Isabelle Doerr in the lineup. The Foxes finished as the Class AAA runner-up to Oakland Catholic last year, but they went on to claim the state championship.
“We’re still in a really good spot,” Seeger said. “I think we can make it to states again.”
The six WPIAL races from Class A to AAA will begin with the Class A girls at 12:45 p.m. and run every 45 minutes to the Class AAA boys race at 4:30. Each team is permitted to enter eight runners. Seven will compete and five will be counted toward the team score.
The teams will be in contention for the three automatic team qualifier spots to states in their respective races. In Class A, the top four boys and top four girls teams punch tickets to states.
Individually, the top 15 finishers not on one of the team qualifiers also earn berths to the state meet, set for Nov. 3 in Hershey.
Those from the Alle-Kiski Valley hoping to make return trips to states after qualifying individually last year are Fox Chapel junior Christian Fitch in boys AAA, Kiski Area senior Kierra Schreffler in girls AAA, Highlands junior CJ Thimons in boys AA, Knoch junior Sammy Jo Barnes in girls AA and Riverview senior Izzy Komaniak and junior Marina Pietz in girls A.
Plum junior Angela Valotta qualified for states as a freshman in 2016 but fell short last year. She has battled through foot and ankle issues throughout the fall. She was 30th in the TSTCA Class AAA race last week.
“It’s good to run on this (Cal) course before WPIALs to develop strategy,” she said. “I am really excited to do well and hopefully qualify for states again.”
The Riverview girls didn’t lose anyone from last year’s sixth-place team in Class A, and they hope to challenge for one of the three available state berths. Senior captain Meredith Kocur was a top-five member of the 2015 Raiders team that qualified for states.
The Fox Chapel boys also were on the cusp of states last year, and graduation took only one runner from last year’s squad that finished fifth.
The Riverview boys, runners-up to Winchester Thurston last year, hope to make it back to states despite losing their top two runners and two others to graduation.
Sophomore Gideon Deasy, 15th individually in the Class A boys race last year, is back to lead the charge, and sophomore Mason Ochs, a JV runner last year, exploded onto the varsity scene this fall and is expected to be a top individual finisher.
St. Joseph freshman CJ Singleton makes his WPIAL debut Thursday, and he is expected to be a challenger for the Class A boys title. The only cross country runner at St. Joseph, Singleton ran 16:41 and was victorious at a race in August.
He placed fourth (17:44.36) in his most recent race, the Harbor Creek Invitational near Erie on Oct. 6.
“I hope I can do well,” said Singleton, who took a practice run on the Cal course Saturday. “I just have to rely on my training and focus on running my own race. I can’t worry about who’s around me and what they are doing. I want to run my best time and see what happens.”