Riverview runners look to build off section championships
The Riverview boys cross country team graduated 10 from last year’s WPIAL Class A runner-up team that also placed eighth at the PIAA championships.
How the team would respond in 2018 with several holes to fill in the lineup rested on a mix of key returnees and a few varsity newcomers.
The Raiders have answered the bell so far. They capped an undefeated Division II, Section 4 season Tuesday by knocking off Freeport and Knoch squads who also came in undefeated in section competition.
“All of us, before the season, talked about what we wanted to do, and winning the section was a big goal,” junior co-captain Ben Swensen said. “We ran our race (Tuesday) and got the job done. It was a nice feeling, but we still have to buckle up for WPIALs.”
The section championship was the team’s first since 2015, and it is 31-2 overall the past four years.
Not to be outdone, the Riverview girls squad, with the top six runners back from last year’s WPIAL sixth-place finish, matched their male counterparts Tuesday and brought home an undefeated Section 4 title. It’s also their first section crown since 2015. The Freeport and Knoch girls also were undefeated in section before Tuesday.
“The day before the race, we all got together and were like, “We’ve got this.′ It was such a team effort,” said senior co-captain Meredith Kocur, sixth overall in Tuesday’s meet. “This group has something special. We’ve all had to contribute, and several of us have gotten first places in races this year. ”
Talk for both teams the past several days turned from section accomplishments to the WPIAL championships three weeks from now at Cal (Pa.). Between now and WPIALs, the teams will test their mettle at the Grove City and Freedom invitationals.
Training on the teams’ new home course at Oakmont East, Kocur said, will help them get ready for WPIALs.
“There’s a huge hill on the course that kind of represents the large hill on the course at Cal U,” Kocur said. “It’s also at the second mile, right at the same distance as at Cal U. Of course, for our warm-up, we have to run up Hulton (Road) to (Oakmont East). That’s always fun.”
Mason Ochs, a sophomore who ran on the JV squad last year, got a boost from a successful spring outdoor track season and now leads the boys team. He finished undefeated in section dual meets, outrunning some of the area’s best, including Highlands’ CJ Thimons, Freeport’s Josh McCoy, Shady Side’s Leo Kui and Deer Lakes’ Josh Yourish.
He and sophomore Gideon Deasy, a WPIAL medalist in 2017, went 1-2 in Tuesday’s race and joined freshman Lucas Wilton and senior newcomer Noah Black in the top 10.
“Winchester Thurston is definitely the team to beat at WPIALs,” Ochs said. “We hope to run our best race and see what happens.”
Swensen and junior co-captain Erik Ketterer, junior Jacob Sullivan, sophomore Aiden Sebastian and freshmen Ty Loughlin and Parker Steele have provided key contributions to the boys team, coach Palma Ostrowski said.
“The boys team is young but has shown tons of competitive energy,” she said.
Sebastian and Sullivan have pulled double duty this fall as members of the Riverview golf and boys soccer teams, respectively.
Tuesday’s section-clinching victories, including a close 25-33 triumph over Knoch with top individual finisher Sammy Jo Barnes, was a huge confidence booster for the Riverview girls, senior co-captain Izzy Komaniak said.
“We have the talent and ability to challenge those top teams for one of the four spots to states,” said Komaniak, a PIAA individual qualifier each of the past two seasons.
Komaniak and Kocur were top-five runners as freshmen in 2015 when the Riverview girls team qualified for states.
Ostrowski pointed to all four 2017 girls Class A state team qualifiers -- Vincentian, North Catholic, OLSH and Mohawk -- as veteran teams who should be right up there again. Shenango, West Greene and Winchester Thurston, she added, will be among those joining Riverview as challengers for PIAA berths.
“On any given day, any one of our four-pack (Komaniak, Kocur and juniors Marina Pietz and Mikaela Collins) has a chance to qualify for states as an individual,” said Ostrowski, who also noted the key performances this season of sophomore Aly Johnson, junior Gillian Gaynor and freshman Hann Morrissey.
“This group chooses their spots and understands when and how they have to perform in the big meets.”
The section victory over Shady Side Academy on Sept. 25 marked Ostrowski’s 100th dual-meet win at the helm of the girls squad. Her overall record in 10 years with the team is 105-3 with seven section titles.