Bishop Canevin, Carlynton, Chartiers Valley runners set to begin cross country season
A look at the Carnegie area high school cross country teams as they head into the 2018 season:
Coach Eric Shafer will be relying heavily on runners who were not at the top of his lineups last season.
For the boys team, hopes will ride on the performance of seniors Dante DeFrank and Connor Miller and junior Thomas Deasy. Among that cast of returnees, Miller was the Crusaders’ highest finisher at the WPIAL meet last season (97).
DeFrank will be eager for redemption after an injury forced him to miss the 2017 WPIAL championships.
Darius Legleitner has been solid as a track and field performer, and Shafer will be looking for him to push the veterans. Freshman Trey Varley also has showed promise during offseason workouts.
“I think we can do some things as a team if everything falls into place,” Shafer said.
The girls will be led by five sophomores, four of whom were in the team’s top five last season: Sarah Barron, Abby Sysak, Lizzie Volz and Italia Bernardi.
Freshman Erin LaQuatra, whose older sisters, Elise and Elena, were successful runners at Chartiers Valley, could slide into the top five as she gains experience.
“For the girls, we have more certainty this year than we did last year,” Shafer said. “The girls, I think, will be competitive in the section.”
For the Cougars’ boys, strength will lie in quality rather than quantity. Coach Scott Kemmler said he faces the possibility of fielding only five boys, but junior Mark Phillips and sophomore Desmond Corrado give him reason for optimism.
Phillips joined the team midway through last season, and Corrado still was learning how to be a cross country runner. But they finished 58th and 59th at the WPIAL finals, and Kemmler expects big things from both this season.
“Unlike last year ... Mark has had a full summer of work, and I expect him to be in peak form to start the season rather than at the end of the season,” Kemmler said. “Dez, he had no understanding of what it was like to be a cross country runner. What he has learned is how to pace himself.”
Corrado also helped his training by running in a number of 5Ks over the summer. He won the Carnegie 5K and placed third in the Crafton race behind runners who were much older.
The girls team won’t struggle with numbers as Kemmler expects 10 to 12 on the roster. But youth will rule, as freshmen Ellie Exler and Brook Prepelka likely will be the top two runners.
Another freshman, Gwen Kalimon, will try to make her skills as a junior high 400-meter runner translate to high school cross country. Savannah Sevacko, a junior, will split time with the Carlynton soccer team but is expected to be competitive.
Anya Carrasco, Maggie Reigle and Jane Grabowski also have the potential to contribute, Kemmler said.
While Kemmler said he is anticipating a good year, the best might be yet to come for the girls.
“The girls team, given that the oldest are going to be juniors and the strongest are going to be freshmen, I am expecting next year to be really competitive,” he said.
Coach Lori Poe faces the tall task of replacing many of her frontrunners from 2017.
Graduated from the boys team are Czar Tarr and Mark Golebiewski, who placed seventh and 17th, respectively, at the WPIAL championships. That leaves junior Luke Grottenthaler and senior Shorya Kohli, a senior, as the top returning runners.
Poe will be looking for some younger runners -- perhaps sophomore Isaac Vance -- to step up.
“My boys team is a lot younger than I’ve had in the past,” Poe said.
The CV girls lost two of their top three runners to graduation, but No. 1 Kiki Thornton, who qualified for the PIAA meet after a 15th-place finish at WPIALs, is back. Poe said she has potential to crack the top 10 at this year’s WPIAL meet.
Grace Struna and Alyssa Dunn, both sophomores, were the Colts’ No. 4 and 5 runners in the WPIAL championship and return. Sophomore Kasey Burek and sister Avy, a junior, likely will round out the top five.
Poe said she expects both of her teams to start slowly but improve greatly as the season progresses.