Kiski Area’s Shreffler hopes experience pays off at PIAA championship meet
Kiski Area senior Kierra Shreffler knows what the PIAA cross country course at the Hershey Entertainment Complex can deliver, and she hopes to run her best race there Saturday in her third and final attempt.
“The course at Hershey is very tough, mentally and physically,” Shreffler said. “To have those two races at states already really helps with my preparation this year. I know what to expect.”
The course has been modified slightly by PIAA officials because of this fall’s rainy weather.
“I am excited to see how much I can improve from last year (160th),” she said. “I didn’t have that great of a race last year. I am hoping to be able to stay with the pack of girls I’ve been running with this year.”
Shreffler said she was under the weather at last week’s WPIAL championships at Cal (Pa.) but still was able to qualify with a 15th-place finish (20 minutes, 8 seconds) in the Class AAA girls race. It was her best finish out of her three PIAA-qualifying runs at WPIALs. She was 26th as a sophomore and 20th last year.
“I wasn’t feeling that great the entire week, so I was a little nervous for WPIALs. But it ended up being OK,” she said. “I felt I could’ve done better if I was healthier, but I wasn’t mad at my performance.”
Shreffler didn’t qualify for states as a freshman, but she got a taste of the PIAA atmosphere that year as she accompanied then-senior Megan Aller to Hershey and watched Aller place 23rd.
“Megan was a great role model for me with how hard she worked, and going up to states with her that year really got me motivated for my own chances to run at states,” Shreffler said.
The Class A girls kick everything off at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Races will be every 45 minutes until the Class AAA boys at 1:15 p.m.
Three Alle-Kiski Valley teams will test their mettle in Hershey. The Fox Chapel girls, third at WPIALs this year after back-to-back runner-up finishes, will attempt to defend their 2017 PIAA title.
“It will be a challenge for us (to repeat), but we just want to go out there, run our best and see where that gets us,” said senior Sarena Seeger, who, along with senior teammate Annika Urban, also ran individually at states as freshmen in 2015.
The 2016 Fox Chapel girls squad placed 14th at states.
The Riverview boys will make their fourth straight appearance at states. They have improved their place in the Class A standings each year, taking 14th in 2015, 11th two years ago and eighth last year.
“This is a lot of fun. It feels good,” said Raiders sophomore Mason Ochs, fourth individually in his WPIAL debut last week. “We have good coaches that really help us get ready for big meets like this.”
The Riverview girls return to the PIAA meet for the first time since 2015, when they took eighth.
Seniors Izzy Komaniak and Meredith Kocur each ran on that 2015 squad, and Komaniak competed individually in 2016 and last year. Marina Pietz, a junior, made her PIAA debut last year.
Fox Chapel junior Christian Fitch will run in the boys Class AAA race at states for the third time. He said he hopes to climb above his 30th-place PIAA finish last year and build on this year’s WPIAL bronze medal.
Making their second trip to states are Knoch junior Sammy Jo Barnes (89th in girls AA last year) and Highlands junior CJ Thimons (157th in boys AA).
“I am looking forward to maybe getting a little revenge on the course after not running my best last year,” Barnes said.
Thimons, 29th at WPIALs, grabbed the final PIAA berth in boys AA by one second over Uniontown senior Riley Gilleland.
Debuting at states individually are Deer Lakes junior Josh Yourish (boys AA), St. Joseph freshman C.J. Singleton (boys A), Freeport senior Josh McCoy (boys AA) and Knoch junior Braden Zukowski (boys AA).
“I had always thought of myself as a track guy, an 800 specialist,” Yourish said. “This is the first year I really dedicated myself to cross country. I ran a lot of mileage over the summer and changed the way I train. It feels really good for it to pay off.”