Fox Chapel leads way as A-K Valley runners head to PIAAs

| Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, TRIB-LIVE

The Fox Chapel girls cross country team made a charge at a WPIAL team championship last week at Cooper’s Lake Campground.

The Foxes finished as the runners-up, 13 points behind champion Oakland Catholic.

Team members hit the reset button over the past couple of days and are focusing on finishing as high as possible at Saturday’s PIAA championships in Hershey and overtaking the Eagles as the top team from the WPIAL.

“It’s about having the same routine (as WPIALs),” said senior Caelan Miller, who placed fourth and led a trio of Foxes runners in the top 10 at WPIALs last week. Juniors Annika Urban (sixth) and Sarena Seeger (eighth) also placed in the top 10.

“It’s always great to run as a team at states and push each other. Only a select group of teams get to do that.”

The Fox Chapel girls squad will join the boys team from Riverview and several other individual runners representing the A-K Valley on Saturday.

The top teams and individuals from WPIALs punched tickets to states, which begins with the Class A girls at 9:30 a.m. The schedule at states follows a similar pattern as WPIALs: Races will be every 45 minutes through the AAA boys event at 1:15 p.m.

“The girls ran even better than my expectations (at WPIALs), and I’m sure they will do it again at states,” Fox Chapel coach Tom Moul said.

Fox Chapel was one of the three WPIAL Class AAA girls teams at states last year. The Foxes followed up their second-place WPIAL finish with a 14th at the Parkview Course at Giant Center Complex, also the site of this year’s set of six races.

The Riverview boys ran their streak of PIAA Class A qualifications to three last week after taking second to Winchester Thurston at WPIALs for the second year in a row.

The team hopes to improve on last year’s 11th at states and its 15th in 2015.

Ben Barnes’ individual runner-up finish, a 10th from senior Michael Komaniak and a 17th from freshman newcomer Gideon Deasy paced the Raiders at WPIALs.

“We’re really looking forward to states,” Komaniak said. “It’s 10 times better to go as a team than running as an individual. We have that experience and hope to do well in Hershey.”

On the girls side, Riverview junior Izzy Komaniak will run at Class A states for the third year in a row.

As a freshman, she placed 112th (22 minutes, 1 second) when running with entire Riverview team. She placed 107th last year (22:15).

“All of the pressure of WPIALs is off,” Komaniak said. “States is my goal, and once I reach it, I feel I want to have fun there. It’s a celebration of hard work.”

Komaniak said she hopes to finish better than 100th place and under 22 minutes. At WPIALs last week, she took 13th in a time of 20:59, eight seconds better than her 2016 time at Cooper’s Lake.

“The (WPIAL) start was faster this year than last year,” Komaniak said. “I was happy with my place and time.”

Komaniak said she’s excited to be running with teammate and first-time state qualifier Marina Pietz, who took 25th at WPIALs with a time of 21:30.

Fox Chapel sophomore Christian Fitch knows what states is all about as he ran on the Parkview Course last year. He was 185th in his first attempt, and he hopes to make a big jump this year.

Fitch finished 10th (16:25) at WPIALs. He will not be alone at states as teammate junior Ian Brown qualified for his first state meet after taking 22nd (17:03) at WPIALs.

In boys AA, Freeport senior Johnanthan Asay will run at states for the third year in a row. He will try to better his 31st place and 17:16 time at last year’s PIAA championships.

He is coming off a 12th-place WPIAL finish (17:27).

“It’s basically the same preparation as before WPIALs,” Asay said. “You want to stay healthy and not do anything stupid that would hurt your chances of doing well (at states).”

Asay will have two other local competitors with him at states in boys AA as Highlands sophomore C.J. Thimons and Deer Lakes senior Josh Klemmensen will run at states for the first time. Thimons was 21st at WPIALs, and Klemmensen was right behind in 22nd.

Klemmensen is the first Deer Lakes boys runner to compete at states since Alex Herman as a junior in 2014.

Kiski Area junior Kierra Shreffler makes her second straight trip to states after taking 20th in the AAA girls race at WPIALs (19:53).