Announcements and Important Events
Normally, around this time of the season, cross-country teams from around the WPIAL would make the trek to Cooper’s Lake Campground in Slippery Rock to tackle the 3.2-mile course in hopes of capturing a WPIAL Championship.
This year though, the WPIAL championships will take on a new identity as it has moved to California University of Pennsylvania and athletes from Classes 1A, 2A and 3A will be tasked with tackling a new course on Thursday.
Although past champions like 2A’s Annie Wicker from Quaker Valley and 1A’s Haley Hamilton from Our Lady of Sacred Heart will be in contention, they aren’t the only runners from the Times’ coverage area that have a chance to take home hardware.
Moon freshman Mia Cochran burst onto the cross-country scene this year during the Red, White and Blue Classic at the beginning of September. Her time of 18 minutes, 58 seconds won the freshman race by nearly two minutes, and if she would’ve ran in the varsity race, she would’ve taken second.
“I had other coaches coming up to me just asking me who she was,” Moon Coach Tim Hrivnak said.
Her success didn’t stop there and she continued to make a name for herself as the season went on. She placed eighth in the PIAA Foundation Invitational at the end of September and then captured the MAC Championship with a 20:11 clocking, where she defeated Wicker and some of the other top runners in the area on a rain-soaked course.
Her most telling race came this past week when runners from around the area got a first-hand look at the new WPIAL course when the TSTCA Cross Country Championships were held at California University.
The talented freshman clocked a 19:23, which was good enough for third place behind North Allegheny junior Hannah Lindgren and Fox Chapel senior Sarena Seeger. Although she didn’t finish first, Hrivnak believes her third-place finish was a good sign of what could come against the Class 3A field Thursday.
“She ran her second-best time of the year and she’s continued to get faster as the season has gone on,” Hrivnak said. “She’s peaking right now and that’s exactly what she wants.”
She wasn’t the only local runner to excel at the TSTCA meet either. Quaker Valley’s Daniel Ford captured the Class 2A boys race with a 17:03, 22 seconds ahead of Blackhawk’s Jack Aulbach.
The two have been battling all year long with Aulbach finishing ahead of Ford at the Red, White and Blue Classic and at the MAC Championships earlier this season. They both could be among the top runners in Class 2A come Thursday.
Aulbach, finished 19th at the WPIAL championships a year ago and has improved dramatically over the past year. He improved his time at the MAC Championships by over a minute, placing third with a time of 17:36.
“He’s just been a non-stop workaholic, really starting before last cross-country season,” Blackhawk Coach Jarrod McCowin said. “But he definitely continued all last winter to get ready for last track season.”
Ford, a senior, has seen improvement over the past year as well. He finished sixth last season at the WPIAL championships and improved his time at the MAC Championship this season by 21 seconds, finishing fourth behind Aulbach, Adam Hessler of Freedom, and Zachary Leachman of Mars.
His finish this past week could bode well for him this week as he was able to get a feel for the course and can make adjustments to his racing strategy if needed, especially with second mile of the course that has been nicknamed “The Hill.”
“That mile is a real challenge for uphill and downhill running,” McCowin said.
Along with Ford, Wicker, Aulbach, Hamilton and Cochran, look for Freedom’s Adam Hessler to be in the mix for a WPIAL Class 1A title. The Freedom junior took second in the Red, White and Blue Classic and did the same at the MAC Championships earlier this season. He recently clocked a 16:49 at the Freedom Cross Country Invitational on October 17.
Races on Thursday will begin at approximately 12:45. The girls will go first with the Class A race set to begin at 12:45. After that, races will start in 45-minute intervals. The Class A boys race is pegged to have a start time of 3 p.m.