Cross country spotlight: Fox Chapel poses double title threat
Martin twins rate as favorites to claim Class AAA laurels
October 18, 2013 4:00 AM
Shaler's Brianna Schwartz won the 2012 WPIAL Class AAA title.
Twin brothers Ethan, left, and Colin Martin of Fox Chapel are favorites to win the WPIAL Class AAA crown.
By Ryan Riordan Tri-State Sports & News Service
In the spring, twin bothers Ethan and Colin Martin finished first and second, respectively, in the 1,600-meter run at the WPIAL Class AAA track and field championships.
Now these Fox Chapel seniors will attempt to take the top two spots again Thursday at the WPIAL Class AAA cross country meet at Cooper's Lake Campground near Slippery Rock.
The Martins, who committed to the University of Michigan last week, will be among the favorites, along with defending WPIAL Class AAA champion Brent Kennedy of Kiski Area.
"It's always very exciting," Ethan Martin said of the competition between the three competitors. "It's good for us. We've been competing for about six years and we hold nothing back. Before and after the race we're friendly, but we attack each other strong during the race."
Kennedy beat Ethan Martin by five seconds at last season's district meet, with Colin Martin finishing fifth.
But when the three competitors met earlier this season at the Red, White & Blue Classic at Schenley Park, it was Colin Martin who won the title, with Kennedy finishing second and Ethan Martin placing third. It was the first time Colin had ever beaten his brother.
"We push each other to places that haven't been pushed before," Colin Martin said.
Ethan Martin will have to push through an Achilles injury, which he said has been bothering him for the past three weeks.
In addition to the Martins and Kennedy, a host of North Allegheny runners, including Matt McGoey, Cordon Luoco and Seamus Love, will likely be near the front of the pack. At the Red, White & Blue Classic, five Tigers runners in a row crossed the finish line after the Martins and Kennedy. That depth makes the Tigers the favorite to win their ninth consecutive WPIAL Class AAA team title.
"[North Allegheny] has won eight in a row and I'm certain they're going to win their ninth," Colin Martin said. "No one will touch them."
Quaker Valley has its own impressive streak going in Class AA, winning six consecutive titles. The Quakers have four of their top six runners back from last season and added freshman Zach Stolnekovich, who won the MAC championship last week.
But the Quakers will face tough competition from South Fayette, which had no seniors on its team that placed third in the WPIAL meet last season. Senior Joncarlo Patton leads the way for the Lions.
"We're going to have our strongest competition yet in South Fayette," Quaker Valley coach Dave Noyes said. "They're running very well. We're going to have be on top of our game."
Knoch should also be in the hunt with its top two runners, Preston Carlsson and Brandon Grumski, challenging for the individual title.
In Class A, defending champion Our Lady of the Sacred Heart will be pushed by Winchester Thurston, Vincentian Academy and Northgate.
A key for all the runners Thursday will be how they run the course's opening hill, which comes very early in the race.
"The first hill is 400 to 500 meters in, so you have to be willing to suffer for 3.1 miles," Colin Martin said. "If you cruise in the beginning, you'll get passed by five or six guys there. You have to push it the entire way."
The top three teams in each classification, as well as the 15 top finishers not on the state qualifying teams, will qualify for the PIAA meet in Hershey on Nov. 2.
Shaler's Schwartz female favorite
After winning last season's WPIAL cross country meet by 24 seconds, placing third in the PIAA cross country meet and then winning the state track and field title in the 1,600 meters in the spring, Shaler junior Brianna Schwartz will have a target on her back Thursday at the WPIAL cross country meet.
But it shouldn't affect her performance.
"Bri understands pressure and really responds to it," Shaler coach Mike Dusch said.
One of Schwartz's main competitors for the title will be North Hills senior Mary Malone, who finished second in the WPIAL last season.
Malone and Schwartz are also friends and train together.
"It makes it easier when I see her," Schwartz said. "She's almost like a teammate. During workouts we always push each other, so while we're competitive, when I see her during a race it gives me confidence."
The duo will also face tough competition from Mt. Lebanon's Kelsey Potts, who won the Red, White & Blue Classic and finished second in both the PIAA Foundation meet in Hershey and the Spiked Shoe Invitational in State College.
Potts, who finished fourth in the WPIAL meet last season, will lead a Blue Devils squad that is favored to win the team title and has two other runners -- Jillian Hunsberger and Audrey Gordon -- who finished in the top seven at the district meet last season.
Like their male classmates, the Quaker Valley girls have a WPIAL Class AA title streak of their own going, winning four in a row. Led by sophomore Hannah Bablak, the Quakers should be in contention for a fifth consecutive title.
But West Allegheny, led by last season's WPIAL Class AA runner-up Alexis O'Shea, should also be in the hunt, along with Mars, Knoch and Moon.
In Class A, Vincentian freshman Marianne Abdalah is the prohibitive favorite to win the individual title. Abdalah finished second at the Red, White & Blue Classic to Potts and second to Schwartz at the Central Catholic Invitational Oct. 5.
Abdalah should also keep the Royals in contention for the team title. Defending champion Laurel, which returns three of its top four runners from last season and added a strong freshman class, will be the favorites to repeat.