South Xtra: WPIAL rivals provide challenge for Mt. Lebanon girl in 1,600

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Ron Schreiner has been a coach at Mt. Lebanon since the 1970s, and said he can't remember seeing a better group of 1,600-meter runners in the state than he did last weekend.

Schreiner, who coaches the Mt. Lebanon girls cross country team and is a distance coach on the track and field team, watched one of his athletes, sophomore Kelsey Potts, take third in the event Saturday at the PIAA Class AAA championships at Shippensburg University.

"Overall, I was really excited about the effort she put forth," Schreiner said. "I look forward to seeing what she can do in the future."

Potts broke her personal best time, which also happened to be the school record, at the PIAA meet, running a 4:50.13. It was six seconds faster than she ran a week earlier at the WPIAL meet.

And the most impressive part was that it came less than two hours after she ran a leg on the Blue Devils' 3,200-meter relay team that took ninth place.

"It was definitely pretty tough," Potts said. "I had to push it really hard and give it my all. I didn't hold anything back."

The problem for Potts was that she raced against a stacked field in which the top five runners all had times good enough to make the NFHS honor roll.

Leading the pack was Shaler junior Brianna Schwartz, one of the top milers not only in the state but in the country. She won her second consecutive PIAA title in the event.

Coming in just 0.11 seconds behind Schwartz was North Allegheny sophomore Madeleine Davison.

Potts is very familiar with both runners, not just from track but from cross country. Schwartz, Potts and Davison finished first, third and fifth, respectively, in the WPIAL Class AAA cross country meet last season, and Potts was the top finisher among the trio at the PIAA cross country meet, taking fourth.

Potts said there isn't a rivalry between the runners, but more of a competition that makes each athlete better.

"I wouldn't really call it a rivalry," Potts said.

"I really like the competition because when you run alone, you can't run as fast. They are there to push me and it makes me better."

And the three will have one more year to all compete against each other, as Schwartz won't graduate until 2015 while Potts and Davison still have two more years of high school left.

Potts said she will take two weeks off before lightly getting back into form for cross country, ratcheting up the work once the season comes closer in July and August.

Schreiner is excited to see what the future holds.

"This was probably the best group of District 7 runners in the mile that I can remember and they all feed off each other," he said.

"It will be interesting to see how the next few years play out."

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