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Fox Chapel heading toward cross country finish line

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette logo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/20/2017 By Keith Barnes / Tri-State Sports & News Service
North Allegheny's Clara Savchik finished 32 seconds ahead of Fox Chapel's Caelan Miller in the Slippery Rock University Mack Cooper Invitational. © Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette North Allegheny's Clara Savchik finished 32 seconds ahead of Fox Chapel's Caelan Miller in the Slippery Rock University Mack Cooper Invitational.

It’s something of an obscure fact that Fox Chapel finished second in the WPIAL Class 3A cross country finals last year.

That’s what happens when the victorious team, Oakland Catholic, won with only 39 points and had an 82-point edge over the second-place Foxes.

This year, though, it’s Fox Chapel that has been running circles around the competition and may be the favorite Thursday at Cooper’s Lake in the WPIAL finals.

“I don’t know if we’re the favorite, but the girls have been a delight to work with,” Fox Chapel coach Tom Moul said. “They’re just tough kids, they’re hard workers, they’re very coachable and they’ve got great chemistry and camaraderie. It’s fun working with them.”

Fox Chapel was undefeated in its section during the regular season, but it has been in the marquee events where the team has made its greatest impact. The Foxes gave an indication of their potential in the first big meet of the season, the Red, White and Blue Classic Sept. 9 at the Schenley Oval when they outdistanced second-place Oakland Catholic, the defending champion, by 29 points.

Their most recent display came Saturday in the Slippery Rock University Mack Cooper Invitational — a precursor to the WPIAL finals held on the same course — when they scored just 36 points and beat perennial-contender North Allegheny by 59. Though the field wasn’t composed of the full contingent that will run Thursday, it did feature eight of the top nine finishers from the 2016 finals with the only exception being sixth-place Norwin.

“Certainly the top teams all season have been us, North Allegheny, Oakland and Seneca Valley and it seems like they’re going to be in the mix,” Moul said. “But I think it’s an advantage to run there so we can get some experience. It was a good experience this year because all the top schools were there and we got to compete against them before WPIALs.”

Fox Chapel also has several strong individual runners who could also challenge for a title, including senior Caelan Miller, who finished second overall, 32 seconds behind defending WPIAL champion Clara Savchik of North Allegheny at Slippery Rock. Three others — sophomore Brooke Krally, junior Sarena Seeger and junior Annika Urban — were in the top seven and all four crossed the finish line within 58 seconds of each other.

“During a big race like that, I wouldn’t tell them to run in a pack, but it kind of ends up that way because they’re all around the same ability,” Moul said. “They train together, so they’re kind of used to each other, but as far as racing, they just go out and get it and Caelan always seems to be out front.”


All season long, Vincentian has competed in as many meets as it could against the best that the state had to offer.

It’s not that the two-time defending champions aren’t concerned with the competition in the WPIAL. It’s that the Royals have set their sights a little higher.

“Our team’s really focusing on states, so I’m not changing much,” Vincentian coach Chris Rotelli said. “WPIALs just tends to fall within that four-week sharpening phase that will end on Nov. 4.”

Because Vincentian has no plans to taper its mileage down the stretch, it might appear other teams would own an advantage at the WPIAL finals. That would be a bit premature, however, as the Royals finished second to District 10 Fairview Saturday in the Mack Cooper and edged its closest District 7 competitor — Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and its newest team member, Vincentian transfer Katherine Fedko — by 12 points.


Gionna Quarzo had a solid start to her career when she finished fifth in the WPIAL Class 2A finals as a freshman.

Her sophomore year might be even better.

Saturday at the Mack Cooper, this Brownsville runner was the WPIAL’s top finisher with a time of 19:57, 31 seconds faster than her time from last year’s WPIAL finals. It was also a time that would have placed her third overall a year ago.


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