Potts paces Lebo ladies to victory

Published Sep 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm (Updated Sep 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm)

When Ron Schreiner tells the girls on the Mt. Lebanon cross country team to run for fun, Kelsey Potts, Jillian Hunsberger and Audrey Gordon do what they always do. They run their fastest and they run to win.

“So I have to separate them on fun runs because they want to go hard all the time and you can’t do that,” explained Schreiner. “We have to break them up, in order to save their legs but they want to run.”

And run, Potts, Hunsberger and Gordon did as they paced Lebo to victory in the Red, White and Blue Classic, the first of the big scholastic cross country battles of the season. On the Schenley Park course, the Blue Devils dominated, placing all three in the top seven.

Potts won the meet in 17:47. Hunsberger followed in third place with an 18:13 time and Gordon secured the seventh spot in 18:13.

“Kelsey is incredible but it’s because she trains with Jillian and Audrey. They are all aggressive and they really push each other to become better.”

Hunsberger and Gordon are both seniors. They each are receiving “lots of interest” from college programs such as Penn State, Pitt, Dayton, Miami and the Coast Guard Academy. Hunsberger was the bronze medalist last year in the WPIAL while Gordon finished seventh overall.

“They are my workout queens,” said Schreiner. “They excel in the speed workouts and they challenge Kelsey.”

With the push, plus pleasant temperatures, Potts performed her best, submitting one of the fastest times recorded at the meet. Only a sophomore, Potts was the fourth-place finisher in last year’s WPIAL championships. However, her victory at the Red, White and Blue makes her a contender for the Class AAA title. Shaler junior Brianna Schwartz is the defending champion with an 18:32 mark.

“We did not expect the 17:47,” Schreiner said of the time Potts recorded. “And, Brianna was not at the meet. She makes Kelsey go better but (Potts) pushed off Jillian and Audrey. Kelsey knows her task will be difficult but she had gained so much confidence from last year.

“As a freshman, Kelsey learned so much that it is helping her run as a sophomore,” Schreiner continued. “She knows when and where to expend her energy and how to run every course.”

With Potts, Hunsberger, Gordon and nine other talented runners, the Lebo ladies are the favorites to defend their WPIAL Class AAA team title. They won the 2012 crown with 49 points to outdistance North Allegheny (97) and North Hills (108).

In the RWB event, Lebo had three other harriers finish under 20 minutes including Claire Dougherty, Callie Gunzenshauser and Sadie Saxton. Junior Nicole Dahlen completed Lebo’s scoring.

Additionally, Lebo relies upon Rachel Tandon, Julia Staltari, Grace Tandon, Emma Furry and Ellie Meinzer.

“Our first three (Kelsey, Jillian and Audrey) are set but the rest of the girls are interchangeable. They are so close. We’ve never had this much depth on a team. So we are excited about this team’s ability to make a run.”

While defending their district title holds some sway on the Lebo ladies, they are much more interested in bettering their position in the PIAA. The Blue Devils finished fifth at states last fall.

“The girls are excited. They want to make an imprint. They will not just be happy to get to the state meet this year. They want to make a run at the favorites.”

The Lebo ladies get a sneak peak of the PIAA championships when they travel to Penn State this Friday, Sept. 13 to compete in the Spike Shoe Classic. Thirty elite teams have been invited, including Pennsbury and Unionville, which finished 1-2 in last year’s PIAA championships with 43 and 86 points respectively.

After the Lebo ladies race at 4:30, they will watch the Lady Lions run and cheer on Julie Kocjancic. The 2013 Lebo graduate is a freshman harrier and running ninth on the Penn State cross country club.

“We are excited to see Julie. She was our voice last season and a great role model for our girls,” said Schreiner.

“Plus, it’s a prestigious meet and we’ll get to see how we stack up against Unionville and Pennsbury. They were off the planet last year. But, we know we belong on the same course with them this year.”

The following weekend, Lebo participates in the Foundation Meet, which is run on the state championship course in Hershey.

“The next two weeks will define our season,” Schreiner said. “After that, we’ll know how good we are.”

Early indications are the Lebo ladies are very good. Just ask anybody who raced them at the Red, White and Blue Classic.

Lebo boys 2nd

North Allegheny took spots 4 through 8 and added 10th and 12th places in dominating the boys’ A field, finishing first with 30 points.

Lebo took second with 99 points. The Blue Devils placed three in the top 20, taking places 11, 15 and 19 with Patrick Quirk, Todd Gunzenhauser and Billy Dougherty. Evan Hatton, Matthew Stone, Sam Hughes and Ian Harris also contributed to Lebo’s showing.

Other top finishers locally among the boys were: James Smith from Upper St. Clair (21st); Shaun Hay from Peters Township (23rd), Ethan Linderman from Canon-McMillan (26th) and Eric Kaminski of Bethel Park (34th).

Kylie Knavish finished 34th overall. She helped Peters Township to a 14th-place finish as a team.

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