Lebo ladies win WPIAL AAA x-country titlePublished Oct 29, 2013 at 3:33 pm (Updated Oct 29, 2013 at 3:33 pm)
Jenny Murtha (center) finished 17th overall at the WPIAL Class AA cross country championships and advanced to the state competition. The Keystone Oaks sophomore clocked in with a 20:51 time.
Eleanor Bailey / Staff
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When the Mt. Lebanon girls have a good day on the cross-country course, they win big. When the Blue Devils have a bad day, they still win.
Such was the case when the Lebo harriers captured their second straight WPIAL team championship, not to mention eighth title in school history, during the District VII finals held last week at Coopers Lake in Butler. The Blue Devils, who have not lost a dual meet in two years, edged Seneca Valley, 80-84, for the Class AAA title.
“We were confident we would get a good result. We were positioned well as a team to compete for a championship,” said head coach Ron Schreiner.
“Before the race, I told them to run within themselves. No one had to have an exceptional day.”
Because the cold conditions and the excitement got the better of them, the Lebo ladies did not have their best day. Yet, they triumphed anyway.
“We got a little excited and ran outside of our training,” Schreiner said. “We did not execute our plan.”
Getting off to a fast start did not help the Lebo ladies. It did, however, benefit Brianna Schwartz. The Shaler junior shattered the course record and won her a second straight title with a 17:52 time.
“(Brianna) ran extremely well. She is so strong,” said Schreiner. “We knew though that we did not have to beat her to win.”
Lebo won in part because Audrey Gordon finished in the top 10 along with Kelsey Potts, who took third overall with a time of 18:50, and Jillian Hunsberger, who finished fourth, seven seconds later. A senior, Gordon passed five girls in the last 400 meters to place 10th with a 19:41 mark.
“That’s the difference in our win,” said Schreiner. “No one girl is more important than the other but Audrey was our Rocky. She had the ‘Eye of the Tiger’ about her. She certainly put us in position to enjoy this championship.”
Callie Gunzenhauser also did her part. The senior finished in 20:30 in 35th place behind sophomore Sadie Saxton, who was 28th with a 20:18 time. She, Gordon, Hunsberger and Julie Staltari are all seniors.
“Those four,” said Schreiner. “They are the heart of this team. Our leaders. They worked very hard, integrated us as teammates, mentored and grew up our sophomores.”
In addition to Potts and Saxton, those sophomores also included Claire Dougherty, who finished 40th (20:43) and Grace Tandon, who was 42nd (20:47).
With the win at the district level, the Lebo ladies are now qualified for the PIAA championships to be held Nov. 2 in Hershey. Having faced some of the state’s best competition when they won the Spike Shoe Classic and finished second at the Foundation Meet earlier this autumn, the Blue Devils expect to contend for a trophy.
“We expect to be in the conversation with Pennsbury and other teams. Maybe not Unionville because they are incredible,” said Schreiner. “We expect to compete well and represent the WPIAL well.”
Schreiner cautioned, however, his Lebo ladies cannot get caught up in everything as they did at district. “If we take that first mile too fast or do what we did here, then we won’t get the result we should.”
NOTES: Sarah Martin of Upper St. Clair earned a berth in the PIAA Class AAA championships. The freshman finished 16th overall with a 19:48 time.
In Class AA, Jenny Murtha finished 17th overall and advanced to the state competition. The Keystone Oaks sophomore clocked in with a 20:51 time.