South Fayette wins WPIAL Class AA x-country title
Patton, Lerda lead Lions to district championship
When Joncarlo Patton and Ryan Lerda emerged from the woods holding a slight edge over Nate Edenfield of Uniontown, the other South Fayette runners quickened their pace during the WPIAL Class AA cross country championships. Though Edenfield prevailed as champion in 16:44, Patton took third with a 16:59 time and Lerda placed 10th (17:22) to lead the Lions to the team title.
“J.C. is our heart and Ryan is our pulse,” said head coach Joe Winans. “The team gauges what they are doing and feeds off that. When the others saw how well they were running it had a snowball effect.”
Evan Zombek and Patrick Brady followed suit, finishing in the Top 20. The seniors finished within five seconds of each other and filled in slots 17 and 20. Senior Stephen Zombek and junior Sandala rounded out the Top 30 in 24th and 26th places with 17:45 and 17:48 marks. Senior Jason Cillo followed in 18:36.
“J.C. and Ryan are our 1-2 punch and they set the pace,” said Winans. “They are so strong and so central to us. We rely on them. But this whole group is tight. This was a tremendous team performance by all of my guys.”
Such an effort was necessary as the Lions faced a formidable adversary. Quaker Valley had won the past six straight team championships. Last year, the Lions finished third in the team standings.
This year, the Lions finished first with 74 point. Uniontown followed in second (93) while the Quakers took third with a 118 score.
“This team was so focused and they worked so hard,” Winans said. Plus, with six seniors in the line-up, he added, “the experience they have is invaluable.”
Know-how and talent have the Lions poised to contend for the PIAA title. The state championships are set for Nov. 2 in Hershey.
“I like our chances,” Winans said. “They are as good as anybody’s at states. It’s an opportunity for us to see how we stack up against everybody else.
“Our goal was to get a WPIAL title. We focused on that all year long. Now, we’d like to follow it up with a state championship.”
Mt. Lebanon finished third in the Class AAA team standings with 132 points. North Allegheny won its eighth straight WPIAL title with a 38 score. Fox Chapel was the runner-up with a 114 team total.
Todd Gunzenhauser paced the Blue Devils. The sophomore placed ninth in 16:38.
Other top finishers for Lebo were: Ian Baun (23rd, 16:56); Evan Hatton (27th, 17:06), Patrick Quirk (36th, 17:17), Sam Hughes (37th, 17:23), Billy Dougherty (45th, 17:28) and Matthew Stone (49th, 17:29). Hatton, Quirk, Hughes and Dougherty are seniors; Baun and Stone, juniors.
While Canon-McMillan followed in fourth place as a team, only juniors Ethan Linderman and Johnathan Weese qualified for the PIAA championships. They placed 16th and 17th overall with respective times of 16:48 and 16:49.
Seniors Cody Shcok, Trevor Arrigoni and Brendan Price along with juniors Michael Strosko and Caden Meier contributed to the Big Macs’ showing at the WPIAL finals.
Nick Wolk of Peters Township and James Smith from Upper St. Clair also qualified for the PIAA championships. A sophomore, Wolk placed 20th overall with a 16:52 time. A senior, Smith finished in 17:12 for the 29th position overall.