Local runners compete at state level

Avonworth and Northgate runners who qualified for state competition are, from left: front, Lydia Valeriano and Kayley Wisniewski; standing, Paul Baldauff, Taea Schriefer, Maggie Colenbrander, Anna Igims, Lauren Pflueger, Megan Wisniewski, Lindsey Hartle, Brooke Johncour, Natalie Marshall, Jackson Habala, and Emily Tyler, girls' team captain who suffered a leg injury two weeks ago and was unable to compete, but was there to support her team.

On the last weekend in October, both the Avonworth and Northgate cross country teams competed in the WPIAL championship meet at California University of Pennsylvania.

The Avonworth boys' team finished 13th out of 28 teams, led by sophomore Jackson Habala, who finished 27th overall out of 210 runners, and qualified for the PIAA state championship race in Hershey, PA on Nov. 3.

“The boys' team ran very well and had a great end to their regular season. Congratulations to Luke Wagner, Jacob Noethiger, Eli Kauer, Mike Frank, Luke Woodfill, and David Kujawinksi on another successful season,” said Jason Smith, who shares coaching duties with Shera Rothman.

In the AA girls' race, the Avonworrth team finished in third place -- their best finish since 2007 - - out of 29 teams. With that result, the entire girls' team earned a coveted spot to compete at states.

Junior Anna Igims led the team, finishing fifth overall out of 206 runners, and for the third consecutive year will compete in the state championship. Anna was followed by three freshmen, all who finished in the top 50: Lindsey Hartle (24), Taea Schriefer (35), and Maggie Colenbrander (50).

Northgate runners also posted some impressive results.

At WPIALs, senior Megan Wisniewski qualified for states for the fourth time of her four high school years. She placed 13th and medaled at states last year and is now the fourth fastest returning state medalist.

Her sister, Kayley Wisniewski, qualified for states all four years and medaled at WPIALs for the first time in her career.

And Lydia Valeriano completed her run as third-fastest freshman in the girls' Class A race at WPIALs.

Finally, junior Paul Baldauff qualified for the first time for the state meet. Running what his coach, Brian Veshio, described as a “…massive personal record' at WPIALs, Paul passed nine boys in the final mile to secure his spot at states, the biggest jump in places for any boy qualifying for states in the Class A race.”

In state competition, there were strong finishes and best personal times from Avonworth runners Lauren Pflueger, Natalie Marshall, and Brooke Johncour, cheered on by injured senior team captain, Emily Tyler. Anna Igims led her team to a 15th place finish against the top AA girls' teams. This was Anna's third consecutive year competing in the state championship race, this year earning a medal for her “Top 25” overall finish, a notable improvement from her 2016 finish (106th place) and 2017 finish (58th place).

Anna was followed close behind by teammates Lindsey Hartle, who finished 56th overall, Taea Schriefer, Maggie Colenbrander, Lauren Pflueger, Natalie Marshall, and Brooke Johncour.

In the boys' Class A state championship race, sophomore Jackson Habala competed for the first time and ran an impressive time of 18:22 to finish 60th overall out of 211 of the best runners in the state.

Megan Wisniewski capped off a stellar cross country career by capturing her 3rd PIAA state medal in four appearances with a 23rd place finish in the girls Class A race. Not to be outdone was twin sister Kayley Wisniewski, also racing in her fourth state meet and placing 57th, with what Coach Brian Veshio described as being “…arguably the strongest effort of her career.” Lydia Valeriano finished 90th in a field of 216 of the state's best Class A runners.