PIAA Champs Race Preview: Class AAA Girls

3A Girls' Individuals Preview - PIAA State Championships

It could be a veteran vs. newcomer battle for the AAA state title on Saturday. Oakland Catholic senior Hannah Schupansky, the District 7 (WPIAL) champ, and West Chester Henderson freshman Jenna Mulhern, the District 1 champ, are among the favorites in another deep AAA girls field.

The east/west pair met once this season in the middle of the state -- at the Carlisle Invitational -- where Mulhern finished second to Schupansky's fourth place finish. Schupansky took the race out hard from the gun and Mulhern overtook her. The senior likes to take out the race hard and we'll see if she employs that same strategy at Hershey.

The AAA race has favored seniors this decade. 12th graders have won the last five individual state titles and seven of the last eight. Schupansky will look to add her name to that list, while Mulhern will be aiming to buck that trend and become the first frosh to win in AAA since Sara Sargent in 2009 (Mulhern was just 2 seconds off Sargent's winning District 1 time).

Of course, there's plenty of room for others to get involved, and Hershey is no stranger to surprises for the individual title. The top returner from last year's state meet is coming in with plenty of momentum. Emily Schuler of Dallastown won the District 3 title on Saturday. She peaked well to run her best at Hershey last year (she was fifth), and she'll look to do the same again this year.

West Chester East's Allyson Clarke is having a terrific junior season. The Briarwood champ has been on Mulhern's heels in her last three races and will look to reverse the finishing result at states. At District 1, Clarke went under 18, running 17:59 for second, and can't be counted out. Grace Forbes of Strath Haven was third in District 1. The Foundation champ said she likes Hershey, and she will return in hopes of grabbing another win at Parkview.

One of the state's most consistent performers this fall has been Sarena Seeger of Fox Chapel. 11th at states last year, Seeger always runs well at states and will be looking to add another big finish in her senior year. Her teammate Grace Sisson hasn't been far behind her for much of the season. North Allegheny, the team favorites, have some individuals that will be shooting for the top 10, led by Hannah Lindgren, who was 13th a year ago. Bethel Park's Emily Carter and Moon Area's Mia Cochran are among the other D7 girls who will be battling for high finishes.

District 1 saw some very quick times this past Friday at Lehigh, even after the top 3. Aliza Thir of Downingtown West was fourth in a huge PR of 18:20. Henderson has a great pair in Courtney Kitchen and Courtney Alexander that are coming off great district races. Central Bucks West's Julia Flood and Piper Wilson are another solid pair that have run well all season long. Unionville's Madison McGovern and Marcella Krautzel are returning medalists from last season. Neshaminy's Kaylee McCullough overcame mono this season and ran 18:33 at District 1.

Cedar Crest's Gwyneth Young was second in District 3 and is trending towards a big race at Hershey. The Elizabethtown trio of Madeline Quinn, Katie Locker, and Cat Shontz (3-4-5 in D3) could be working together towards top 10 finishes at the state meet. Governor Mifflin's Andrea Miller is a returning state medalist that will be worth watching for.

Kileigh Kane returned to State College Area's lineup in a big way on Saturday, running away with the District 6 individual title. She was 12th last season, and despite missing a few races this season, looks like she's ready to contend near the front.

Of course, this field is tremendously deep with a number of girls that could sneak inside the top 15 with a big race. Other contenders include District 12 champ Christine Mancini (Cardinal O'Hara), District 11 champ Meghan Vizian (Easton Area), McKenna Bowes (Mars Area), and Claire Hoffman (Upper Saint Clair).