Girls PIAA Class A - 2019 Preview
Key Storylines To Follow This Season
- Marion Center goes on a quest for second straight team championship
- Individual battle looks wide open!
- Plenty of room for sleeper teams to emerge
- How will last years top teams rebuild and retool?
Isabell Sagar delivered as the overwhelming state favorite, and the senior ran away with the Class A state title last year. That part wasn't surprising. But after that, there were plenty of surprises on the individual end and it's left a wide open battle to brew this season in the classification.
The top returner based on states finish is Lauren Shaffer of Portage Area. Shaffer, then a freshman, went sub-20 for the first time in her career on a wet, muddy and hilly Hershey course on that Saturday morning. It was one of the meet's biggest surprise, and now Shaffer will be among the favorites in 1A heading into this season.
But there is a long list of contenders in this field with seven of the top ten from states back. Grace Mason of Wilmington will be a threat. She ran an aggressive race at states last year and came home third. Shenango's Carmen Medvit (fifth), Northern Lehigh's Reagan Pender (sixth), Our Lady of Sacred Heart's Haley Hamilton (seventh), Kennedy Catholic's Ellie Wanner (ninth) and Notre Dame Green Pond's Grace Medei (tenth) are all back, and frankly, each will have a shot at the title this season.
North Catholic's Alaina Hicks, Greensburg Central Catholic's Corinn Brewer, and Camp Hill's Laura Sakol are among the other contenders in 1A this season. Without a clear-cut favorite, we'll see which of the aforementioned girls can break out throughout the season.
There have been a few "surprise" Class A state champs in the past: Sera Mazza in 2016 and Tina Capparell in 2017. This year may get back to that trend.
While only 57 points separated the second place team from the tenth place team at last year's state meet, one team rose above the rest. Marion Center Area put up 96 points to win its first Class A team title by 43 points. That defending champs being back five varsity runners from last season and are in a position to repeat this season.
MCA loses its top runner from last season, but has a strong core back led by Nevada Armstrong and Alyx Cornetto. The team was well-balanced with veterans and newcomers last season. It will look for some of its rising freshmen to step up and fill the void left by the graduated MacKenzie Walker.
But there will be challengers in what looks to be a fairly wide open classification on the team side as well this fall. Last year's runner-up from Union City Area are one of those teams. UC, too, loses a pair of varsity runners, but brings back a strong five. The key will also be adding depth. Camp Hill was fifth at states last year, but brings back its full varsity team from 2018. Led by Sakol, this will be a dangerous team.
North Catholic (11th last year) and Notre Dame Green Pond (12th last year) are a pair of squads with a healthy group of returners that should be in the conversation. Neumann Goretti, Lakeview, and Troy should also be strong again this season.
Perennial powers like Saint Joseph's Catholic Academy and Vincentian Academy lose some key pieces to their squads, but neither can ever be counted out of the equation here.
What could tip the scales for one of these top-ranked squads is the emergence of an impact freshman or two. Keep an eye on what newcomers step in to important roles -- that could very well be the difference maker when it's this close.