Red, White & Blue Classic - Meet Preview
Schenley Park brings us a big one on Saturday: the Red, White & Blue Classic. The quick 5K course will give us a nice early season glimpse into some of the WPIAL's best. Many of the district's top teams are ready to roll in one of the varsity races, which are broken up into A/AA and AAA divisions.
A/AA Girls Preview
It will be a good matchup between D7-AA's top two, Gionna Quarzo of Brownsville and Annie Wicker of Quaker Valley. Wicker is the defending champion at RWB, but she'll face a bit more competition this season with Quarzo joining her on the line. This will be the pair's first meeting this season before they battle it out for the WPIAL title later this season. Quarzo is coming off an overwhelming win at Marty Uher last week, while this will be Wicker's opener.
Central Cambria's Stella Kuntz, who broke through as a freshman last fall, is also in the field. Now a sophomore, she'll be one to watch and could challenge up front. North Catholic's Alaina Hicks, Brownsville's Jolena Quarzo, Punxsutawney's Olivia Roberts, and Belle Vernon's Grace Henderson are among the others to watch for in this race.
This will mark the season debut for the defending AA state champs from Central Cambria. The Red Devils will be the team to beat here. As far as 1A is concerned, we also have the reigning state champs in entered with Marion Center Area. Other talented squads like North Catholic, Saint Francis DeSales (OH), and Villa Maria Academy will toe the line.
AAA Girls Preview
After capturing a big win last week at Cal U, Emily Carter of Bethel Park returns to action this weekend at Red, White & Blue. The junior was a runaway winner there, but she'll likely be pushed a lot more this time around with a good field of entries.
North Allegheny's Hannah Lindgren leads her Tigers squad into the weekend. She should be a factor near the front. Moon Area's Mia Cochran, on the heels of a big freshman campaign, will look to start her sophomore season off on the right foot against this field. Fox Chapel's Grace Sisson, NA's Keeley Misutka and Rachel Hockenberry are among the top PA girls in this field.
Morgantown (WV)'s Lea Hatcher and Athena Young will be worth keeping an eye on. The pair finished ahead of West Virginia 4:38 miler Victoria Starcher last week at a big meet in WV. They'll look to carry that momentum into this weekend against some of PA's best.
North Allegheny and its deep squad will make its invitational debut on Saturday. The top-ranked PA team and US No. 23 team will be heavily favored to repeat its state title, but its journey to that point really kicks into gear this weekend.
Morgantown, among West Virginia's top teams, will hope to challenge NA. Hurricane (WV) is another solid out-of-state squad entered. Seneca Valley, Upper Saint Clair, and Pine-Richland are among the other strong WPIAL teams with state hopes to look for. South Fayette, among the state's top AA teams, moves up to AAA this weekend and should be able to compete well.
A/AA Boys Preview
It looks like a pretty wide open race for the top spot here. Last week's Marty Uher winner Adam Hessler will move to the AAA race, but there's still some good talent remaining. Beaver Area's Will Lamb was second at Marty Uher last week. He'll be in the mix for the win. Indiana's Kendall Branan raced aggressively last week and took fourth at Cal U; expect him to be near the front.
Blackhawk's Jack Aulbach will be a definite factor after a good opener, as well. Quaker Valley's Daniel Ford, Elk County Catholic's Ben Hoffman, Clarion Area's Nathaniel Lerch, and Riverview's Mason Ochs will all likely get in the mix and compete for the top spot in the A/AA race.
On the team side, it will be a good early season matchup for some strong AA teams. Indiana Area looks good to start the season. But the reigning state champs from Greensburg Salem will look to show that they aren't going anywhere. District 6's Central Cambria and District 9's Clarion Area, along with Ohio's Saint Francis DeSales will all be up there in the team standings as well.
AAA Boys Preview
The WPIAL is loaded with talent this season. Four of the the top five in PIAA Class AAA last fall hailed from District 7 and three of them are back.
At the top is reigning state champion Patrick Anderson of Mount Lebanon. Saturday will mark his first showdown of the season with North Allegheny senior Daniel McGoey. The pair clashed plenty of times leading up to states last year and surely will again this season. Anderson already has a race under his bealt, winning at the Marty Uher Invitational last week in a quick 15:54. This will be McGoey's invitational opener.
Christian Fitch of Fox Chapel is the other top five returner from states last year. The senior is a strong runner and will look to get in the mix with Anderson and McGoey. Mars Area's Zachary Leachman is another strong runner in this field. He's fresh off a big track season and should be in line for a strong XC season. Among the other talented boys in the field -- of which there is no shortage -- are Peters Township's Zack Marmol, Freedom Area's Adam Hessler, New Castle's Anthony Litrenta, Winchester Thurston's Scott Routledge, Taylor Allderdice's Eli Anish, and Shaler's Dalton Kalbaugh. Hurricane (WV)'s Wyatt Hanshaw is coming off a big win at a big WV meet last week and will be worth keeping an eye on.
The reigning AAA state champs from North Allegheny are the beat in this season opener. Some quality pieces from last year's squad are back, led up front by McGoey. It will be interesting to see how the backend of its varsity squad looks to open up the fall.
Mount Lebanon is coming off a strong win at Marty Uher. This team, led by Anderson, will look to get an early-season upper-hand on much of their WPIAL rivals. Taylor Allderdice, Norwin, Upper Saint Clair, Seneca Valley are the other solid PA Class AAA squads to watch for in this field.
A few non-AAA teams will look to mix it up with the large schools on Saturday. New Castle, one of the WPIAL's top AA teams will face off with with the big teams in AAA. Winchester Thurston, the perennial Class A power and preseason favorite for the state title is also entered. Expect those teams to compete for spots within the top five.
Morgantown (WV), fresh off a win at West Virginia's biggest early season invite, is entered in the field. They will look to make some noise as an out-of-state school. Hurricane, also from WV, could get in the conversation for a high finish as well.