PIAA Champs Race Preview: Class AA Girls

Class AA Girls Individual Preview - PIAA State Championships

It's been quite the XC career for Marlee Starliper. And while it's far from over for the Northern senior and recent NC State recruit, Saturday will mark her final high school race in Pennsylvania. Her last state meet.

Starliper will be going for her third straight state title in AA. As a freshman, she was second in a close one. She'll be the one to beat at Hershey in a season that has seen her run the fastest-ever 5K in state history (16:30 at LVC), run a Hershey course record at Foundation, and claim wins at Carlisle and then the District 3 Championships. Starliper will be among the top names to watch in the region and the nation, but she will have one last XC state meet to win. Her own Parkview course record, a 17:40 from earlier this season, will be on high alert.

Don't look now, but Taryn Parks is in the best XC shape of her career. The senior ran a 5K PR of 17:40 to take second at the District 3 Championships to Starliper. That performance came on the heels of another sub-18 performance for the 4:37 miler. Expect Parks to battle well in her final XC state meet.

AA is loaded outside of the Starliper-Parks duo. In fact, historically fast and historically deep up front. The top 11 girls from last year's state meet are back.

After working back from an injury for much of the season, Gianna Labbiento has proved over the last few weeks that she's rounding into top form. Third last season as a sophomore, Labbiento ran a 5K PR of 18:09 at her region meet two weeks ago and then went 18:33 to win her third straight D10 title last week. She has the talent and now it's clear the fitness is there.

There's a pair of talented girls after Labbiento in D10. Conneaut Area's Meaera Shannon was second in D10 last week and Fairview's Maddison Hayes was third. Both have earned no worse than third in 5K races this season, and come in battle-tested from a strong district. Shannon was tenth at states last year, while Hayes was fourth in 2018 (after taking sixth in 2017).

Blue Mountain's Olivia Haas ran to the course record at DeSales to win the District 11 title for a second straight season last week. The sophomore dropped a 17:58 at Paul Short, and after a fifth place district finish last season, seems poised to compete for another top five finish. Her D11 counterpart Cori McCormick of North Schuylkill was second at districts. She's had a strong season, too, including runner-up finishes at PTXC 11 and Foundation and a win over Haas for the Schuylkill League title. She was seventh last year at states.

Brownsville Area's Gionna Quarzo ran to her first career WPIAL XC title last week and the senior has notched four wins on the season total. She's a two-time 3,200 meter state champ on the track and she will be near the front in this race on Saturday, looking to improve on her sixth place finish from last season. Her younger sister, freshman Jolena Quarzo, was second at WPIALs and every other race the pair have raced this season. She's among the state's top ninth graders and she'll be out for a good showing in her state meet debut.

Annie Wicker of Quaker Valley has been eighth at states each of the last two season. She was fourth at WPIALs and will look to return to the top ten in the state this weekend. Lauren Iagnemma was third at WPIALs and she, too, will be shooting for the top ten to get some low points to support her South Fayette squad. Her teammate Hailey Poe was 17th last year, and is also one to watch in this field.

Warrior Run's Lauren Trapani ran to her third straight District 4 title (her second in AA) last week. She opened up her season with a 17:51 at Lock Haven. She was second to McCormick at NEPA and won the PHAC Invite handily. She's in a good spot for another strong run as a lowstick for her Warrior Run squad.

Stella Kuntz of Central Cambria was ninth at states last year as a freshman. The sophomore repeated in District 6 on Saturday and should figure to be a factor once again at states. Peyton Ellis of Boiling Springs has had a terrific freshman season. She took a strong third behind the AA state favorites Starliper and Parks in District 3 last week and should compete for a high finish at states. She won lower classification races at Ben Bloser and Carlisle this season.

Crestwood's Molly DeMarzo ran to her second straight District 2 crown last week -- her third win of the season. She ran 18:36 for a PR at Paul Short and will have a good chance for a spot in the top ten after taking 19th last year as a freshman. Villa Joseph Marie's Meredith Glunz ran to the District 1 title last week. The breakthrough freshman will have a shot at a high finish in her state meet debut. Gwynedd-Mercy Academy's Kelly Murray was second to Glunz in D1. She always runs her best at states (she was 12th in 2017 and 13th in 2018), so she'll once again be a contender for another high place at Hershey.

Others to watch for include District 9 champion Olivia Roberts of Punxsutawney, Saint Marys Area's Samantha Hayes (16th at states last year), Villa Maria's Sarah Clark, Knoch's Sammy Jo Barnes, and Belle Vernon's Grace Henderson, along with other returning medalists Naomi Hahn of Warren, Isabel Devos of Allentown Central Catholic, and Anna Igims of Avonworth.