Ones to Watch PIAA 3A: Rising Girls and Teams

Girls Top 250 Returners in PIAA 3A

It might be too early to pick favorites at the state level, but we want to give you the rundown of individuals/teams to keep an eye on heading into the early season. There is no doubt that many individuals and teams are worthy of this list, but we have picked a few that we would like to highlight.

Today, we released a list of our Girls Top 250 Returners to PIAA 3A. That list compared runners on the same course to give a more accurate objective ranking.

Ones to Watch:

Logan St. John Kletter of Mount Lebanon tops the list of returners after finishing runner-up in last year's PIAA 3A Championship race.

Following last year's cross country season, Kletter won the PTFCA Indoor State 1600m Championship race in 4:56. Her team should be on the hunt for an end-of-season team title, so she'll be trying to get as low of a stick as possible.

Kletter's all-time personal best on the cross country course is a 17:56 5k.

Claire Zubey (Owen J. Roberts) is the apparent challenger for Kletter. The two ran stride-in-stride for a majority of the championship race last year before Kletter ultimately established some distance in the waning moments of the race.

Zubey is a skilled cross-country runner who performs the best on challenging courses but has run as fast as 17:57 at Paul Short. That means her best is just a second off Kletter's. Zubey won the District 1 AAA championship after finishing runner-up in the prior year.

Further,  Shana Kearney (Bensalem) deserves mention after her impressive season last year. She won her race at the Lehigh University Paul Short Run, which started a four-race win streak until the District 1 Championships, where she finished second to Zubey. At states, she finished fourth.

North Allegheny teammates Eva Kynaston and Wren Kucler will be running for the team title, but you shouldn't count them out as contenders for the individual title. Kucler was within seven seconds of Kletter at last year's District 7 (WPIAL) championship as a freshman. Now with a year of high school running under her belt, she'll look to challenge the four runners ahead of her.

Claire Paci of Greencastle Antrim could upset them all. She finished seventh at the Cross Country State Championship before emerging as one of the state's best distance runners during the Track and Field season. 

Paci won the "Rising Stars" division 1500m, and Mile Championship races at New Balance Indoor Nationals in 4:37 and 4:56, respectively. Outdoor, she finished runner-up in the 1600m and 3200m at the PIAA 3A State Championship meet. She ran 4:54 and 10:35, respectively. If that 10:35 translates to the cross country course, we can expect her to run in the low to mid 17-minute range.

Natalie McLean of Pine-Richland experienced similar growth this past spring. She finished 84th at last year's state cross country championship but broke through as a premier distance runner this spring.

She ran 10:37 over 3200m at the PIAA Outdoor State Championships, finishing just behind Paci. She is on a trajectory to experience success this fall.

Teams to Watch:

North Allegheny dominated 3A last year, winning the title with a meager 62 points and an average time of 19:19. They placed their seven within the top 40 points paying places to win their fourth straight state title. Head coach John Neff earned 2021 Coach of the Year Honors after last year's championship sweep on both the boy's and girl's sides.

The squad graduated just one senior from their top seven, putting them in an incredible place to make it five-straight his year. A core of sophomores will lead them, but the mixed-in experience of upperclassmen like Eva Kynaston and Erin McGoey may make the difference.

State College Area is best positioned to challenge North Allegheny after a third-place finish at the state meets in 2021. It returns all of its starters from last year, including five seniors in Amy Devan, Marlee Kwasnica, Grace Morningstar, Alex Antoniono, and Natalie Koncoski. They are in a fantastic position to defend the District 6 title again.

Mount Lebanon, powered by front-runner Logan St. John Kletter, may have a solid season. They too, return all of their starters from 2021. Mount Lebanon's crux at the state meet last year was a three-minute 1-5 split, but if they can narrow that margin throughout the season, they'll be contending late.

Similarly, Perkiomen Valley returned six of the starting seven and may be in the mix later this year.

Keep an eye on Governor Mifflin and Owen J. Roberts.