PREVIEW: 2022 District 7 Championships

Year In and Out, The WPIAL is one of the most competitive District in the state, producing amazing races and competitors repetitively. On Thursday, WPIAL's finest will descend on PennWest Cal and brave the hills in an action packed day of racing.

But before we get into the previews; the following is a small look at the history of the WPIAL since 2021, presented by Pete Wilton who has tracked Team and Individual qualifiers from District 7. 

This graph tracks Total Team qualifications, whereas the following chart looks at the total individual qualifiers from each school. The results may surprise you.

District 7 Class A Girls - Race Preview

  • State Qualifying Spots For Teams: 4
  • State Qualifying Spots For Individuals: 20

Individuals To WatchAlexis Abbett, Aquinas Academy; Lexi Fluharty, Riverside; Chelsea Hartman, Shady Side Academy; Natalie Lape, Mohawk. 

Contending TeamsWinchester Thurston; Mohawk; Riverview.

The Rundown:

To have the opportunity to say hello and good-bye to the Aloha Hills in Hershey, a WPIAL XC runner has to first conquer the fast flats and gut-wrenching climb in California .... Pennsylvania. 

The 5-kilomer layout at Roadman Park has slowed and stopped more than a few medal-bound harriers over the final 100 or so meters. Unseasonably hot weather won't be a factor tomorrow but slips and slides might be, especially in the Class A races at the end of the day. 

A year ago, Our Lady of Sacred Heart won its first Class A district title, and Alexis Abbett of Aquinas Academy was fifth and the only non-senior in the top half-dozen. The junior has put up some low numbers in invites this season and has the fastest 5K clocking heading to CalU. 

Lexi Fluharty of Riverside was the best over the second half of last week's TSTCA Class A race, and last year's 14th-place finisher walked away with the win. Also in last week's unofficial preview, Chelsea Hartman of Shady Side Academy ran up in Class AA and claimed runner-up honors with a sub-20:00 performance. 

Who will be the team champion as the second decade of three classifications in XC gets started? Only Laurel, Mohawk, OLSH and the former Vincentian Academy have claimed the title over the first 10 title races. 

District 7 Class AA Girls - Race Preview

  • State Qualifying Spots For Teams: 3
  • State Qualifying Spots For Individuals: 15

Individuals To WatchJoJo Quarzo, Brownsville Area; Harley Kletz, Montour; Hope Trimmer, Uniontown; Annabel Johnson, Woodland Hills.  

Contending Teams: Montour; Beaver Area; Uniontown.

The Rundown:

Another top district runner who has cut back on the big meet racing thus far this year is Brownsville Area standout JoJo Quarzo. The North Carolina State commit and PIAA track champion was victorious in both of her invites this fall and goes into tomorrow's meet opener as one of the biggest favorites of the day. With CalU basically her home course, Quarzo will be very comfortable running from the front as usual. 

With a victory Thursday, Quarzo will extend the family's win streak to four in Class AA - older sister Gionna won in 2019 - and become just the 10th girl to claim a trio of WPIAL XC titles. 

Other top individuals include the next two in line after Quarzo a year ago - seniors Harley Kletz of Montour and Hope Trimmer of Uniontown. This trio ended the 2021 season with a 2-3-4 finish at the PIAA meet. 

Also, freshman Annabel Johnson of Woodland Hills has a pair of invite victories in 2022, while 10th-grader Lilah Turnbull of Chartiers Valley and senior Julia Zalenski of North Catholic have gone under 19:00 this season. 

For Kletz, her low stick was key to the Spartans of coach Rob Naylor claiming both the WPIAL and PIAA championships. In the season-opening Marty Uher Invitational this year at CalU, Montour claimed the A-AA division sans their No. 1 runner, with junior Lakyn Schaltenbrand leading the way on that day. At Foundation, the Spartans lost a tiebreaker and the AA title to Central Cambria as both finished with 97 points. 

At Red, White & Blue, Beaver Area bested Central Cambria by two points, using a 59-second gap from runners 1-4. The WPIAL team title in AA looks to be as tight as any all day. 

District 7 Class AAA Girls - Race Preview

  • State Qualifying Spots For Teams: 3
  • State Qualifying Spots For Individuals: 15

Individuals To Watch: Logan St. John Kletter, Mt. Lebanon; Natalie McLean, Pine-Richland; Jenna Lang, Bethel Park; Wren Kucler, North Allegheny; Eliza Miller, Kiski Area. 

The Rundown:

A soft or muddy track could be the difference maker between two equally talented runners: Logan St. John Kletter of Mt. Lebanon and Pine-Richland senior Natalie McLean. McLean, who is headed to Georgetown, outdueled St. John Kletter at Foundation, while the Mt. Lebanon junior was a few strides better two weeks later with season-best times for both at The Legends Meet in Ohio.  

Add in North Allegheny's No. 1 - sophomore Wren Kucler - and three of the state's sub-18:00 athletes will be battling up front. Bethel Park's Jenna Lang has been solid all season, while another Mt. Lebanon junior - Caroline Adams - and Kiski Area junior Eliza Miller have the experience and talent to contend for top finishes. 

A year ago, John Neff's North Allegheny squad finished with 49 points and an 86-point cushion on the WPIAL field. A week later, the Tigers claimed their fourth consecutive PIAA title. 

With a victory tomorrow, the North Allegheny girls would make WPIAL history again. The Tigers, who won the first WPIAL girls meet in 1974, would join the former Vincentian Academy (2015-19) and the 1997-2001 NA teams as the only squads with a five-year winning streak in the district finale. 

The only blemish on NA's big meet schedule thus far this season is a 7-point setback to Morgantown, W.Va., when both teams were nationally ranked at the Red, White & Blue Classic. Expect the Tigers to win by a solid margin tomorrow. In the mix for the other two PIAA team berths should be Mt. Lebanon, Pine-Richland, Peters Township and South Fayette.