2024 PIAA Championship Preview: Distance

The PIAA State Championship is this weekend. What can we expect out of this year's final and who are the contenders in each event?

AA Girls 800m - Saturday 2:25 PM

Eleven of the 13 runners in the hot heat of the 800 are within 5 seconds of each other, based on their district performances, and that's not a tremendous amount of real estate in this race. The WPIAL made another statement here this season as D7 has four in the fast heat, led by Eilidh Edgar of Trinity Christian. The junior's district winner of 2:14.76 is the fastest thus far in AA, while Kate Moncavage of Southern Columbia returns to defend her crown with the No. 2 clocking (from the Shippensburg Roddick Invite) and a District 4 title in '24.

Two other 2023 placers and District 10 rivals - Isabel Owens of Fairview and Karis McElhaney of Greenville - return and are in that fast-running group mentioned previously.

@oldschooltrack Picks: Moncavage has been very active and very fast throughout the season in the 800m.

AA Girls 1600m - Friday 9 AM

With the dominant performer over the past two years having graduated, the Class AA girls distance races are definitely wide open. Southern Columbia senior Kate Moncavage leads the PIAA 1,600m qualifiers with her 5:03.75 win in District 4, with Warrior Run's Claire Dufrene behind her in the district and the state participants.

Chelsea Hartman of Shady Side Academy, who ran solo in a 1,600/3,200 sweep in the WPIAL, and Moncavage both have dropped 5:00 metric miles this year, heading the '24  list and looking to improve on their 8th and 7th place finishes, respectively, from last year.

Greenville's Karis McElhaney, who was 6th in '23, is No. 4 on the year after her D10 win in 5:06.81. Also expected to be in the mix is Wyomissing Area senior Addie Cohen, who was last year's runner-up, while Somerset's Emily Fisher is the fastest of five freshmen in the field who also met the SQS.

@oldschooltrack Picks: A sub-5:00 performance will be needed to claim gold in this race. I see Hartman having enough speed to get the job done.

AA Girls 3200m - Saturday 9 AM

Chelsea Hartman of Shady Side Academy was the fifth and last finisher under 11:00 a year ago. In advancing to Shippensburg this year, the senior was the only runner in the state field to break that barrier, winning the WPIAL race by more than 30 seconds in running a near-PR 10:48.33.

Wyomissing senior Addie Cohen is the top returnee from the '23 race, and she is solidly in the top 10 lining up Saturday morning at Seth Grove Stadium.

Bedford's Chloe May, who is one of six 9th-graders running this event, also broke 11:00 earlier this season, while Elk County Catholic senior Grace Neubert was 4th last year and hit 11:00 three weeks ago. Northern Bradford's Gracelyn Laudermilch was 8th in the '23 race.

@oldschooltrack Picks: Hartman's solo effort in hot and sunny weather at D7 was extremely impressive and way more than she had to put forth to punch her state ticket. I think she can go faster and will for the gold medal.

AA Girls 4x800m - Saturday 11 AM

As the old saying goes, there must be something in the water when it comes to the 4x800m this year in District 4. Warrior Run's sizable advantage on the girls distance relay field is almost as large as the one that Midd-West has for the boys. Warrior Run's 9:27.93 is nearly identical to the time that won the AA state crown a year ago and is worth a 9.6-second edge over District 11 titlist Notre Dame Green Pond, which was 4th in 2023. Athens Area was a distant second in D4 and checks in with the No. 3 time this year in AA, while Elk County Catholic has the fourth-best time on the season and was second a year ago at Shippensburg.

@oldschooltrack Picks: I can't see anything but a District 4 sweep in one of my favorite events. Warrior Run will go under 9:30 again for the win.

AAA Girls 800m - Saturday 2:25 PM

Youth stole the spotlight a year ago in the Class AAA girls 800, and those with at least a full year of HS track and field left are the fastest coming out of this year's district finals. Olivia Cieslak, the 2023 champion from Haverford Township, is back along with those closest to her at the finish, Ella Woehlcke of Mount St. Joseph and Gwen Hamilton of Archbishop Wood. Five of the next seven fastest qualifiers at 2:13.11 or faster all are sophomores and juniors.

Cieslak has run 2:04 this year and twice more under 2:10, while Woehlcke, who also has at least three sub-2:10s, and Hamilton are in the 2:07s. The pace will be hot from the gun in each of the 800m heats, especially the second section.

@oldschooltrack Picks: Cieslak should have the wheels at the end to defend.

AAA Girls 1600m - Friday 9 AM

Only two PIAA runners have gone under 4:52 this year in the 1,600 meters, and both of them also have covered that distance in under 4:47 - defending AAA champion Olivia Cieslak and Logan St. John Kletter. Both also advanced to Shippensburg in two races, with Cieslak also back in the 800 and St. John Kletter kicking off day 2 in the 3,200m.

Cieslak closed in 65.8 a year ago to leave no doubt to the class of the field as she was the only runner under 4:50. Indoors this year, St. John Kletter returned the favor, lighting up the banked oval at Penn State to the tune of a 4:43.17 mile.

In addition to this year's two fastest, Ella Woehlcke of Mt. St. Joseph is the only other medal winner returning from 2023. She also is one of 10 total with seed times under 5:00.

@oldschooltrack picks: The winner in this one? With a long run for home, St. John Kletter completes the PA Indoor Mile/Outdoor 1600m sweep.

AAA Girls 3200m - Saturday 9 AM

As with the AAA boys, the AAA girls have reset the meet record in the 3,200 twice since the PIAA outdoor finale was canceled due to the global pandemic - Mia Cochran in 2022 and Logan St. John Kletter last year.

St. John Kletter proved her fitness in a big way in last week's WPIAL final, blasting through the opening four laps in 5:00-5:01 en route to a runaway PA#1 10:19.78. The Mt. Lebanon senior was third in the Penn Relays 3K in her only other high-level long run on the track this spring but also has run 4:46.70 in the 1,600. If she doesn't take the lead from the gun, you should see her push to the front in the first 2 or 3 laps.

Greencastle-Antrim's Claire Paci also was a dominant district champ, recording her PA#2 10:30.70 to win District 3 by more than 10 seconds. 

@oldschooltrack Picks: St. John Kletter will complete the distance double and move closer to her goal time in the 3,200/2 mile.

AAA Girls 4x800m - Saturday 11 AM

At this year's Penn Relays, Upper Dublin and Lower Moreland were the only PA schools to earn spots in the Championship of America 4x800m final, with the Cardinals finishing a little more than 11 seconds ahead of the Lions. In last week's District 1 race, the order was the same, but the gap was a little closer as those two squads lead the 2024 state rankings at 9:03.16 and 9:11.55. The next two quartets in the annual rankings are D3's Cedar Crest (9:20.29) and Carlisle (9:22.35).

Both of the top teams have light workloads this weekend, so the list leaders likely can go as fast if not faster than a week ago.

@oldschooltrack Picks: Look for Upper Dublin to hit the line first, moving up a spot from last year's runner-up placement.