Quarzo seeks first PIAA cross country title

Jim Downey | Herald-Standard

Brownsville’s Gionna Quarzo (left) and Quaker Valley’s Annie Wicker (right) run side-by-side in the opening mile of the 2019 WPIAL Class AA Cross Country Championship at Cal U’s Roadman Park. Quarzo seeks her first state title Saturday morning at the PIAA Cross Country Championships in Hershey.

Over 1,300 runners from around Pennsylvania will gather Saturday morning near the Giant Center in Hershey to decide who the finest cross country runners are in the state.

Scattered among that crowd of runners will be a strong contingent of local runners seeking one of the 25 medals offered in each classification and to close the season on a high note with a personal-best time.

Brownsville’s Gionna Quarzo cruised to her first WPIAL Class AA title last week on the course at Cal U’s Roadman Park, but the senior will have a lot of competition for the state gold medal.

Northern senior Marlee Starliper is looking for a three-peat after winning last fall in 17:53. The top end of girls Class AA is loaded with the top 11 finishers, including Quarzo, returning.

Quarzo finished sixth last year with a time of 19:30.

Belle Vernon’s Grace Henderson makes a return trip to the state meet after finishing sixth last week in the district meet. The junior placed 33rd last year with a time of 21:01.

Brownsville’s JoJo Quarzo, Belle Vernon’s Viva Kreis and Ringgold’s Charlee Leach, all freshman, will be running in their first Class AA state final. Quarzo finished second to her sister in the WPIAL final.

California junior Makayla Boda qualified for the PIAA Class A Championship after she finished 21st overall in the district meet. Boda just missed qualifying last year, but was elevated into a berth after a runner dropped out. However, an injury did not permit Boda to participate in the PIAA meet, so she’ll be taking on the state course for the first time.

Ringgold’s Lucas Pajak, a junior, and Ethan Gamble, a senior, along with Laurel Highlands senior Brendan Kopich earned a return trip to the state Class AA final.

Pajak was just edged at the line for second place by New Castle’s Anthony Litrenta last week in the WPIAL final. Gamble finished 12th and Kopich placed 20th to earn automatic berths into the state final. Gamble finished 83rd in last year’s PIAA Championship, while Kopich finished 160th.

Uniontown’s Logan Maust was positioned to medal and advance to the state meet last year as a junior, but suffered an injury in the final mile and did not finish the race. Maust finished 10th overall in the WPIAL Championship.

Ben Daerr gives Ringgold three runners in the final, his first, after the junior placed 18th overall last week in the district final.

The girls Class A race opens the busy day of championships at 9:30 a.m. The girls Class AA run starts at 10:15, with the Class AAA race taking off at 11. The boys races continue to run at 45-minute increments.

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