Franklin Regional’s cross country coaches gave sophomore Bria McMahon some advice on how to run in the Gateway Invitational before the race began on Saturday.
The first-year cross country runner ended up ignoring that advice, and it worked out well for her.
McMahon won the girls varsity race at the Gateway Invitational, finishing the 3.1-mile Boyce Park course in 20 minutes, 38 seconds. She beat West Allegheny’s Alexis O’Shea, who finished second in 20:41, and almost 80 other runners to take the title.
“We told her at the beginning: ‘Keep yourself in third place or so, and if it feels like the pace is a little bit slow, then take it over,’” Franklin Regional coach Jim Passarelli said. “Once again, she didn’t listen to us — she just went out there and battled back and forth with (O’Shea) for the entire 3 miles. It was a back-and-forth race the whole way.
“It was one of those things where she has the confidence that she can run with the top girls, so she’s willing to mix it up with them and see how long she can last with them.”
The annual Gateway Invitational brought a dozen teams from around the WPIAL to Boyce Park on Saturday, including section rivals Franklin Regional and Norwin.
The Norwin girls team captured the varsity title for the first time since 2010, beating out two-time defending champion Hempfield. The Knights won six straight championships at Boyce Park from 2005-10.
“Norwin girls have had a lot of success at that meet, so it’s nice getting it back,” coach Brian Fleckenstein said.
Freshman Kelley Giles led the way for the Norwin girls, taking sixth place in 21:37 in her first varsity race.
“It’s a big jump going from middle school to high school,” Fleckenstein said. “She was nervous beforehand and then came through. I think as the race went on, she got more and more confident. So it was really nice to see her do well.”
Junior Becca Rohac finished behind Giles, coming in seventh in 21:51, and senior Becca Peters finished 17th in 23:12. Junior Rachel Fasiczka rounded out Norwin’s top-30 finishers, coming in 27th in 23:43.
Sophomore Katja Kochvar was Franklin Regional’s other top-30 finisher, coming in 22nd in 22:30.
The Franklin Regional boys team, meanwhile, finished in sixth place, one spot above Norwin.
Senior Ian Griffith led the boys team, finishing sixth in 18:18. Junior Brett Trottier finished 11th in 18:38. Both runners qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA Track and Field championships in the spring, and Passarelli said both had strong summers as well.
“They’re exactly where they left off in track,” Passarelli said. “Now we can move forward and improve them even more.”
Senior Clay Brough led the way for Norwin’s varsity boys, placing 19th in 19:06. Senior Grant Folgate (24th, 19:22), sophomore Tyler Laughery (26th, 19:29) and junior Trey Quealy (27th, 19:31) also finished in the top 30 for the Knights.
“The guys are maturing and getting stronger,” Fleckenstein said. “I like where our pack is — if we can just keep moving our real nice, tight-knit group up, (we’ll be successful). Really, we did well. We only had one runner in the top 20, so it was nice to see our whole bunch was right behind. In cross country, you want to keep that (time) spread down. If we can keep moving up, they’re going to do real well.”
Franklin Regional and Norwin will both get an even bigger test of where they stands this weekend, as both will head to Schenley Park on Saturday for the annual Red, White and Blue Invitational. The race, one of the largest in the area, draws dozens of teams from around the WPIAL each year.
“It’ll be a great day for the kids,” Passarelli said. “The kids are excited to see where they match up. I know Ian and Brett have goals to make it on to states, (and) Bria has goals to make it on to states. It will definitely show them where they stand at because there’s not going to be that are going to be at WPIALs that aren’t going to be at the Red, White and Blue, too.”