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Runners enjoy running ‘old’ course at Schenley Park for Red, White & Blue Classic |

Runners enjoy running ‘old’ course at Schenley Park for Red, White & Blue Classic

South Fayette’s Sam Snodgrass crosses the finish line just ahead of North Allegheny’s Daniel McGoey in the Class AAA race at the Red, White and Blue Classic on Saturday Sept. 9, 2017, at Schenley Park.
New Brighton’s Alyssa Campbell takes first place in the girls Class A/AA race at the Red, White and Blue Classic on Saturday Sept. 9, 2017, at Schenley Park.
Upper St. Clair’s Savannah Shaw crosses the finish line in the Class AAA girls race at the Red, White and Blue Classic on Saturday Sept. 9, 2017, at Schenley Park.
Winchester Thurston’s Tristan Forsythe crosses the finish line in the Class A/AA race at the Red, White and Blue Classic on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, at Schenley Park.

For the past two years Schenley Park’s cross country course had to be re-routed because of construction work.

With the course now returned to its original form, runners at the 15th annual Red, White and Blue Classic tore it up. Both the boys and girls torched the course under near-perfect weather conditions Saturday morning as most every winner came away with a personal best time.

“The last time I ran this specific course was my freshman year and it’s mostly flat, there’s a few rolling hills here and there but the second mile is almost all uphill,” South Fayette’s Sam Snodgrass said.

In an attempt to seek out the tougher competition, Snodgrass and the South Fayette cross country team moved up from Class AA to compete in the Class AAA race. The bold decision paid off. Snodgrass trailed North Allegheny’s Daniel McGoey by 50 meters before Snodgrass finally caught McGoey with 25 meters remaining to get the edge and the win. Snodgrass finished in 15 minutes, 30.1 seconds, with McGoey trailing right behind at 15:30.7. It turned out to be the tightest race of the morning. “I started my real sprint about 200 meters out,” Snodgrass said. “I said to myself, ‘Don’t let it slide through your fingers again.’ I’ve had too many races go down that close and be on the losing end of it. Forget about the pain and just think of the reward.”

Mt. Lebanon finished first in the Class AAA boys team standings, followed by Morgantown and Seneca Valley to round out the top three. The Norwin boys turned in a solid showing, finishing eighth out of the 31 teams in Class AAA.

Winchester Thurston senior Tristan Forsythe took full advantage of his familiar surroundings. Running on the Bears’ home course, Forsythe finished in the Class AA/A race in 15:39.6, beating Grove City’s Jonah Powell by 11 seconds.

“This is our home course, and we train here almost every day, so we were ready for the course today,” said Forsythe, who won the Class A/AA race last year, as well. “It’s a really tricky course because the first half is all downhill and the last half is uphill. I knew that if I got up hard and just stuck my nose in it from the front it would be good a race.”

Winchester Thurston coach Bruce Frey liked that his team did well on its home course, given that his runners know all the ins and outs, but he acknowledged that the situation will be much different Nov. 4 at the PIAA meet in Hershey.

“We understand that we did well here, but it maybe won’t be like that at Hershey or Slippery Rock (for WPIALs),” Frey said. “But for here and right now, we’re very pleased with what took place, and Tristan is a very gifted athlete, and he understands the nuances of this particular course.”

Greensburg Salem’s Cameron Binda finished third in 15:58.2 and teammate Mark Brown was fifth (16:13). Winchester Thurston, Elk County and Riverview rounded out the top three respectively in the Class A boys standings.

Greensburg Salem nailed down the top spot in the Class AA standings, followed by Albion and Beaver.

It was New Brighton’s Alyssa Campbell’s first, and last time, competing in the Red, White and Blue Classic, and the senior would not be denied in the AA/A race. Campbell began to hear footsteps from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic’s Rylee Kopchak with around 100 meters remaining before she sprinted across the finish line in 18:50.9. Kopchak finished in 18:53.6.

“I never knew I could push that much at the end,” said Campbell, who set a new personal best time. “I saw her and she was in my vision. In the gravel, I heard her speed up and that made me speed up. I run on nervous tension.”

Southmoreland’s Kaylee Farino finished fifth (19:47.7) and Greensburg Salem’s Emma Andrasko was sixth (19:54.1). Vincentian Academy finished first in the Class A team standings, followed by Marion Center and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic. Grove City grabbed the top spot in the Class AA team standings, with Greensburg Salem and Indiana second and third.

“It shows me where I am and where my competition is,” Campbell said.

For the second time in a week, Upper St. Clair’s Savannah Shaw set a new personal best when she crossed the finish line in 17:58 to win the girls Class AAA race. The senior finished second at the event last season and said last year’s experience helped her get the edge she needed. North Allegheny’s Clara Savchik was second (18:05.2).

“Last year we started on a hill so starting on a flat surface is great because you can really hammer it out,” Shaw said.

Fox Chapel finished atop the Class AAA girls standings, followed by Oakland Catholic and Morgantown.

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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