As country country invitaionals go, this was a rather small affair. But Shady Side Academy Coach Bill McConnel, whose team hosted the five school meet, came away with a sense of optimism.Three of those five schools SSA, Quaker Valley, and Sewickley Academy are among the strong in western Pennsylvania class AA schools this fall. So as Shady Side’s Indians defend their WPIAL championship tomorrow afternoon at Slippery Rock University, McConnel is hoping they’ve already seen the best this area has to offer.
"It [the invitational] was important because we ran against Quaker Valley and Sewickley, and they have two very good kids," McConnel said.
Shady Side won the meet with 25 points, followed by the Quakers (50), Sewickley Academy (83), Southmoreland (86) and Winchester Thurston (125).
Overall winner was Sewickley Academy’s John Colavincenzo, who has won several big races, including the ‘B’ event at the Central Catholic Invitational earlier this month.,/P> ,p>Colavincenzo ran the hilly SSA course in 16:59, followed by Quaker Valley’s Matt Thomas (17:01) and a pack of Indians runners led by Andrew Bell (17:12).
Senior Andre Moura, junior Aaron Magid, a transfer student from York, senior Brandon Tung, and senior Matt Hall took the next four places behind Bell, a junior.
Senior Charlie Cheever was ninth. Senior Leonard Wholey, junior Sam Prentice, senior Ben Follansbee, and sophomore Matt Welch round out the team.
"He [Bell] has been out front in every meet, and he ran well at Central [10th place]," said McConnel, whose team placed fourth in the ‘A’ race behind North Allegheny, Hempfield and Butler, three teams with excellent chances in Class AAA tomorrow.
The Indians easily won their section, despite entering the junior varsity in many meets. The JV’s [sic] won a 27-28 squeaker against Greensburg Central Catholic, one of the teams expected to challenge at Slippery Rock.
Others to watch include, Sewickley Academy, Mars, Quaker Valley, Brentwood, Fort Cherry, Waynesburg, and Southmoreland.
One of the reasons Shady Side runners have emerged as WPIAL favorite is McConnel’s penchant for tough scheduling. He tried to get the Indians as much competition against Quad-A-sized schools, hence, SSA’s participation in the Central A race.
Shady Side has done well outside the state; the Indians won the Independent Private School League [sic: it’s actually Independent Preparatory School League] (IPSL) title in Cleveland recently.
McConnel said he expects fast times tomorrow.
The top three teams advance to the PIAA finals next week at Penn State Universiy.
The girls’ Clas AA race kicks off the WPIAL championships at 3 p.m., followed by Class AAA girls (3:30), Clas AA boys (4 p.m.) and Class AAA boys (4:30).
Among those favored to win are West Allegheny’s Lauren Shaffer, Geibel’s Christina Steve, Southmoreland’s Michelle Street and Julie Wisnieuski and Stephanie Stieb of Greensburg Central. [Jennifer Locke of Brownsville beat Shaffer of West Allegheny to win.]
Ellwood City, West Allegheny, Mars, Southmoreland, Shenango, and Mohawk seem to be among the WPIAL leaders each season; the team champion should come from this group.