Morgantown Girls Defend Red, White & Blue Classic Title

Mary Malone (L)  of North Hiils and Brynn Harshbarger of Morgantown finish  2 -3 Phil Grove Photo


When successful high school sports programs lose athletes to graduation, they are expected to reload – not rebuild – for the coming year.

However when you win a state championship with three freshmen, three sophomores and a junior, what do you do?

In the case of the Morgantown girls' cross country team, you start the 2012 season with a top 7 that’s almost as young and apparently just as talented. Mike Ryan’s Mohicans used a lineup that featured four underclassmen and only one senior in defending their title in the Red, White & Blue Invitational in Pittsburgh.

“We do have some upper classmen that have been successful in somebody like Brynn (Harshbarger),” Ryan said of the senior that led the way for Morgantown with a third-place finish Saturday in 18:24. “We still have some great runners in the state, so as good as we are as a team, those girls are all thinking individual title”.

“I have three girls on my team that, in the back of their head, are thinking, ‘I could be the state champion.’ That is what’s driving them all the time in practice. We got to see it when they come here. They want to race, that’s the heart

that they have.”

Racing against western Pennsylvania’s top teams (and some of Pennsylvania’s best), Morgantown needed Harshbarger running near the front and production from their 5-7 runners as Mt. Lebanon put a trio in the top 10. The Mohicans finished with 79 points, with Mt. Lebanon posting 88 and Hampton a distant third with 232. In 2011, Morgantown had a 15-point margin over Mt. Lebanon in becoming the first non-Pennsylvania team champion in meet history.

“Mt. Lebanon ran great up front, their top four runners I was a little worried when I saw those come through there,” Ryan said. “I had a feeling that our strength was going to be in our depth, coming through our 5 and 6. That was really what pulled us through in the end, the difference between our fifth and their fifth because their girls up front looked strong.”

Sophomore Victoria Cooke was 11th in 19:11, with junior Sydney Pineault (18th, 19:30), freshman Hannah Pineault (23rd, 19:39) and sophomore Andrea Pettit (29th, 19:50) contributing to the winning score.

“The freshmen ran great, Hannah Pineault really had a very strong race today in her first high school 5K,” Ryan said. “I am very pleased with that. It just kind of fits in there. We had a little injury with one of our top 5 over the last week, and she came out and just ran hard today.

“We are still young with only one senior. Brynn (Harshbarger) has put in so many miles and so much work over the past 12 to 18 months. I think this is a big reward for her to come out and run this, about a 30-second PR for 5K.”

In the boys’ varsity race, Morgantown was 17th and Fairmont 19th in the 60-team field. Senior Cameron Greza led the Mohicans by running a 16:45 for 38th, while Fairmont had Nick Trefz in 33rd in 16:37.