West Penn Dominates at Pittsylvania XC Challenge


PITTSBURGH, PA--West Penn dominated the sixth annual Pittsylvania XC Challenge on November 13 at Frick Park with two wins, six age-group records, and four team titles.

Mike Cain (2K) and Marissa Umbel (8K)--both winning for the second straight year--gave the host club two wins out of the six Challenge races.

Mike punctuated his win by claiming the 10-11 age-group record with his quick 7:46. Marissa--2003 PIAA XC runner-up for Indiana High--won by a convincing 2:16 in 34:18.

West Penn’s men and women swept the Open team titles with narrow wins over St. Vincent College. And West Penn’s 40-49 and 50-plus men posted uncontested wins.

High school runners won the 4K races. Ryan McCormick of Pine-Richland won the men’s race, and Lauren Sittler of Ambridge won the women’s race.

Angelica Peck of the Beaver County Track Club (2K), and Charlie Ban--former University of Richmond ace--of the Pharaoh Hounds (8K) rounded out the list of winners.

St. Vincent College--coached by honorary chair Tom Harbert--won the women’s 16-19 team title, and the Washington County Road Runners Club won the men’s 30-39 title.

Eleven runners--six of them West Penners--took advantage of good weather and a fast track to break 11 age-group records in the three races.

2K Men

8-9: McKenzie Hall of Pittsburgh ran 8:40 to break the 8:45 record set by Adam Duncan of Ambridge in 2003.

10-11: Mike Cain of West Penn ran 7:46 to break the 7:48 record set by teammate Kevin May in 2002.

2K Women

6-7: Katie Harwick of West Penn ran 10:27 to break the 11:08 record set by Sara Broetsky of Pittsburgh in 1999.

8-9: Regina Brown of Pittsburgh ran 8:39 to break the 9:55 record set by Deirdre Love of Pittsburgh in 2002.

10-11: Angelica Peck of the Beaver County Track Club ran 8:24 to break the 8:51 record set by Gina Cunningham of Munhall in 2003.

4K Women

12-13: Leslie Kovach of West Penn ran 16:25 to break the 16:47 record set by Kristen Connelly of the Pacer Track Club in 2003.

14-15: Lauren Sittler of Ambridge High ran 16:14 to break the 16:39 record set by Rachel Umbel if Indiana High in 2003.

8K Men

50-54: Carl Hildebrandt of West Penn ran 31:02 to break the 31:49 record set by teammate Dave Sobal in 2002.

60-64: Dick Monheim of West Penn ran 37:40 to break the 38:57 record he set in 2003.

70-74: Roger Brockenbrough of West Penn ran 39:43 to break the 48:07 record set by teammate John Harwick in 2003.

8K Women

20-24: Amanda Rubis of St. Vincent ran 38:26 to break the 39:13 record set by teammate Angela Heinzman in 2003.


West Penn’s versatile Janice Boyko worked the registration table, ran the 8K, and provided the delicious apples that both runners and volunteers enjoyed.

Dick Firsching, Mt. Lebanon High’s 1945 PIAA 220y gold medalist, started the races with his usual efficiency.

One age-group record remains from the 1999 inaugural Challenge. West Penn’s Sandy Onofray ran 37:02 to set the still-standing 40-44 record.

Participation hit 96 to rank as the fourth highest in the meet’s six-year history: 99 in 1999, 78 in 2000, 97 in 2001, 90 in 2002, and 157 in 2003.

Runners ranged in age from 5-year-old Mike Scabora of St. Rosalia to 71-year-old John Harwick of West Penn.

Mark Schwartz, long-time USATF National Official, served as the meet referee.

Runners from four states competed: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Christine Taranto, West Allegheny High’s 2002 PIAA XC champion now running for the Naval Academy, set the women’s 30:56 record in 2002. Ricky Moore, Wheeling Park’s four-time West Virginia state champion (two each in XC and the 3200m) and three-time Wheeling Jesuit University NCAA All-American, set the men’s 25:59 record in 2001.

Race officials faced their own challenge with the newly developed Frick Park wetland nearly eliminating the traditional wide starting area, but West Penn’s innovative crew used a dual start with men and women on opposite sides of the wetland.