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Butler's Singleton, Griffith secure top 2 spots at PIAA 3A Cross Country Championships

Butler senior CJ Singleton , left, and sophomore Drew Griffith enjoy the moment after finishing first and second overall among 239 runners in the boys portion of the PIAA Class 3A Cross Country Championships Saturday in Hershey.

HERSHEY — Best way to end a drought? Soak yourself in glory.

Butler's cross country team did that Saturday at the PIAA Championships as senior CJ Singleton and sophomore Drew Griffith placed first and second among the 239-runner field in the Class 3A boys race at the Parkview course in Hershey.

“That was incredible. Two guys from the same school finishing first and second at states ... I don't know if that's ever happened before,” Singleton said.

Records dating back to 1976 indicate no school has ever had runners finish first and second in the same PIAA 3A cross country race.

Singleton's win marked the Golden Tornado's first individual state cross country champion since Howard Hammonds in 1961. That was the first year Butler fielded a cross country team.

Noah Beveridge — who went on to run at Syracuse — came in second at the PIAA meet a few years ago.

“We've come close before, but it was about time we ended that drought,” Butler coach Rick Davanzati said. “This was a great way to do it.

“CJ's goal all season was to win this state meet and Drew has been coming on strong all year.”

Butler placed fourth in the boys team standings, trailing champion North Allegheny, La Salle and Downingtown East.

Hammonds was coached by Ed Hepe on that first Tornado team. One of Hammonds' brothers, Tom, coached Davanzati.

“There's a long connection there,” said Hammonds, who now lives in upstate New York. “I'm a big (Butler cross country) fan. I follow it every year.

“I was watching those races Saturday, every one of them. I was screaming at my computer for those Butler kids. I can't believe it's been 60 years, but I love it.”

Singleton's winning time was 15 minutes, 52.9 se onds. Griffith completed the course in 15:58.1.

“I was with CJ for a while, but he pulled a few steps ahead of me and that was it,” Griffith said. “Down the stretch, I was trying to hold on to second. I knew the kid from North Pocono was right behind me.”

That was Caleb Kenyon, who placed third in 16:03.6.

Singleton and Griffith also placed 1-2 at the WPIAL Championships. Singleton was still under medication for a sinus infection at that race. He said he was healthy Saturday.

And amazed.

“I had no idea Drew was running behind me,” he said. “I crossed the finish line, turned around, and there he was. I couldn't believe it. That was awesome.”

Singleton placed sixth at the state meet last year and was 13th as a sophomore.

“My goal all year was to win it,” he said. “It was state championship or bust.”

Griffith battled hip and ankle injuries his freshman year.

“I had bursitis in both hips and it was pretty painful,” Griffith recalled. “My shins were bothering me, too. It was just hard to do anything.

“Once I got it treated, I worked hard all summer. I felt like I could have a big year.”

“Drew exceeded my expectations,” Davanzati admitted. “I thought he could place at WPIALs, maybe finish in the top 10 at states. He had a tremendous season.”

Sage Vavro placed 39th overall for Butler in 17:13.4. On the girls side, the Tornado's Jennifer Cichra was 50th in 20:11.5.

Seneca Valley's Noah Petersen placed 34th in 3A boys. The Raiders' Ruthie Hughes was 40th in the girls race.

North Catholic's Grace Lazarra finished 19th in the 2A girls race.