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Hughes, Singleton top runners

CJ Singleton
SV, Butler cross country standouts earn honors from county coaches

Ruthie Hughes and CJ Singleton possess the natural talent to be successful cross country runners, but it was their intangibles that set them apart last fall.

Hughes, finally healthy after dealing with a nagging knee injury the last two years, was the top runner for Seneca Valley's girls, qualifying for November's state championship meet after placing 17th at WPIALs. In the PIAA event, she finished 40th out of 238 Class 3A females.

Butler High's Singleton closed his scholastic career by winning Class 3A WPIAL and PIAA crowns.

The two seniors were recently chosen by Butler County's cross country coaches as runners of the year on the girls and boys side, respectively.

“Ruthie's success has not been real sudden. She's made steady progress and has gotten better each year,” said SV coach Steve Strelick. “She was our top finisher in every race she competed in.”

Despite that improvement every year, Hughes was waiting for an injury-free season.

“I was really happy with how things turned out compared to past seasons,” she said. “I was able to implement more strength training last offseason and I finished my (high school) cross country career on a good note.”

Hughes, who also runs distance events for SV's track team, will continue to compete in both sports at Slippery Rock University. She does not take lightly being named Runner of the Year.

“I am extremely happy and honored to be recognized like this,” she said. “When I was a freshman, I never thought this would be possible.”

Hughes was positively influenced by a number of runners who graduated last spring, including former SV standouts Dylan Kirchner, Gabby Kutchma and Bailey Royhab.

“I'm still really close with those girls,” said Hughes. “They led by example and guided not only me, but the other juniors, too.”

Last fall, Hughes found herself in a leadership role.

“She brought the intensity every day, even in practice, and that's what set her apart. She was our most consistent performer,” said Strelick. “It's awesome to see her hard work pay off.”

Singleton's WPIAL title was his second straight. He then returned to Hershey, where he placed sixth as a junior, and brought home a Class 3A state championship.

“That state title was everything to me,” he said. “It had been a dream of mine for a while and was like the cherry on top of my career.”

Excelling in cross country is a bit of a family affair for the Singletons. CJ's father, Chris, was a member of the 1988 Golden Tornado squad, the last Butler boys team to win a WPIAL championship.

“I remember watching CJ run (in junior high meets) at Butler Catholic and he ran well for his age,” said Butler coach Rick Davanzati. “To see him finish as the best in the state this year, I was ecstatic!”

Singleton is headed to Notre Dame, where he will compete in both cross country and track. He shared the Butler County honor last year with Knoch's Mike Formica.

“It's special for me to be named Runner of the Year for the second time,” he said. “A lot of the top runners in the WPIAL are right here in Butler County.”

Ruthie Hughes