Butler, North Catholic sweep XC honors
Butler and North Catholic both had standout cross country runners this fall.
They also had plenty of quality runners chasing them.
That depth resulted in the Golden Tornado boys and Trojanette girls being named Butler County Cross Country Teams of the Year, respectively, by the county coaches of the sport. Butler senior Drew Griffith was named Boys Runner of the Year with North Catholic sophomore Madeline Meeuf grabbing that honor on the girls side.
Griffith did not lose a race all season, taking home the WPIAL and PIAA championships along the way. Butler’s Rick Davanzati was named Butler County Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year.
“A lot of the attention and focus were on Drew all year and rightfully so,” Davanzati said. “He’s wrapping up an incredible high school career. But we have a number of quality runners on this team.
“This was one of the deeper teams we’ve had. I’ve had seasons where three or four kids on our team could break 17 minutes. This year, I had six kids who could do that.”
All six were honored on the boys all-star team. Owen Dressler, Zachary Slear and Brendan Eicher made first team while Logan Rogers and Ethan Thomas were second-team selections.
Butler went 7-1 in dual meets this year. The Tornado also had to deal with the death of teammate Aiden Lutz, which occurred a week before the WPIAL championships.
“That was so difficult for everyone,” Davanzati recalled. “Aiden was liked by everyone on the team. He always had a smile on his face. Our team eventually gathered strength from that tragedy, rallied from it. I never told them to go out and win for Aiden, but they motivated themselves that way.
“Our only loss was a 27-30 decision to North Allegheny, one of the top teams in the state. This team had the work ethic and stayed together. If one runner had a bad day, someone else was there to pick up the slack.”
And the whole thing was led by Griffith.
“Drew was just a constant ... always there,” Davanzati said.
The coach credited his team and the work of assistant coach Chris Grooms in landing him Coach of the Year honors.
“It’s a group effort that’s very rewarding,” Davanzati said.
Souders was named girls coach of the year for much the same reason Davanzati was honored — having a deep team.
“We had 25 girls on the team this year,” Souders said. “And we have more coming up next year. We have a couple of outstanding feeder programs in St. Kilian (Cranberry area) and Blessed Seelos (Wexford). Our programs have great relationships.”
Meeuf, a sophomore, won the WPIAL 2A championship with a time of 19 minutes, 1.10 seconds. She placed 10th at the PIAA meet in 19:32.
“Madeline was committed to her running all summer,” Souders said. “As soon as the track and field season ended, we set up a program for our cross country runners and she never missed.
“She ran three or four days a week, never missed a practice. I love seeing that type of dedication pay off.”
Gracie Plastino, a North Catholic freshman, finished second at the PIAA meet. She is joined on the county’s first-team by senior teammate Grace Lazzara. Syndey Dunn, a sophomore, made second-team.
Souders was a cross country coach in the Pine-Richland system for four years before accepting the North Catholic varsity coaching job in the spring of 2022.
“I knew the kind of talent that was here,” he said. “We only had nine boys on the team this season. We need to pick up those numbers and I’m confident we will.”
BUTLER COUNTY CROSS COUNTRY ALL-STARS
Team of the Year — Butler
Coach of the Year — Rick Davanzati (Butler)
Runner of the Year — Drew Griffith (Butler)
Owen Dressler (Butler), Zachary Slear (Butler), Giacamo Lepore (North Catholic), Brendan Eicher (Butler), Michael Braun (Freeport), Max Smith (Seneca Valley), Carter French (Knoch)
Tyler Carroll (North Catholic), Logan Rogers (Butler), Ethan Thomas (Butler), Ethan Barnett (Seneca Valley), Ryan Domencic (Seneca Valley), Sawyer Shoup (Seneca Valley), Viktor Zahn (Slippery Rock)
Kyle Kochanski (Mars), Julian Varlotta (Seneca Valley), Ben Brestensky (Freeport), Leshan Chen (Slippery Rock), Dillian Stoup (Karns City)
Team of the Year — North Catholic
Coach of the Year — Tim Souders (North Catholic)
Runner of the Year — Madeline Meeuf (North Catholic)
Gracie Plastino (North Catholic) Grace Lazzara (North Catholic), Ava Santora (Knoch), Hailey Long (Mars), Ava Brewster (Butler), Makayla McLister (Butler), Kasey Yeager (Slippery Rock)
Alexis Kirschner (Moniteau), Miley Mooney (Karns City), Madison McGarrah (Butler), Paige Damico (Seneca Valley), Sydney Heltzell (Seneca Valley), Samantha Moury (Seneca Valley), Syndey Dunn (North Catholic)
Drew Kirchner (Seneca Valley), Reese Hanna (Mars), Grace Kistina (Freeport), Alyssa Urling (North Catholic)