Drew Griffith and his Butler teammates made a pit stop at historic Penn State Berkey Creamery before leaving State College on Sunday afternoon.

Griffith’s flavor of choice?

Cookies and cream.

It was a fitting post-meet treat for a runner who proved once again to be the cream of the crop among Pennsylvania distance runners.

Griffith, a senior at Butler and one of the premier runners in the country, continued his remarkable indoor season by producing a record-setting performance at the Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association Indoor State Championship at Penn State’s Multisport Indoor Facility.

On a day when WPIAL runners dominated the distance events, Griffith shined the brightest after setting a meet record in defending his title in the mile before running a leg on Butler’s distance medley relay team that also placed first after producing a school-record time. The two titles increased Griffith’s career indoor championship gold medal count to four.

“To be able to go out and execute and even break the state record is an awesome feeling,” said Griffith, who was named Gatorade Pennsylvania Boys Player of the Year in cross country his junior and senior seasons.

Griffith wasn’t alone when it came to WPIAL district standouts winning titles Sunday. Mt. Lebanon senior Logan St. John Kletter was a double winner on the girls side, capturing her third consecutive title in the mile before adding another in the distance medley relay. And a pair of North Allegheny juniors swept the 3,000-meter run. Jack Bertram took home the boys title and Wren Kucler the girls title.

A week after running the fastest indoor two-mile time by a runner in U.S. high school history, Griffith shifted his focus to the mile and blew away a strong field by running a state-record time of 4 minutes, 2.19 seconds. The previous record of 4:04.59 had been held by Archbishop Wood’s Gary Martin, who now runs at the University of Virginia. Ringgold’s Ryan Pajak finished second (4:10.81), while the fifth-place finisher was Lampeter-Strasburg’s Colin Whitaker. Like Griffith, Pajak and Whitaker are seniors who will run at Notre Dame.

“Honestly, the mindset was to go out there and have fun,” said Griffith, whose time was the third best in the country this season. “It was just me, Ryan and Colin. All three of us are going to Notre Dame next year. We warmed up together and we were talking before the race. It was really just go out there and have some fun with those two, and just make the most of it.”

Griffith then teamed with senior Owen Dressler, junior Zach Slear and sophomore Griffin Bauer to strike gold in the distance medley relay. The team finished in 10:16.56, topping a field that included runner-up State College (10:19.22). It was the second career title in the DMR for Griffith, who was the young guy on a veteran-laden team led by current Notre Dame runner C.J. Singleton that won gold in 2022.

“I wasn’t sure if we had a good chance of winning, but it was one I really wanted to win because I won it when I was a sophomore with all of the seniors on the team,” Griffith said. “I really just wanted to come out here and give it my best shot and try to come back and win it.”

St. John Kletter successfully defended her championship in the mile by running a personal record time of 4:43.17 that bettered the field by more than 10 seconds. It was the fifth-fastest time in the country this season. Haverford Township junior Olivia Cieslak finished second in 4:53.59. St. John Kletter, a North Carolina recruit, ran a time of 4:56.06 when winning as a sophomore and ran a 4:53.21 to do the same as a junior.

“It was definitely what I was going for,” St. John Kletter said. “I made a big jump from last year to this year, and that was exciting.”

Just as Griffith did on the boys side, St. John Kletter then led her team to a title in the DMR. Joined by senior Megan Cain and juniors Maeve McNamee and MacKenna Pozza, St. John Kletter headlined a squad that finished with a time of 12:16.13, which edged out runner-up Mount Saint Joseph (12:17.42).

Mt. Lebanon’s Logan St. John Kletter races to a victory in the 800-meter run at the 49th annual Baldwin Invitational on May 5 and captured her third consecutive title in the mile Sunday at the state indoor track championships at Penn State. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Bertram and Kucler gave North Allegheny a sweep of 3,000-meter gold medals. Bertram ran a time of 8:30.35 to top runner-up Jonathan Hess of Lewisburg (8:33.34), while Kucler’s time of 9:51.56 edged out her twin sister, Robin, who was second after finishing in 9:53.38. Another North Allegheny teammate, senior Eva Kynaston, placed third in 10:10.79.

The WPIAL’s success in the distance events came after the district won five of the eight titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 at last year’s PIAA outdoor championships. 

“It’s awesome to see,” Griffith said. “We’ve been such a good district for so long, and I think our distance events just keep getting better. So to see everyone perform at their best at the state level is just an awesome feeling.”

While no other WPIAL athletes won titles, quite a few earned top-five finishes. In the boys shot put, Hempfield senior Peyton Murray placed third and Fox Chapel senior Mason Miles fourth. Mt. Lebanon senior Luke Cramer was fourth in the triple jump. For the girls, Hempfield senior Grace Iwig was third in the pole vault, Hempfield junior Katherine Dolinski fourth in the shot put, Canon-McMillan senior Rose Kuchera fourth in the long jump, and Cain fifth in the 60-meter hurdles. Wren and Robin Kucler placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in the mile, and North Allegheny’s 1,600-relay team was fifth.

In the team rankings, the North Allegheny girls were second and Mt. Lebanon tied for third, and the Butler boys finished fourth.

The meet put a lid on the state indoor season, but national meets await for some of the elite athletes. Those include Griffith and St. John Kletter, both of whom will compete in the New Balance Nationals March 7-10 in Boston. St. John Kletter will run at least the two mile, while Griffith said he will likely choose between the mile and two mile.

“I’d love to be an All-American this year. That’s a big goal of mine,” said St. John Kletter, who also made a stop at the Berkey Creamery for ice cream following Sunday’s meet, her flavor choice being cherry sorbet.

For Griffith, the cherry on top of his indoor season will be winning a national title and perhaps even going sub-4 in the mile.

“If I run the mile, sub-4 is definitely the main goal up there,” he said. “I think I’ve definitely got enough for one more really good race. After that, I’ll take a little bit of a small rest and get ready for the outdoor season.”

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at beverett@unionprogress.com.