Cross country is certainly not a spectator sport as its competitors run under a variety of conditions, terrains, and surfaces. Extreme weather, steep climbs, and jostling among participants is commonplace, so it takes a dedicated athlete to participate. The 1967 Gateway High School team personified the qualities needed to succeed at this difficult and challenging sport. From top to bottom, this group exhibited the mental and physical toughness to succeed beyond their wildest dreams in bringing Gateway its first ever PIAA state championship.

Coached by Mr. Walter Donnellan and co-captained by seniors Jack Anderson and Rick Shannon, the Gators completed their third straight undefeated dual meet season with a record of 15-0. The top six runners, though not always in the same order, were Jack Anderson, Mike Keblitis, Andy Onufer, Ed Keblitis, Keith Felton, and Mark Dietz. Also important varsity runners were seniors Jack McDermott, Chuck Bugajski, and Floyd Trunzo, while the top junior runners were George Schoonover and Dave Rullo.

At the first large meet, hosted by the Tri-State Coaches, Ed Keblitis took fourth and Anderson took eighth. Then in an indication of things to come, Gateway won the West Penn Conference beating a number of very strong rivals. In this meet Anderson took first, Onufer took fourth, Mike Keblitis took sixth, Ed Keblitis took seventh, Dietz took thirteenth, and Felton took fourteenth. Anderson was also later named to the West Penn All-Star team. At the Central Catholic Invitational, Anderson took sixth place. In the Class A Qualifier Gateway took second with Anderson finishing first, Onufer taking sixth, and Mike Keblitis taking seventh. The team then prepared for the WPIAL finals where despite strong efforts from the team’s leading runners, the Gators finished in second place behind arch-nemesis Penn Hills. Anderson finished third and Mike Keblitis took seventeenth in this meet. The top two teams qualified for the PIAA state championship meet held on the White Course at Penn State University the following week, so the Gators were doubly determined to reverse that result.
On a cold, windy, and overcast Saturday morning in November 1967, they did just that!

The following are the Gators’ results:
Jack Anderson 5th Place 12:54 Medalist
Mike Keblitis 17th Place 13:10 Medalist
Andy Onuffer 29th Place
Keith Felton 43rd Place
Ed Keblitis 72nd Place
Mark Dietz 135th Place

George Schoonover and Dave Rullo also competed for Gateway. In cross country, the top five finishing places account for the team score. However, other Gator runners were critical in displacing the competing teams’ top five members. Anderson’s time of 12:54 compared with the top finisher’s 12:43. Penn Hills finished second this time!

It was a great day for Gateway High School. This was their first ever state championship in any sport, and it came at the expense of a heated rival. For the seniors, this victory was a wonderful culmination of years of hard work and effort. But every member of the team contributed to the most successful cross country season in Gateway’s history. And a special salute must be offered to a great coach, the late Mr. Donnellan.


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