Publisher’s Note: A notable and conspicuous absence at the PIAA state championships will be Abington Heights senior Tessa Barrett. The highly decorated, record-setting state and national distance runner is going through an obviously difficult time, along with her mother, following the unexpected illness and subsequent death of her father in late April. Tessa received a lot of support from her father and was unable to compete at the District 2 AAA meet on Monday, May 12. Barrett will be missed this weekend. The entire PennTrackXC staff sends its thoughts and prayers.
By Phil Grove
In 2013, only five non-seniors won individual titles in Class AAA, and all of them – Shaler Area’s Brianna Schwartz, Fleetwood’s Cyre Virgo, Selingrove’s Courtney McCartney, Unionville’s Courtney Smith and Central Bucks South’s Taylor Hojnacki – are back to defend their championships. Will Mother Nature cooperate and keep the rain away and maybe send a little sunshine? If so, it could be a record-breaking two days.
Sprints and Hurdles
100 Dash - Youth vs. experience. Both sides bring speed as an open and exciting straightaway sprint for gold is expected. Sophomore Dasia Pressley of Neshaminy leads the state rankings at 11.74h, while Oakland Catholic senior Taylor McCorkle had a strong double at the D7 championships with an 11.96 in the shorter of the two. A pair of Cheltenham sprinters - one older and one younger - also will be heard from as senior Katelyn Jackson and freshman Chanel Brissett are among the fastest half-dozen in 2014.
200 Dash - Pressley is below 24 seconds (23.95 at Lower Merion Invitational) and will be tested by the same group as in the 100. The Cheltenham duo of Jackson and Brissett were fast at the SOLs, running the Nos. 2 and 3 clockings. Taylor Chapman of Pennridge (24.52) should also be a factor in the half-lap race.
400 Dash - Another youth vs. experience matchup is taking shape over a full lap, with sophomore McKenna Keegan of Avon Grove running a yearly leader (55.99) at D1. Seniors Hanna Brosky of Emmaus, Sarah Helgeson of Hempfield (3) and Jamila Branch of Central Bucks West are the closest to Keegan with season bests of 56.53 to 56.88.
100 Hurdles - 13.70. The message that Ciara Leonard’s District 1 winning time sent out over the 100 hurdles field is hard to misinterpret – you will have to run fast to beat me. It looks to be about as close to a sure thing as a sprint hurdles race can be as the Cheltenham junior was more than seven-tenths of a second faster than Shaler Area’s Tori Soeder at the district meets. Sierra Brabham-Lawrence of Harrisburg certainly will have something to say about the winner, as she did in nipping Leonard by a hundredth of a second in record time at the state indoor meet. She has the second-fastest time this season at 14.17. In case you forgot, the state meet record is 13.66 by Ryann Krais in 2008.
300 Hurdles - Brabham-Lawrence is the only one under 43 seconds this spring (42.91 to win District 3), but there's plenty of talent close behind. Jill Weston of Owen J. Roberts won D1 with a 43.13, while junior Maddie Holmberg of Hempfield Area is next on the charts at 43.35 and should be fresher for this race as last year's runner-up dropped the 100 hurdles from her schedule after winning D7 with a PR. It's only eight hurdles, but lots of action is bound to happen inside Seth Grove Stadium in this final.
800 - With the graduation of three-time champion Emma Keenan, the 800 looked to be a wide-open competition. Notable scratches at the district level cleared out any threat of a distance double by the metric milers as some underclassmen have a chance to start a streak of their own. Central Bucks West's Maddie Villalba is No. 3 on the yearly charts with her 2:09.98 to win District 1, while fellow sophomore Meredith Newman of Manheim Township has a 2:12.48 to her credit.
1,600 - Shaler Area’s Schwartz overcame strong and gusty winds and a late-race challenge from Penn Manor’s Greta Lindsley in capturing her first state title in 2013. The junior again is the fastest qualifier (4:45.19) and has a state indoor title and record to her credit. Who will try to stick with the front-runner who was nationally ranked in all three distance races earlier in 2014? Sophomore Madeleine Davison of North Allegheny did in the D7 race and was rewarded with the No. 2 time so far this season. Others likely to challenge are Pennridge's Marissa Sheva and Lindsley, last year's runner-up.
3,200 - Sheva stepped into the event spotlight with her district-winning 10:30.15. Unionville's Smith claimed last year's duel with Tessa Barrett in near-record time. Has Smith's conditioning improved enough after a challenging spring to battle Sheva or others (Regan Rome of Dallas, Mary Malone of North Hills and Pottsville's Paige Stoner) in a senior-laden field? It should be another exciting eight-lap race!
The shortest of the baton events is shaping up as a one-sided affair as Cheltenham has run 46.92 for the 4x100 and is almost a second ahead of Upper Darby and then a couple tenths ahead of Hempfield Area (7). Holding onto the baton and staying in the zone might be enough for the yearly leader.
In the 4x400, another battle for District 1 bragging rights should determine the state champion. Central Bucks West is the fastest thus far at 3:48.28, but North Penn (3:49.17) is not far behind and followed closely by Strath Haven and Gwynedd-Mercy Academy.
The story line in the 4x800 should be Central Bucks South against the record book. West Chester Henderson's 8:55.43 clocking from the 2011 PIAA meet might be challenged by CBS, which continues to get faster and carries an 8:58.18 into Shippensburg.
Jumps and Throws
High Jump - Fleetwood's Virgo won a year ago with a state meet record leap of 5 feet, 11.25 inches. She needed it to turn back Franklin Area's Abby Jones. The top two are back, along with three others in 2013's top eight. Is a 6-footer in the cards?
Long Jump - Hempfield Area's Holmberg also was second here a year ago, losing out on a gold medal as the event was decided by Marshay Ryan's longer second jump. Holmberg has the best jump heading into Shippensburg at 19-3 and has been long as season long. Claudine Andre of Upper Darby is also over 19 at 19-1.5, while Pennridge's Ariana Przybylowski and Virgo aren't far behind.
Triple Jump - Brabham-Lawrence climbed atop the yearly list with her 39-9 victory at the D3 meet. With Stephanie Laudien of Hempfield (3) and Cumberland Valley's Sarah Kosenske also over 39 feet, it will be a battle for the right to succeed Ryan as Class AAA's best in the hop, skip and jump.
Pole Vault - Six qualifiers have cleared 12 feet at least once during the 2014 season, with Lebanon's Erin Winters leading the way at 12-8. And, all five of the placers from a year ago who did not graduate in 2013 will be back in Shippensburg. Experience will be in abundant supply.
Shot Put - Defending champion McCartney is US 20 and the class of the field. A 47-2.5 best and a 46-10 winner at the district has McCartney listed as one of the clearest favorites this weekend. Fellow junior Elena Marchand is PA#3 and the longest thrower of the challengers. Will it be enough?
Discus - Another repeat is definitely possible in discus as Hojnacki is only a few inches off the state leader with her 148-0 season best. McCartney has throw 139-2 and could threaten if Hojnacki falters.
Javelin - Only a freshman and using a short approach, Connellsville's Madison Wiltrout is one of the talks of the throws this season. Her best of 144-9 is the third best in the state and the top amongst the Class AAA state qualifiers. Senior Carissa Lorimer of Blue Mountain and South Park's Sarah Stanley (yes, Billy is her brother) also have topped 140 this season and should be in the hunt.