2014 Girls Track Distance Review: Record book rewritten; New talent emerges!

3200/3000 Meters

Indoor: Barrett Finishes in Style

This event had brought so many big moments in the past few years. Could 2014 really top all of that? It responded with a resounding YES that had the whole country buzzing!

After Tessa Barrett’s state record come from behind performance in the 2013 indoor 3000, followed by a state and national cross country championship, what would she do for an encore? By breaking her own state record not once, but twice!

On a late January Sunday afternoon, Barrett went to the flat track of the Susquehanna Indoor High School Invitational to run her first indoor 3000 of the season. The Abington Heights star was running her first race since her cross country national title win in San Diego in December. Barrett took off from the start and was so impressive that she nearly lapped the entire field! Barrett went on to break her own state record with a time of 9:45.77, good for US#3.

At states, she was looking to defend her title, a title she had to edge out in the final 50 meters in 2013 to win. 2014 was a totally different story, as she went out to the front right away and raced against the clock. By the time she won the race in 9:36.45, all of the runners were lapped with the exception of places 2-5! That would be the 3rd time the record would be broken by Barrett in 12 months!

Three weeks later at the Indoor National Championships, Barrett not only became the national champion in the 2 mile (10:08.05), but did one better by becoming the new national record at 5000 meters (16:11.85)! The winter season was as perfect as it could be for Barrett!

Behind her, 14 girls broke the 10:30 mark for 3000 meters, with two underclassmen making the top five (Madeleine Davisio and Mady Clahane). Regan Rome of Dallas broke the 10 minute mark for the 2nd year in a row, and Mary Malone of North Hills joined the sub 10:10 club in her senior year. Jerrica Bauer of the George School was the top private school performer (PA#9 10:17.07).

Outdoor: Take your pick

With Barrett’s career unfortunately ending at the New Balance Indoor Nationals, the door was open for someone to take over the event. Courtney Smith was the champion, while Rome, Stoner, Elizabeth Chikotas of Saucon Valley and Brianna Schwartz of Shaler Area were big time competitors.

Schwartz flew to the top of the list with a near state record performance on a cool Friday night at Baldwin. Her time of 10:10.03 just missed the 1978 record of 10:09.2, but her time would finish US#11 for the 2014 season. With Schwartz ultimately focusing on the 1600, we still had an open race for the state titles.

Elizabeth Chikotas put on an impressive performance at the state meet to win the AA crown with PA’s 4th best time of 10:36.65 to hold off freshman sensation Marianne Abdalah of Vincentian Academy. The AAA champion only started running the 3200 meters earlier in the month of May. Marissa Sheva of Pennridge had been a 1600 and 800 meter specialist throughout her career, but a move up to the 3200 came with big results. She won the district 1 title and then went up against the long distance powerhouses of Rome, Clahane, and Stoner and emerged victorious with PA’s 2nd best mark of 10:25.85!

Ten runners broke the 10:50 mark and an additional nine runners broke 11 minutes. Six of the top ten and a dozen of the top 20 are all returning runners for 2014, making the future of girls distance running very bright indeed.


Indoor: A new record setter

In 2012. Angel Piccirillo broke the all time state mile record (4:44.20) with a performance that had the Penn State crowd on their feet for the final ¼ mile. A record that fans thought would last many years ended up lasting less than two when Brianna Schwartz made her 2014 season debut.

The harsh winter shut down three meets at Edinboro, forcing western PA athletes to travel to Ohio to find meets. Schwartz was one of the athletes to make the trek westward and made the trip worth it. Schwartz competed in the 1600 meter run at the SPIRE Showcase and she came away with a new personal best time of 4:42.10! The time was then converted to a full mile time of 4:43.74 and recognized as the new all-time state record!

Next, Schwartz ran the full mile at states against Kennedy Weisner of Elk County Catholic, a 4:48 miler for the season. The two of them battled it out, as Weisner did all she could to try and break Schwartz down by leading the pace. In the end, Schwartz took over in the final 2 laps, but on her way to glory, a twist to the tale occurred when she tumbled and fell before the finish line. Schwartz managed to crawl across the line, but the tension mounted as the fans waited to see what her official time would be. After releasing the performances of the other runners, Schwartz’s time was finally revealed to be another state record time of 4:42.58! Despite a silver medal for Weisner, she would earn her 2nd All American certificate in the indoor mile at nationals!

It was a strong year for the indoor mile, as Schwartz, Weisner, Tessa Barrett, and Mady Clahane all broke the 4:50 mark. Davison and Sheva broke the 5 minute mark behind them. All six runners finished the season in the national top 50!

Outdoor: Schwartz, Weisner prove to be too tough

In the spring, the chase pack behind AA and AAA defending champions Weisner and Schwartz were looking to gain ground and challenge the two frontrunners. In 2014, 20 runners would break the 5 minute mark, half of them being seniors. Familiar faces such as Davison, Clahane and Sheva led the chase pack, while new stars emerged like Kelsey Potts of Mount Lebanon and Kaelyn Heincke of Council Rock North.

Weisner had a good race at the Penn Relays, while Schwartz was still on top form in her races. Sheva and Davison were gaining confidence as the state meet neared, but would it be enough to become the new champion?

Like 2013, Weisner dominated and won comfortably to make it back to back state titles. As for Schwartz, it was déjà vu all over again. In 2013, Greta Lindsley of Penn Manor came very close to nipping the favored Schwartz for the championship. In the 2014 edition, that person was Madeleine Davison. The North Allegheny star almost beat the champion through the pouring rain of the District 7 championships, and in the state final, she ran with no fear. After 2 laps, Schwartz was leading with Davison right on her shoulder. It was a grind, but Schwartz never let her get ahead of her and she made it back to back championships.

800 Meters

Indoor: Schwartz the fastest again; champion surprises

Schwartz’s dominance indoors was not just limited to the mile. Following her 4:42.10 1600 meter performance in Ohio, Schwartz ran a 2:10.77 800 meters about an hour and a half later. Her performance would finish the year at US#9. That would be the only time she ran the event, as she opted to focus solely on the mile at states. It would be up to the chase pack to battle it out for the championship.

Weisner did not compete in the 800 at states due to her exploits in the mile earlier in the day. So it was truly anybody’s title to win. The three heats were hotly contested, but the old tradition of the champion coming from the 3rd and seeded head was broken thanks to a gutsy race from Liz McGroarty of Garnet Valley. The senior finished the 2nd heat strongly and finished with a lifetime best of 2:14.22. As the 3rd heat jostled for pace control, by the time they decided to turn on the after burners, it was too late. McGroarty got the win out of the middle heat and won her first state gold medal.

McGroarty’s performance showed the depth of the event in 2014. In total, ten broke 2:15 and made the final US top 50 list, and an additional 15 runners broke 2:20. 12 of the top 20 were underclassmen.

Outdoors: Underclassmen rise up

A shockwave was sent through the open 800 meter event in the outdoor season. While Weisner and Schwartz were looking to maintain their strong grip on the event, new blood rose to the top with incredible performances.

Sarah Walker of Germantown Friends, Maddie Villalba of Central Bucks West, Meredith Newman of Manhiem Township and Shannon Quinn of Trinity (3) were coming up with incredible performances on a weekly basis, making the crowded field PA had indoors become even more jam packed. But towards the end, a leader emerged.

Walker finished the month of May with two big 800 meter performances that put her on top of the PA list for the 2014 season. Walker equaled her 2:08 personal best at the Independent School State Championships, and then she ran a lifetime best at the West Chester Henderson Distance Festival with a US#10 2:06.62! She ended the year with a medal at the USATF Junior Nationals in Eugene, Oregon, a field that included top collegiate freshmen.

The PIAA titles were going to be up for grabs. Shannon Quinn was passed by Weisner in the final 30 meters in the gusty wind of the 2013 state race to win the title that day. 2014 was Quinn's chance for the long awaited rematch. Despite Quinn’s strongest efforts, Weisner proved to be too much for a 2nd year in a row, winning the title without the dramatics of a last second comeback. In the AAA race, Newman and Villalba went toe to toe in the final race. Newman was looking to overtake the CB West sophomore who was winning everything from 400 to 1600 meters leading up to the state meet. The guts of Villalba on the final straightaway proved to be too much for Newman, as Villalba ran a big personal best of 2:09.65 to Newman’s 2:10.08.

PA’s top five 800 meter runners made the US top 50. 19 runners broke 2:15, with underclassmen dominating the list with 13 of the 19.

4x800 Meter Relay

Indoor: A 3 team dual

The indoor season began the journey of three 4x800 meter relay teams that would captivate PA track fans for the entire season. Strath Haven, Great Valley and Central Bucks South battled it out for the right to be called champions. The indoor season was a prelude to what was the come in the spring.

Central Bucks South had the state’s best time entering the state finals after a runner up finish at the Millrose Games. Strath Haven started the season at the top of the rankings, and held that spot for a large part of the season. Great Valley had a strong race at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational to put them in title contention.

At the indoor state final, CB South had a solid lead, only for the Strath Haven senior duo of Allie Wilson and Kristen Miller overtake them to not only win their 3rd indoor championship in 4 years, but they broke the 10 year old meet record of 9:11!

The rematch from that epic state race took place at the New Balance National Championships. Great Valley entered as All Americans, while Wilson and Miller were on the all-time state record team from 3 years ago that set it at this very meet. CB South got a small taste of revenge for the indoor race, finishing 3rd with a new all-time state record of 9:07.08! Strath Haven and Great Valley were overtaken for All American honors by a State College team that improved by over 15 seconds from the state meet!

In 2014, PA had four teams break 9:15 and an additional three break 9:30. All seven squads made the national top 50.

Outdoor: CB South make it two

After setting the indoor state record, the unstoppable force known as the Central Bucks South 4x800 meter relay team went into overdrive. A top five finish at Penn, meet and district records, a sub 9 minute performance set them up for a memorable Saturday morning at Shippensburg. When the team of Kaitlin Poiesz, Amber Stratz, Alexa Kwapinski, and Brianna Stratz crossed the line, they had smashed the 2011 record of 8:55.43 set by West Chester Henderson with a new record of 8:51.49, the 2nd best time in the US for 2014. Strath Haven, led by Wilson and Miller (8:55.39), and Great Valley led by Elise Claffey and Crosby Spiess (8:56.82), also broke 9 minutes and the trio of teams finished in the top six in the country!

Behind that historic trio, State College and Palmyra broke 9:10, with an additional handful of teams breaking 9:15. Seven PA teams made the national top 50!

Distance Medley Relay

Indoor: Cross country champions keep on winning

Unionville had come off an incredible cross country season and were looking to continue that momentum in the winter. They had plenty of company at the top, as a young Cardinal O’Hara team along with Great Valley and Springside Chestnut Hill were putting strong relay performances together.

At the state meet, Unionville showed their depth and strength by over powering the other younger teams. Led by Courtney Smith’s anchor leg, Unionville made it two state championships in the 2013-14 season! Cardinal O’Hara earned the silver medal with a team that will bring back three of their four legs.

Overall, seven PA teams made the national top 50. Unionville ended the winter season earning All American honors and broke the 12 minute mark with a US#7 time of 11:59.67!

Outdoor: Garnet Valley and Cardinal O’Hara make a splash

With the distance medley relay taking a back seat outdoors, the best chance to run a fast time is at the Penn Relays. The Franklin Field stage is the last chance to get a good relay in. Delaware County rivals Garnet Valley, led by Liz McGroarty and Cardinal O’Hara, led by sophomore Grace Mancini, did just that, running their best times of the season at the Penn Relays and earning spots on the US top 50 list for 2014!