Liz Tapper makes her decision to join The Wolverines

When Liz Tapper stepped foot on the University of Michigan campus last weekend for her official recruiting visit, the Hempfield Area senior had done her homework, having already taken an unofficial look at each of the four universities remaining on her list of prospects.

Realizing the Wolverines had checked many of the boxes that were important to her, it was another chance for one of Pennsylvania's all-time best throwers to make sure Ann Arbor was where she wants to spend the next four years or so. It is.

 "With Michigan, what stood out to me was the student atmosphere while I was there but also the athletic and academic programs they have there," Tapper said on the eve of announcing her verbal commitment to the Big Ten athletics power. "Usually with most bigger sports schools, the academic program might not be as strong, but with Michigan, you are getting the best of both worlds. You are getting that top-notch athletic program that most (recruits) are looking for, and you are also getting one of the top public universities in the country as your academics."

As for the Michigan track and field program, they soon will be getting one of the nation's best discus and shot performers from the Class of 2023. Tapper's PRs and Hempfield school records of 164 feet, 4 inches in the discus and 48-0.5 in the shot from the 2022 outdoor season were Nos. 6 and 11, respectively, in the country.

"Liz is an extremely dedicated athlete," Hempfield throws coach Dave Murray said. "She trains with me year-round, even during volleyball. As a thrower, increasing strength is crucial to improving distance. Liz will often come to lift at volleyball practice.

"She lifted and threw all summer as well, often in front of coaches who came to recruit her. I have never coached a higher recruited athlete or more accomplished athlete. Her winning nationals in the discus in front of many coaches was huge for her recruitment."

With her official announcement today (October 20) at the Spartans' volleyball senior night, Tapper, like many coveted high school standouts, is glad to have the recruiting process behind her.

"I never would want to do that over," Tapper laughed. "My first time getting a call for recruitment was in October of last year. After that first call, it was an every night sort of thing. So you were on the phone ... every single night, talking to new people, letting them know information about you and trying to get as much information about a place and then having to judge from those calls whether to take a visit there. That is a very difficult thing, and it's very stressful."

In addition to Michigan, Tapper took official visits to Ohio State, Kentucky and Duke. She plans to major in biology in Ann Arbor, with additional plans for medical school and a career as an orthopedic physician focusing on sports medicine.

Tapper is the latest in a very long line of top-level throwers to come out of Murray's program at Hempfield. Every year since 2001, a Hempfield athlete has stood on the podium at the PIAA finale at Shippensburg to receive their medal in either the shot put or discus.

"As a freshman, I knew Liz was very talented during her first practice," Murray said of the standout who got her track and field start in and still competes in the pole vault. "When she began throwing, it was primarily for something for her to do during indoor on days when she was not vaulting. She lost her outdoor season her freshman year because of COVID but continued to train with me at my house with some incredible throwers including Mackenna Orie, Daniel Norris and Bella Gera. I believe this is when she fell in love with throwing."

Tapper confirmed her throws coach's assessment of her relationship with the throws.

"With shot, I started off pretty well just for picking it up, but my heart was still kinda with pole vault," she said. "The first time I picked up a discus I think that's when I really realized that it was something I wanted to do. I caught on with the discus very easily so I think the first time I threw disc with Murray was definitely when I saw my future as a thrower."

In mid-June, Tapper claimed her first national championship in her specialty. With a best toss of 163-3, she won the New Balance Nationals Outdoor by more than 6 feet, with half of her throws better than anybody else in the field. She also finished fourth in the shot put in the meet at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.

"We would like to see Liz break the WPIAL and state records in the discus," Murray said of goals for the upcoming 2023 season. "We both believe she can throw between 170-180. Liz has also set a goal of throwing over 50 feet in the shot put.

"It has been an absolute pleasure coaching Liz. I am extremely proud of her accomplishments!"