Girls Preview: From hurdles to the shot to an 800 war - it's showdown after showdown


Girls State Preview


One of the major storylines of the 2010-2011 season has been the competition between the top three hurdlers. Last spring, Shelley Black of James M Coughlin went to head to head with Abington's Leah Nugent in both hurdles and beat her in both. This season, the two of them have been exchanging the top spot in the state in the 60 meter hurdles, with Nugent currently sitting PA#1 and US#4 (8.57). Black is PA#2 and US#5 (8.60). While those two battle it out, Emerald Walden of Plymouth Whitemarsh has been nipping at their heels. Walden was 2nd in the 60 hurdles at states last year and is the only medalist returning. She has run personal bests of 8.77 (2/12 @ PTFCA Indoor Carnival) and 8.75 (2/18 @ DVGTCA Meet of Champions, US#7), finishing 2nd to both Black and Nugent. The three are in the top seven nationally and if they can all make the final, it may be one for the ages. The meet record is 8.54.

The 60 meter dash was a wild event in 2010, and 2011 has been no different. The event will feature five returning medalists, including defending champion Tymerah Burgess of Simon Gratz. Burgess has the 4th best 60 meter time in the state this year, but will have her work cut out for her if she expects to repeat. Cierra White of Engineering and Science has been on a tear for the past year and has looked like the class of the field the past two weeks. White ran 7.61 at both the Carnival and the DVG Meet of Champs to win both meets. Iman Wilkerson of Penn Hills has been the class of Western PA, running 7.67 on two separate occassions. Jody Evans of Quakertown finished 7th as a freshman last year and has the 3rd best 60 meter time this year. Lydia Ali of Radnor was 3rd last year, but has yet to run 60 meters this season. Tabitha Smith of Cheltenham was 8th in this event last season.

The 200 meter dash has a similar cast from the 60 meter dash with a couple of new characters. Michelle Davis of West Catholic was 4th last year, and she, along with teammate Jada Steward (9th in 2010) are coming on strong at the right time. Taylor Ellis-Watson of Springside has run some strong performances the past couple weeks, including a 25.40 at the Carnival on February 12. Deme'shia Davis of Central Dauphin East finished right behind Watson in the same race and has not finished worse than 3rd in any 200 meter dash this year. What do they all have in common? They have all been defeated by Cierra White. White ran 24.99 at the Carnival and then won again the next week at DVG Meet of Champs in 25.06. Iman Wilkerson of Penn Hills carries a 25.15 to the meet. Lydia Ali was 2nd last year in this event. Last year, many of the sprinters who competed in the 60 or 200 meter dash ran well in one but not the other. Ali was one of the exceptions. Will the trend continue?

The 400 meter dash only returns one medalist from last year, Michelle Davis, making this event wide open. Jordan Matthews of Abington is the top seed, running 57.06 back on January 8. Taylor Ellis-Watson is seeded 2nd, winning her last three 400s. Both Matthews and Ellis-Watson have a victory against each other, the recent matchup being at the DVG Meet of Champs, where Ellis-Watson got the best of Matthews. Imani Queen-Harris of Swenson also has a win over Ellis-Watson back on December 30 and was 3rd in the Meet of Champs behind the top two seeds. Niara Valentine of State College finished 2nd behind Ellis-Watson on February 10th with a 58.5h. Last year, the winner of this event set the tone for their team for the rest of the meet. The same effect could be had this year as well.


The other big matchup of the weekend will take place in the 800 meter run. Emma Keenan of Gwynedd Mercy and Lindsay Rheiner of Council Rock North were the class of the DVG circuit this season, running fast times from the very first week and responding to every challenge sent their way. Elyse Wilkinson of Penn Charter has been big on the Colgate Games circuit, running a US#2 time of 2:12.53 back on January 22. The three of them met head to head at the DVG Meet of Champions, where Wilkinson's aggressive style was put on display, only to be countered by Keenan. Keenan won the race that night in a US#3 2:13.09 with Wilkinson 2nd and Rheiner 3rd (2:14.16). But don't forget that Chloe Schmidt of State College has won this event the past two years. She is PA#4 with a 2:14.39 from January 22 and will look to 3 peat. Morgan Sheaffer of West Perry beat both Keenan and Rheiner at the PTFCA Indoor Carnival with a 2:17.20. None of these five will go in as the favorite, but the race should be a classic!

In the mile, it will be a rematch from last year's state championship race when Homer Center's Angel Piccirillo had her coming out party and beat then defending champion Chloe Schmidt. This time around, Piccirillo won't be surprising anyone and comes into this race as the heavy favorite. She already has run 4:56.56 at the New Balance Games, qualified for Millrose, and in her first mile against all PA athletes at the Indoor Carnival, she set a meet record. Megan McGovern of North Penn was 2nd in the race and ran a lifetime best 5:09.32. Schmidt was 4th that day behind new kid on the block Kennedy Weisner of Elk County Catholic. Maria Seykora of Notre Dame is still looking for that 1st indoor state medal and is coming off a season where she ran an indoor best 5:05.49 on January 12 at the Girls DELCO Championships. Hannah Grossman of Strath Haven finished 2nd to Seykora that day in 5:10.55. Sarah Holl of Upper Dublin ran 5:09.66 at the DVG Meet of Champions, finishing 2nd with a gutsy final lap. Priscilla Wiggins of George School finished 8th in 2010.

The 3000 meter run shapes up to be a three girl race on paper. Defending champion Sara Sargent of Pennsbury made a huge comeback to win the title last year. But now that everyone has seen what she is capable of, will she be able to rely on that kind of move again this time around? Tori Gerlach of Pennridge and Jenny Guidera of Central Bucks East have had success against Sargent in cross country and they have had their own success on the track. Guidera ran 10:02.91 on January 8 at Hispanic Games with only Foot Locker National Champion Aisling Cuffe running faster. Gerlach ran 10:04.12 on January 22 at Kevin Dare and had a 20 second gap on the field. Two dark horses include Nicole Hilton of South Fayette (10:16.68), the Tri State Meet of Champs winner and unbeaten in the event this year, and Angel Piccirillo ran 10:25.94 to win at the carnival after running the mile and 800 meters earlier that day. The meet record is 9:54.56 and once again that records is in jeopardy of being broken.


Five of last year's medaling teams are in the top ten this year in the 4x200 meter relay. West Catholic is the defending champion after setting a meet record last year. One of the legs of that relay, Chante Moore, has not run for them this season. However, West Catholic is still PA#3 with a 1:43.99 back on February 13, which still makes them a strong contender to repeat. Upper Darby has the best time this season with their 1:42.24 time from the New Balance Games. Abington ran 1:42.82 on January 21 at Yale and has a victory over Upper Darby back on December 30. Swenson finished 2nd behind Upper Darby at the DVG Meet of Champions and has a lot of experience in this event. Central Bucks East finished 5th at the Hispanic Games with a 1:45.67. Paul Robeson ran a strong 3rd at the DVG MOC and Norristown won the Kevin Dare Invite on January 22.

West Catholic is also the defending champs in the 4x400 meter relay, running 4:04.15 at the PCL Championships. Abington is the only team in the field to break four minutes this year, running 3:54.08 at the Yale Track Classic. Central Bucks West finished 2nd to Abington at the DVG Meet of Champs with a 4:03.55, but holds victories over most of the field. Upper Darby ran 4:03.80 at the New Balance Games but hasn't run that quartet since. Strath Haven (4:06.24) will also be a strong contender for a high medal spot.

After 3 straight Conestoga victories, there will be a new champion this year. Strath Haven ran a then US#1 9:18.15 back on January 22 to become the heavy favorite this weekend. The state record of 9:11.48 is potentially in their reach. They have been the state number 1 team all year long except for one night, when Archbishop Wood ran 9:35.92 on January 21 at Yale. Other teams that will be looking to spoil their chances are Methacton (9:33.70 on 1/28), Pennridge (9:43.85 on 12/22), and last year's 3rd place team Central Bucks West (9:44.34 on 2/12 to win the PTFCA Indoor Carnival).

The distance medley relay took a new twist when Sara Sargent anchored her Pennsbury team to victory at the DVGTCA Meet of Champions in 12:26.87. Sargent split 5:00 on the anchor leg and earned her team the top seed for the weekend. With Sargent running the 3000, will she have enough time to recover and anchor another win? Out to test her strength will be North Penn, who ran 12:28.6h way back on December 17 and will have a strong anchor of their own in Megan McGovern, who will have a bit more rest than Sargent.. Downingtown East, Central Bucks East, and Notre Dame all ran their best times this past Friday night, but just like all relays, who will do the best job of doubling off of a tough open event?


The long jump is one of the more interesting events every year at the state championships. In the past we have seen high seeds not win or not even make the finals. Last season, the top seed was the only jumper over 19 feet and still lost the gold medal. Jordan Matthews of Abington is in that same position of being the only jumper over 19 feet (19-2.50 on February 12). But she maintains an undefeated record in the event and has taken on all challengers, and the challengers are very talented themselves. Maddie Eustache of Upper Darby has jumped over 18 feet 3 times this year and was 2nd to Matthews at the DVG Meet of Champions with an 18-8 mark. Logan Brenker of Conwell Egan had her best jump at the PCL Championships with an 18-6.75, Erikka Williams of Rochester jumped a seasonal best to win the Tri States title (18-3.25), and Diamond Hodge of Girls High is also over 18 feet this season.

Hodge's best chance at a gold medal may be in the triple jump where she has the 2nd best mark in the state at 36-11.25. Gabby Becattini of Methacton was a US top ten jumper in December with her seasonal best mark of 37-11.50, but despite not improving that mark, she has yet to lose to a PA athlete this season in the event. Katie McCoubrie of Conestoga was 3rd at the DVG Meet of Champs with a seasonal best 36-10.75, and Lexis Frost of Butler enters the state meet as the best triple jumper out west with a 36-6.50.

The top four jumpers in the high jump have had big jumps and/or big wins in the February postseason. Anne Holland of Pennridge jumped 5-8 way back on December 28, but came out with the win at the DVG Meet of Champions with a 5-6. Taylor Morgan cleared 5-8 at the New Balance Games on January 22, but won the PTFCA Indoor Carnival with a meet record 5-7.25. Freshman Megan McClosky of Germantown Academy broke into the high jump scene with her 2nd place finish at the Carnival with a lifetime best of 5-6. Natalie Shiffler of Hepfield (7) won the Tri State championship with a mark of 5-6. Also in the field are last year's silver (Paige Kassab of Meadville) and bronze medal winners (Paige Rittleman of Butler) who may not have jumped as high as the top four, but can sneak up if they make their early attempts and earn tiebreakers.

Larisa Debich of Hempfield (7) enters the pole vault as the favorite. Not only is she the top returning vaulter from last year (4th) and not only does she have the best mark of the season of 12-7 from January 29, but she has cleared the 12 foot mark SIX times this season, six times more than the next best vaulter this season, Monica Pechanec of Notre Dame Green Pond, who has a best of 12-3 from January 22. Virginia LaMacchia of Central Columbia was 6th at states last year and is the only other returning medalist. Both LaMacchia and Vanessa Munley of Riverside (2) haven't cleared 11-6 in over a month, while Lexi Masterson of Hempfield (7) and Kathleen McPhillips of Carlisle have had their best jumps in the past month.

In the shot put, defending champion Rachel Serafin of Hempfield (7), Megan Dornish of Elk County Catholic, and Anna McCloskey of Cardinal O'Hara have been exchanging time at the state number 1 spot. McCloskey started off as number one and then Serafin and Dornish took over the top spot, and then McCloskey became number one again until Serafin took it again on February 4 in a head to head against Dornish. McCloskey has been unbeaten in Eastern PA and will have her best challenge yet this weekend. Dornish and Serafin are familiar foes with their head to head matchups in the Tri State series. Serafin beat Dornish (2nd) and McCloskey (6th) last year and Serafin has thrown 43-00.50. Will Western PA continue to rule the event, or will the East shine bright?