CoEd Varsity Track
By: Chris Harlan
Saturday, May 29, 2021 | 11:28 AM
SHIPPENSBURG — Nora Johns ran the 300 hurdles for the first time this spring, and the Quaker Valley sophomore can remember the thoughts running through her head at the time.
“I was like, I just hope to make it to the finish line,” Johns said with a laugh.
Two months later, she crossed a finish at line again Friday, this time to win the state title in the 300-meter hurdles at the PIAA Class AA track and field championship. If someone had predicted that outcome in March, she wouldn’t have believed them.
“No way man. That’s not realistic at all. This is my first year,” said Johns, who previously ran only the 100-meter hurdles. “There are people who maybe are seniors, and they’ve been doing this all four years and have so much more experience than I do.
“I would never have believed it.”
Johns crossed the finish line in 45.07 seconds, or nearly seven-tenths of a second ahead of Wilmington’s Lindsey Martineau. Her winning time was within a few hundredth of the personal-best 45.01 she ran a week earlier to win the WPIAL title.
Her state championship race wasn’t without drama. A runner in an adjacent lane fell.
“I noticed it because her hurdle almost fell into my lane,” she said. “A part of me was saying maybe I should help her, but I knew I just had to stay in my lane and do my thing.”
Johns is a three-sport athlete who also plays basketball and soccer. The Quakers basketball team reached the WPIAL finals this winter with Johns in the lineup.
She’s run club track since age 10 but always stuck to the 80- and later 100-meter hurdles.
“My coach and my dad both said, you have the endurance for (the 300s),” she said. “You do soccer and stuff, and you’re pretty good at hurdles, so if you just combine the two maybe you’d be pretty good.”
That was an understatement.
Now, she’s wondering just how low her times might go if she dedicates herself to the 300s. She’s hoping for times in the 44- or 43-second range next season. With two seasons left, she’s not ruling out a run at the WPIAL championship record of 43.54. The PIAA meet record is 41.60.
“If I put more time and focus on this event rather than just doing hurdle drills all the time — focus on steps and speed — I think I could get a lot better,” Johns said.
She also ran the 100-meter hurdles at states but didn’t reach the final.
“It’s completely different,” Johns said of the 300s. “It’s a sprinting race, but it’s more running than it is hurdling.”
Does she now like the 300s better?
“Maybe,” she said with a smile. “I just liked the 100 because it’s shorter, but the 300, I think I’m better at.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
Beaver County Times
SHIPPENSBURG — A steady progression was always the plan for Quaker Valley senior Claire Kuzma. After placing seventh in discus in the state championships as a sophomore, she says her goal was to make the top 5 in 2020.
Despite no track season last spring because of the pandemic, Kuzma stayed on course, taking third place on Friday in the PIAA 2A discus championships.”
“It was great to finish things off like this,” Kuzma said. “Getting better is always the goal. I’m happy to improve even with no season last year.”
Kuzma was one of four District 7 participants in the event. All four found a spot on the podium. Miranda Schramm (Burgettstown) took second place, Miranda Schramm (Shenango) took fifth and Sydney Hale (Riverside) finished sixth. Kuzma believes that type of stiff, local competition has helped elevate her game this season.
“It’s an incredibly competitive district,” Kuzma said of the WPIAL. “It definitely prepares us for big meets like this. The majority of the people here doing well are from the WPIAL.”
Schuylkill Valley’s Ashlyn Giles won the event, setting a new state record after throwing 165-04.00. Hale, a junior, says seeing a performance like that gives her inspiration to place higher next season.
“I definitely look up to her,” Hale said of Giles. “She’s a great thrower. I learned a ton from just watching her compete today.”
“It was a lot to handle but I love all the sports I play,” Hale said. “But, it was nice to be able to just worry about doing my best in one event here today.”
COHEN GETS REDEMPTION
Quaker Valley’s Anna Cohen remembers the sour feeling she left Shippensburg with as a freshman. Entering the 2021 season, the junior said her goal was simple, end the year with a medal.
“I’m still in shock,” Cohen said with a smile on her face. “I knew I’d be close based off my personal record. I wanted to go out and show that I could actually do it this time.”
By: Greg Macafee
Sunday, May 23, 2021 | 11:01 AM
After their run to the WPIAL Class 2A team championship May 12, the Quaker Valley girls track and field team had the opportunity to compete at the individual championship on May 19.
They put on quite the show.
Four individuals qualified for the PIAA state track meet at Shippensburg on Friday and Saturday, as did the 4×400 meter relay team.
“They all did fantastic, and they came out and really exceeded where they were supposed to be, most of them, which is pretty impressive across the board,” Quaker Valley coach Jared Jones said.
Sophomore Nora Johns led the way for the Quakers and captured the 300-meter hurdles title with a clocking of 45.01, winning the event by over a second and setting her new personal best by over a second and a half.
Johns also qualified for the state meet in the 110-meter hurdles after placing third with a time of 16.57, which was just over a second behind the first-place finisher.
“Her expectations have just risen as the season has gone on, and she’s really just progressed,” Jones said. “She hurdled in middle school and everything, but I don’t think she ever expected to be placing in both hurdles as a sophomore during her first real year in high school. I told her earlier in the week, though, that she had a chance to be a WPIAL champion in the 300 hurdles and continue onto states from there, so her expectations are really high now.”
Johns and California’s Makayla Boda were the top two seeds heading into the finals, and Jones said he knew it was going to be a battle between the two. Johns ran one of her best races of the year and cut almost a second off of her seeding time to earn the victory.
“Not only did she win, but she really improved significantly. Cutting off that much time in a 300-meter race is a lot of time to take off,” Jones said. “She ran nearly a perfect race.”
Johns also reaped the rewards of Quaker Valley’s other WPIAL championship victory as the 4×400 meter relay team won a WPIAL title with a time of 4:06.99, which was just under seven seconds faster than the second-place team from Mohawk.
Jones said around mid-April he decided to put Francesca Courtney, Ellie Cain, Anna Cohen and Johns on the same relay team, and during their first meet, they ran a 4:14, which is only six seconds off the state qualifying standard.
“At that point, they knew that they’d be running it some more,” Jones said. “Since then, they’ve been able to take off some time, and they were seeded first as well.”
The team ended up cutting two seconds off their seeding time to take the WPIAL title and qualify for the state meet.
Claire Kuzma, Ainsley Commens and Cohen also qualified individually for the PIAA meet.
Kuzma placed second in the discus after Burgettstown’s Miranda Schram bested her seeding throw by 3 feet and unleashed a toss of 135-03 to earn the WPIAL title. Kuzma came in just over 4 feet short of her seeding throw. She also placed fourth in the shot put.
Cohen came in fifth in the 800-meter run and fourth in the 1,600 to qualify for states.
Ainsley Commens was the final qualifier for Quaker Valley, as she finished tied for fourth in the pole vault after clearing 9 feet. She had a seeding clearing of 9 feet, 7 inches.
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
Beaver County Times
SLIPPERY ROCK — Championship seasons always have an interesting beginning. For some, the story starts in practice while for others it might be a tough loss the year prior. For Quaker Valley’s Nora Johns, it started with a simple question.
“My dad and coach brought it up to me right before the season started,” Johns said. “They told me that I have the endurance for it and I was already decent at the 100 hurdles. Both asked me if I would give it a try.”
It didn’t take long for Johns to get the hang of her new event. In her first race this spring, the sophomore posted the fifth-best time in the history of Quaker Valley’s program. Just a few months later, Johns found herself standing at the top of a podium at Slippery Rock’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium with a gold medal around her neck.
“It’s really been amazing to watch her this year,” Quaker Valley head coach Jared Jones said. “She has been a trooper through it all. After not being able to compete last year and joining the team a little bit late due to basketball this year, she’s grown significantly.”
"I was really looking forward to winning a WPIAL trophy with my team," Johns said. "It made me want to bring home some hardware even more when I arrived at the track this morning."
Senior Courtney Francesca, freshman Ellie Cain and junior Anna Cohen are the other three members of the Quaker’s relay squad that will compete for gold next week in Shippensburg.
“Gold was the absolute expectation,” Jones said of the Quakers’ 4x400 team. “We’re keeping our sites set high for states as well.”
Like Johns, Cohen, and Claire Kuzma both placed in the top five in multiple events, qualifying for the PIAA championships. Cohen took fourth in the 1600 and fifth in the 800, while Kuzma finished second in discuss and fourth in shot put.
Ainsley Commens will join her Quaker Valley teammates in Shippensburg, taking fourth place in the pole vault.
By: Paul Schofield
Wednesday, May 12, 2021 | 8:42 PM
It takes a complete team effort to win a track and field meet. Every point is important.
That’s what occurred Wednesday in the WPIAL Class AA Championship at Peters Township.
The Riverside boys reversed an earlier defeat to Shenango to capture their fourth consecutive team title and eighth in school history.
Meanwhile, the Mohawk girls won its first WPIAL team title in 32 years. It’s also the third WPIAL championship this school year for a Mohawk girls team, joining the cross country and basketball teams.
Riverside and Mohawk won exciting meets.
Riverside defeated Greensburg Central Catholic (84-64), South Park (95-55) and Shenango (77-73), while Mohawk defeated Quaker Valley (75-75) on a tiebreaker, Shenango (90-60) and South Park (96-54).
Shenango finished second in both events. The boys defeated Greensburg Central Catholic (85-65) and South Park (89-61) and the girls defeated Quaker Valley (82-68) and South Park (88-62).
Early in the season, Shenango snapped Riverside’s section streak of 116 consecutive wins with a 78-72 victory.
“We didn’t know much about Shenango early in the season,” veteran Riverside coach Chuck Kotuby said. “We switched a few things around, and we got some great efforts this time around. We worked hard, and the kids wanted to win this title.”
The meet was decided in the final running event: the 1,600-meter relay.
When Riverside’s Colby Belczyk took the baton on the final lap, he was behind the Shenango anchor runner by 10 meters. But Belczyk turned in a 49-second leg and won by 10 meters.
“That was an absolutely an amazing run by Colby,” Kotuby said. “What do you say about a guy like that? He ran one of the best times in the state. That’s what won the meet.”
Kotuby praised his distance runners of Ty Fluharty, Noah Zilch and Sam Klein, 400 runner Aiden Wetzel, hurdlers Graham Kalik and Brody Barton, triple jumper Ted McHale and pole vaulters Trevor McNeil and McHale for coming through big.
“We have a tremendous group of athletes,” Kotuby said. “They buy into our program. I have an outstanding coaching staff. I can’t say enough: they worked hard all year. Coming off the Covid-19 year we didn’t know what to expect, but everyone came around and did an amazing job.”
Greensburg Central Catholic finished third by defeating South Park (94-56).
GCC coach Mike Brewer said he was proud of the effort, especially from his sprinters Joe Blahovec, Christian McGowan, Carlo Dennis and Danny Dlugos.
“Riverside and Shenango had more middle-distance depth than we did,” Brewer said. “But we had a handful of personal records. It was a good season. This was a step in the right direction for the program.”
The GCC boys hadn’t reached the WPIAL championship in more than 22 years.
Mohawk girls had a reason to celebrate their first title in 32 years.
They were led by senior Nadia Lape and Hannah McDanel, each winning four events. Natalie Lape also scored points in four events.
“They all had huge wins,” Mohawk coach Cameron Schirmer said. “They scored big points for us to help defeat Quaker Valley and Shenango.”
Nadia Lape won the long jump, triple jump and was on the 400 and 1,600 relay teams. McDanel won the 100- and 200-meter dashes and was on the 400 and 1,600 relays.
“It’s very special. I couldn’t be more proud of the girls,” Schirmer said.
Quaker Valley finished third by defeating South Park (91-59).
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
By: Greg Macafee
Sunday, May 2, 2021 | 11:01 AM
As a sophomore two years ago, Quaker Valley’s Claire Kuzma placed fifth in the discus at the WPIAL Class AA championships with a throw of 118 feet and 1 inch.
She also qualified for the state meet where she placed seventh with a throw of 124-4.
Now, after missing a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Kuzma is picking up right where she left off, and the senior is leading the charge for the Quakers.
“She’s placed first in discus in every one of our meets this season,” Quaker Valley track and field coach Jared Jones said. “I think she’s also hit the state qualifying standard each time as well. That doesn’t mean anything if she doesn’t do it at the individual championships, but she’s having a stellar season and she’s placed in the top two in the shot put in every single meet as well.”
Kuzma’s dominance was highlighted by her performance at the Butler Invitational on April 24.
Kuzma, who also contributed to the basketball team’s run to the WPIAL championship in the winter, won the discus at Butler with a toss of 123-5, which was 6 feet longer than second-place finisher Jing McCann from Fox Chapel. She also placed second in the shot put with a throw of 35-1, which was just over a foot less than the first-place finisher.
After attending the meet since she was a freshman, the Northeastern commit said it’s always been a goal to win that invitational.
“It’s always been really tough competition there, and I’ve always wanted to win the invite,” Kuzma said. “It felt really good to finally do it. It definitely gives me a little confidence, but every meet is different so I’m not going to let it get to my head too much. It was definitely nice to win it.”
Kuzma’s winning distance at the Butler Invitational wasn’t even her longest throw of the season. Jones said she’s also tallied a throw of 131-6, which is more than 6 feet further than her state meet throw two years ago.
Kuzma has continued to improve each meet, and Jones said it is something she’s done on a consistent basis.
“She’s either improving her throws or she’s a few inches off from her personal records, which is impressive,” Jones said. “I tell kids all the time when they don’t do better than the previous meet, that that’s not normal. Whenever you do really well, you might have to wait a few weeks or even a few meets to outdo yourself. But with Claire it’s like every meet, at least in one of the two events, that she’s setting a personal record for herself, which is just crazy to see.”
The key to her constant improvement has been the work she puts in between meets. She said she’ll record herself throwing each meet and then will go over the video with her throwing coaches so they can pick out small things to improve on before her next meet.
With a year off, some might have expected Kuzma to drop off in terms of her distance on her throws or even her technique, but she believes the break may have helped her improve that much more heading into her senior season.
“With all the restrictions in place it allowed me to really focus on throwing and just keep improving,” Kuzma said. “I had three meets during the summer that I did, and they were pretty helpful in preparing me for this season.”
Despite her success, Jones said Kuzma has stayed humble in her approach. No matter how well she performs during each meet, she continues to help the rest of her team and the younger throwers improve.
“Even though she’s as good as she is, she is very humble and she’s always supporting her teammates and helping them get better as well,” Jones said. “Every time she goes out there, she puts on a show. It’s magical to watch her throw.”
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .