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After rain halts WPIAL meet, Butler’s Drew Griffith doesn’t mind waiting to make more history

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Wednesday, May 15, 2024 | 9:51 PM


Butler’s Drew Griffith ran the 1,600 meters in record time at the WPIAL track and field championships and then waited around for hours as it rained off and on.

He’s one of the fastest seniors in the country, but wasn’t too bothered by the slow down.

“We just hung out,” Griffith said. “I talked to my friends a lot. Listened to music. Just kind of had a good time, I guess.”

Griffith was waiting to run the 3,200 meters, but he and many other athletes scheduled to compete never got their chance. The WPIAL meet was delayed twice by thunderstorms Wednesday and ultimately suspended until 4 p.m. Thursday.

The track events still to go were the 800, 200 and 3,200 meters and 1,600-meter relay. Three field events were incomplete: Class 3A girls javelin, 2A boys high jump and 3A girls long jump.

Griffith wasn’t too excited about returning to Slippery Rock’s stadium but spotted a silver lining in a very cloudy day.

“Honestly, I kind of wanted to get it done with,” Griffith said. “But one really nice thing about it is you’ll get an idea of how you’re going to feel at the state championship. That’s a two-day experience where you run the mile the first day and come back the next for the 3,200. It’ll be nice to see how my body reacts.”

The WPIAL meet was in its second lightning delay when organizers suspended it around 9:30 p.m. Each time there was lightning detected in the area, the delay was extended another 30 minutes.

“We have two and a half hours left (in the meet), so we weren’t getting done until 12:30,” said WPIAL chief operating officer Vince Sortino, who oversees the league’s championships. “Kids might be on a bus for an hour. I can’t have kids going home at 1 o’clock in the morning. We tried to wait it out as long as we could.”

Sortino said the after-school start Thursday was to avoid Advanced Placement exams scheduled during the day.

“It’s a tough decision (to postpone),” Sortino said. “But I didn’t want to have kids out until 1 or 2 o’clock, and then they’ve got to get up for school in the morning.”

Three athletes won gold medals in two individual events on Wednesday.

Canon-McMillan’s Rose Kuchera won the 100 hurdles and triple jump in Class 3A girls, Mohawk’s Ellie Whippo swept the hurdles in 2A girls, and Shenango’s Colton Fedrizzi won the discus and shot put in 2A boys. Others are likely to join that list Thursday.

Griffith also had two gold medals after winning the 1,600 meters and running the anchor leg of Butler’s winning 3,200-meter relay. The Golden Tornado won the relay in 7 minutes, 52.54 seconds.

Next came the 1,600, where Griffith’s winning time of 4 minutes, 3.22 seconds broke his own WPIAL championship record by more than six seconds. He set the record last year at 4:09.53.

“I wasn’t necessarily going for that record, but I knew it was definitely breakable,” Griffith said. “I’m pretty happy with it.”

Griffith reached the finish line ahead of Ringgold senior Ryan Pajak, a fellow Notre Dame recruit who also bettered the previous meet record by finishing in 4:07.06.

The 3,200-meter record could fall next.

North Allegheny’s Matt McGoey has held the WPIAL meet record of 8:56.43 since 2015. Griffith will enter this year’s race as the defending champion and a heavy favorite with a qualifying time of 8:37.43.

He has emerged as one of the nation’s best runners at that distance. In March, he broke the national high school indoor record in the 2-mile — which equals about 3,219 meters.

However, if Griffith had one wish, he would be running in the cool evening air he felt Wednesday.

“The conditions were perfect for the 3,200,” he said. “(Thursday), it’s going to be pretty hot, which is not ideal. But you’ve got to make the most of it.”

Second-fastest in history

Woodland Hills sprinter Scoop Smith came close to breaking a WPIAL meet record in the 100 meters, but his remarkable time Wednesday came a year late.

The sophomore won the Class 3A boys race in 10.64 seconds, which was two-hundredths off the record-setting time Canon-McMillan’s Austyn Winkleblech (10.62) ran in a preliminary heat last year. Winkleblech’s time broke a WPIAL meet record that had stood since 2005.

That leaves Smith’s time as the second-fastest in a WPIAL championship.

Avonworth’s Hayzes Robinson and South Fayette’s Olivia Renk will share the title as this season’s fastest girl in the WPIAL. Each won 100-meter gold in 12.05 seconds, with Robinson winning in Class 2A and Renk in 3A.

Day for defending champs

Derry thrower Sophia Mazzoni set a meet record and was among nine reigning champions who defended their WPIAL titles. Mazzoni won the 2A girls javelin with a throw of 159 feet, bettering a mark set in 2012 by Fort Cherry’s Jessie Merckle (156-8).

Also defending their titles were Kuchera (100-meter hurdles, triple jump), Kiski Area’s Eliza Miller (800) and Mt. Lebanon’s Logan St. John Kletter (1,600) in 3A girls, Griffith (1,600) in 3A boys, Robinson (100), Laurel’s Tori Atkins (400) and Quaker Valley’s Mia Gartley (high jump) in 2A girls and East Allegheny’s Lorenzo Fancher (triple jump) in 2A boys.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at [email protected].



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