WPIAL Class 3A track and field championships: Two golds down, one to go for Butler distance star Drew Griffith

Butler’s Drew Griffith said he was feeling a little blue Wednesday, not due to any illness, but rather the fact that it was a bittersweet day considering he was running in the final WPIAL meet of his storied career.

Blue? Certainly. But just like most of the other championship meets he has run, Griffith’s day was once again filled with gold.

Griffith took home two gold medals from the WPIAL Class 3A championships Wednesday at Slippery Rock University and will aim for a third when the meet resumes at 4 p.m. Thursday. The meet was halted for more than three hours due to stormy weather. And less than two hours after that, it was stopped once more before the WPIAL decided to send everyone home for the day.

Just before thunder could be heard and the skies began to light up, Griffith repeated as champion in the 1,600-meter run. This Notre Dame recruit did it in meet-record fashion, too, as his winning time of 4 minutes, 3.22 seconds improved upon the previous record of 4:09.53 Griffith ran while claiming the title a season ago.

“I just wanted to go out there and win, and I felt pretty good with 400 (meters) left,” said Griffith, who ran a personal-record time of 3:59.81 a month ago at the Butler Invitational, which stands as the top time in the country this season.

Griffith’s top competition Wednesday was Ringgold senior and fellow Notre Dame recruit Ryan Pajak, the runner-up who finished with a PR of 4:07.36. Pajak was followed in the lightning-fast race by Beaver’s Elijah Bechdel, Fox Chapel’s Rowan Gwin, North Allegheny’s Jack Bertram and Hampton’s Dale Hall, all of whom ran times which rank among the top 10 in the state this spring.

“(This being his final WPIAL meet is) super sad to think about, but I’m excited for what’s next and I’m just happy that I could be part of such a special district,” Griffith said.

Earlier in the day, Griffith ran the anchor leg on Butler’s winning 3,200-meter relay team which finished with a time of 7:53.54. The team also included seniors Drew Knight and Owen Dressler and junior Zach Slear. The quartet topped runner-up Hampton (7:57.85) by more than 4 seconds.

If Griffith wins the 3,200 Thursday — he’s the defending champ and heavy favorite — it will be the 10th WPIAL gold medal of his career. He already has won four track golds at the individual championships, three team track golds, and two cross country individual golds.

“I just want to go out with a bang since this is my last one,” Griffith said. “But most importantly just have fun. If the win isn’t in the books, it’s whatever. Just have fun.”

From left, Woodland Hills’ Scoop Smith, Canon McMillan’s Colton Dean and Mt. Lebanon’s Matt Nguyen compete in the Class 3A 100-meter dash Wednesday at the WPIAL track and field championships at Slippery Rock University. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Scoop sizzles

The scoop on Scoop Smith is that the Woodland Hills multi-sport star officially is the WPIAL’s fastest 100-meter runner.

Smith, a sophomore, ran a time of 10.64 to capture first place in the 100 after placing third in the event his freshman season. Smith edged Canon-McMillan’s Colton Dean (10.74) and Elizabeth Forward’s Connor Stokes (10.96), while the 2023 champion, New Castle’s Kaevon Gardner (11.06), placed sixth. Smith was just shy of the meet record of 10.62 set a year ago in the preliminaries by Canon-McMillan’s Austyn Winkleblech.

“I’m extremely blessed to actually win it as a sophomore,” said Smith, who ran the only sub-11 time (10.76) of any runner in preliminaries. “I just knew going out there and doing what I do, getting out of my blocks as fast as possible, getting a lead at the start and just holding it. I didn’t have a set time I was shooting for, but I was definitely hoping for around the 10.5, 10.6 area.”

It was the first WPIAL championship in any sport for Smith (5 feet 6, 145 pounds), who is also an all-state football player and all-section basketball player. He has Division I offers in both sports.

“It’s definitely big,” he said. “I don’t know a lot of people who have won as sophomores in track, so it’s definitely a big accomplishment.”

Green is golden

Achan Green’s title hopes came crashing down his junior season after his left hamstring was torn in a preliminary heat of the 110 hurdles at the WPIAL championships.

But Green, a senior at Penn Hills, had a chance to redeem himself Wednesday, and came through with not only a PR, but also a title.

Green ran a career-best time of 14.61 to edge runner-up Gamaliel Mogire of North Hills (14.71), who captured the title in the 300 hurdles a season ago. Green’s previous PR of 14.84 had come earlier this month when he won the title at the Baldwin Invitational.

“I feel pretty good coming from last year when I didn’t even make it to the finals, tearing my hamstring in prelims, and now I’m here,” Green said.

The injury had sidelined Green for six months. And while he has returned to top form physically, he has had to overcome the mental part of dealing with the injury, which he did so successfully again Wednesday.

“It was just in my head,” he said. “I was scared. If I wasn’t scared I’d probably run a faster time.”

Butler’s Davis a surprise winner

Butler senior Ayden Davis used a PR in the triple jump to top a field that included the defending WPIAL champion.

Not bad for a Division I lacrosse recruit competing in his first WPIAL championships after deciding to return to track and field this season.

After registering a PR of 43 feet, 6½ inches last week to help Butler win the WPIAL Class 3A team title, Davis was even better Wednesday when he produced a winning leap of 44-8 to edge Baldwin’s Marcus Toto (44-2 ½) and Central Catholic’s XXavier Thomas (44-0 ¼). Thomas, a Penn State football recruit, was the defending champion.

“I was really shocked. I was not expecting that at all,” Davis said.

Davis is a two-sport spring athlete who also helped the Butler lacrosse team reach the WPIAL playoffs. A midfielder, Davis will play that sport at Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC). Davis, who played basketball for Butler his senior year and football his junior year, had given up track after his sophomore season.

“It was too much running with lacrosse, so I didn’t do it my junior year,” he said. “And this year I did it for fun and to do it with all my friends who do track. And I did well today.”

It was a good day for Butler jumpers, as senior Orein McBride-Cager captured the high jump title with a leap of 6-5. McBride-Cager placed second a year ago.

Sarnowski a discus champ

Future Division I throwers Matt Sarnowski of Penn-Trafford (Penn State) and Peyton Murray of Hempfield (Notre Dame) have had some battles in the discus this season. The latest one saw Sarnowski win his first WPIAL title while dethroning Murray, the defending champion.

Sarnowski used a career-best throw of 185-10 to seize the title after finishing second to Murray at the 2023 championships. Murray went on to win a PIAA title with Sarnowski placing third.

“It feels awesome,” Sarnowski said. “It’s super exciting to get this win under my belt. Hopefully I can do it again next week, as well.”

Murray actually sat in first place after his fourth throw, which went 181-3. There are six throws, however, and Sarnowski made the most of his fifth, as the 185-10 topped his previous PR by 3 inches. Prior to that heave, Sarnowski’s top throw of the day had been 172-3.

“We have so much respect for each other,” Sarnowski said of his rivalry with Murray. “We’re good friends. We talk every meet. It’s just a really good competition all the time.”

Sarnowski was one of two Penn-Trafford boys throwers to win gold medals. Junior Logan Kerstetter claimed the javelin title after a throw of 177-0.

South Fayette’s Olivia Renk ran the Class 3A 100-meter dash in 12.05 seconds to win a WPIAL gold medal for the first time at the championships Wednesday at Slippery Rock University (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Renk grabs elusive title

South Fayette’s Olivia Renk spent a lot of time on the WPIAL championship medal podium the previous two seasons, placing third in the 100 and 200 her junior year after placing fourth in those events her sophomore year.

Competing in her final district championship meet Wednesday, the senior and Saint Francis recruit finished on top in an individual event for the first time after capturing the 100-meter dash title courtesy of a PR of 12.05. Her previous PR had been the 12.09 she registered in the 2023 WPIAL championships.

“To come out and finally do it was a good feeling,” said Renk, adding that she had to overcome both nerves and pressure.

Renk also had to overcome a field that included Plum’s Gabrielle Layne (12.23) and Upper St. Clair’s Sadie Tomczyk (12.32), who placed second and third.

It was actually the second WPIAL title for Renk, who was a member of South Fayette’s 400 relay team that claimed gold in 2022.

“I feel like winning it as an individual and winning it as a group kind of feels the same,” Renk said. “It’s always very exciting and I’m glad to do it my senior year.”

After repeating as WPIAL Class 3A 1,600-meter champion Wednesday, Mt. Lebanon’s Logan St. John Kletter will try to repeat as 3,200-meter champ Thursday after the meet was postponed. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Another title for SJK

Logan St. John Kletter said she wasn’t feeling her best Wednesday, but the Mt. Lebanon senior distance standout still was good enough to repeat as WPIAL girls 1,600-meter champ.

“It’s great. I didn’t feel the best in the race, but I’m happy to be able to come out with the win even though it wasn’t a great day,” said St. John Kletter, a North Carolina recruit.

St. John Kletter finished in 4:52.59 to beat runner-up Grace Fritzman of West Allegheny (4:54.96). St. John Kletter ran a 4:47.09 to win the title a season earlier and ran a PR of 4:46.70 at last week’s WPIAL team championships.

“I was hoping to get my time from last week, but the race just didn’t play out that way,” she said.

St. John Kletter will run in the 3,200 Thursday. She’s the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion in the event.

Canon McMillan’s Rose Kuchera reacts after finishing in first in the Class 3A 100-meter hurdles Wednesday at the WPIAL track and field championships. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Great start for Kuchera

It was a rosy Day 1 of the championships for Canon-McMillan senior Rose Kuchera, who three-peated as champion in the 100 hurdles and triple jump. She will try to do the same in the long jump when that event resumes Thursday.

Kuchera, a Duquesne recruit, upped her career gold medal count to eight following Wednesday’s performance. She won the 100 hurdles, triple jump, long jump and 400 relay last season after winning the 100 hurdles and triple jump her sophomore season.

Kuchera (14.75) topped runner-up Delaney Schumaker of South Fayette (14.91) in the 100 hurdles and her mark of 39-1 in the triple jump bested a field that included Moon sophomore Jaedin Griggs, who placed second following a top leap of 37-7. Kuchera’s time in the 100 hurdles tied a PR and was a season best.

Butler’s Bowden a hurdles champ

When Butler’s Lauren Bowden ran in the 300 hurdles final at last year’s championships, she finished in eighth place after running a time of 47.52.

This year? Bowden improved that time by more than 2.5 seconds and won a gold medal.

“It feels pretty amazing,” said Bowden, a senior. “Honestly, I wasn’t really expecting anything. I just wanted to improve my time.”

Bowden became a golden girl after finishing in 44.99 seconds. What’s amazing about that is, prior to this season, she had never gone below 47 seconds. 

It looked as if South Fayette sophomore Delaney Schumaker would win the title Wednesday. Schumaker, last year’s runner-up, held the lead before tripping over the final hurdle and falling to the track. She ended up finishing in 10th. Mt. Lebanon’s Megan Cain took second (45.07).

“I was kind of in my own zone, but I saw it happen out of the corner of my eye,” Bowden said. “I knew that was the time I needed to make a move.”

Miller time … again

Kiski Area senior Eliza Miller ran her top race about three hours later than originally expected due to weather delays Wednesday. While it changed her expectations just a little, the long break didn’t derail her from winning gold in the 800 for the second year in a row.

It was Miller time in the 800 again as Miller finished in 2:13.95 to win her second career WPIAL track gold medal and her third WPIAL gold overall. Miller, who will compete in the triathlon at Duquesne, won a WPIAL swimming title her junior season.

“I was really nervous coming into it because I really wanted to defend my title, but now I’m super excited,” said Miller, who bested a field that included runner-up Sylvia Kashak of Thomas Jefferson (2:14.62).

Miller’s time was faster than the 2:14.71 she ran to win last year’s title, but a few seconds off of her PR of 2:10.88 she set when she placed fifth at the PIAA championships. Miller has said she would like to go under 2:10, which has only been achieved by two girls in WPIAL history.

“I warmed up three times,” she said. “I definitely wanted it to be 2:09, but with all the delays, I wasn’t too worried about a PR.”

This story will be updated.

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he’s currently on strike. Email him at [email protected].

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *