16 Speedsters seek national titles
Sophie Yantko broke her foot at basketball camp, two days before the Three Rivers Association Championship.
Wearing a boot, the Belle Vernon Area sophomore threw the javelin without the benefit of a run-up and qualified for the regional championships.
By the regional championships, as her foot began to heal, she was able to take a few running steps before releasing the javelin. Her fourth-place finish earned Yantko a spot at the nationals.
Yantko is one of a club record 16 Valley Speedsters Track Club athletes who qualified for the National Championships beginning Monday in Greensboro, N.C., The event runs through Sunday.
Athletes that qualified for the national meet are
• Paige Pallotta, 8, Belle Vernon, long jump.
• Corinn Brewer, 9, Rostraver Township, high jump.
• Patrick Brewer, 11, Rostraver Township, pentathlon and high jump.
• Isaiah Melvin, 11, Uniontown, 80 meter hurdles and long jump.
• Ryan Marek, 12, Rostraver Township, 80 meter hurdles.
• Aiden Brewer, 13, Rostraver Township, pole vault.
• Brenna Cavanaugh, 13, Bentleyville, pentathlon and long jump.
• A.J. Cumer, 13, Jefferson, 3000 meter race walk.
• Olivia Zambruno, 14, Mt. Pleasant, triple jump and high jump.
• Brenden Small, 14, Donora, 100 meter dash.
• Hunter Basista, 14, Lynnwood, high jump.
• Sophie Yantko, 14, Rostraver Township, javelin.
• Michelle Karabin, 15, Ruffsdale, pole vault.
• Gianna Gaul, 16, Rostraver Township, discus.
• Matt Brown, 16, Perryopolis, javelin.
• Helen Karabin, 17, Ruffsdale, high jump.
The Valley Speedsters Track Club consists of athletes primarily from the Mon Valley, but includes athletes from as far away as Washington, Uniontown, and Ligonier.
The team is coached by Mike and Judy Brewer.
Mike Brewer grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and ran in high school and at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
His wife, Judy, ran in high school, but turned down a scholarship offer to Brown University in order to attend the University of Pittsburgh. She ran the 400 and 800 meters and competed in the high jump.
The team practices three times a week at Charleroi Area High School. Members do one hour of conditioning and one hour of field events.
“The number of people qualifying for nationals validates all of the hard work and training these kids put into it,” Mike Brewer said.
The Valley Speedsters have doubled in size each year, from 30 members in 2009, to 60 by 2011, to 100 athletes this year.
The athletes compete in the following age categories: 8 and under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, and 17-18.
“This season, we really had an extremely balanced team,” Mike Brewer said. “We had an equal number of people qualify in running and field events.”
The regular season involves six meets around the Pittsburgh region, such as Penn Hills, Bethel Park and Hempfield Township. That's followed by three championship series meets.
Three Rivers Association Championship involves a region that stretches from Erie to West Virginia to central Pennsylvania.
The top six qualify for regionals. Thirty-three athletes qualified and participated in the Region 2 Championships from July 11 to July 14 in Jamestown, N.Y., which was more than any other track club in the Three Rivers Association of Western Pennsylvania. That meet involved athletes from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.
The top five move on to the nationals.
The season extends from mid-April until the USATF Junior Olympics Nationals Championships at the end of July.
All five of the Brewers' children are old enough to compete.
The Valley Speedsters became like family as well.
“The kids developed some real close friendships, which helped out with trying times,” Mike Brewer said. “They pushed each other and helped each other and when someone would fall, they picked them back up.”
For more information about joining the Valley Speedsters Track Club in 2014, contact head coach Mike Brewer at email@example.com.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.