WPIAL female long jumpers not satisfied until they surpass 18-foot barrier
With great detail, Maddie Holmberg remembers eclipsing 18 feet with a long jump in competition for the first time.
“Big jump at counties last year,” the Hempfield sophomore said. “I had been shooting for it; I really wanted to get it.”
Now, Holmberg has a new frontier.
“I really want 19 feet this year,” she said. “I'm so close I can taste it. I won't be happy until I get it.”
The standard has changed. And not just for Holmberg — seemingly across WPIAL Class AAA. They say 40 is the new 30 when it comes to age. In WPIAL Class AAA girls long jump, 19 is the new 18.
Eighteen feet has long been considered something of a mark of excellence in WPIAL girls track and field. Since the turn of the century, only once has the WPIAL Class AAA girls championship meet featured more than one jump of 18-plus feet. Most years, there were none.
Odds are that won't be the case later this month at the WPIAL championships. Four WPIAL Class AAA girls have reported jumps of at least 18 feet — including Hopewell's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, whose jump of 19 feet, 3 1⁄2 inches at the Baldwin Invitational on Friday was the third best reported in WPIAL history.
A fifth WPIAL Class AAA athlete, Penn Hills' Gloria Schifino, is also on the verge of 18 feet. She has a leap of 17 feet, 11 inches.
The top four reported to local track and field historian Jim Faiella this season are Walker-Kimbrough, Holmberg (18-11 3⁄4), her Hempfield teammate Bridget Guy (18-3) and Mars' Lydia Dennis (18-9 1⁄2).
According to Faiella, who has been tracking the WPIAL “honor roll” since 1979 and has collected data to reflect top runs, jumps and throws from before that, this year's Class AAA field has recorded personal-best jumps that comprise three of the eight girls' all-time personal bests in WPIAL history.
“Not just the fact three are ranked in the top eight of all time, it's that they're all competing against each other,” Faiella said. “Plus, you've got (Guy and Schifino), so you've got five good people.
“If you go back through the years, we've had a couple real good ones in the past — but rarely at the same time. A lot of times one was in Double-A and one was Triple-A. ... So having three of the top eight and others on the fringe all in Triple-A all in the same year is remarkable.”
Holmberg, whose father, Rob, was a linebacker at Penn State and for eight seasons in the NFL, set the Hempfield school record for the long jump as a freshman last year. It was Holmberg's next-door neighbor, Guy, who previously held the record — set during the prior meet, Hempfield coach Ron Colland said.
“They went back and forth a couple times last year,” Colland said. “They're friends, and there's a rivalry there through teammates. They're both outstanding athletes.”
So much so that there is no guarantee they will settle their long jump competition at the WPIAL championships. Guy has by far the best pole vault this season in WPIAL, at 12 feet, 1 inch; Holmberg has the top 300-meter hurdles time by 0.7 of a second. Holmberg also runs the 100 hurdles and the 200 meters at a high level, and both Holmberg and Guy are part of Hempfield's 400-meter relay team that has recorded WPIAL Class AAA's best time this season. There's a chance either could elect to concentrate on other events.
“I was surprised when I had 18 feet at indoors for the first time,” Guy said. “That was my goal — but the goals keep getting higher and higher.”
Even if the Hempfield teammates both compete in the long jump at the WPIAL championships, Dennis, Walker-Kimbrough and Schifino could spoil the chances for a Spartans' WPIAL champion.
Last year at the WPIAL championships, Dennis placed second to Holmberg, once place ahead of Guy. At the PIAA championships, Holmberg took fifth, Dennis 11th and Guy 12th. Holmberg was one of five to clear 18 feet.
“I have noticed the last couple years, especially, overall the girl athletes doing so well in a lot of different events,” Colland said. “And I would attribute that to probably some good coaching staffs at various schools and how intense they are maybe taking the indoor programs. That carries on into the outdoor season, and that makes a big difference.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.