Hempfield's Fox bounces back to win javelin gold at PIAAs
SHIPPENSBURG — Hayden Fox received a congratulatory hug from his mother, Jennifer, for placing at the PIAA track and field championships Saturday at Shippensburg.
The look on her face when he informed her he won was priceless. Fox won the Class AAA javelin with a throw of 198 feet, 6 inches.
He captured his first state gold medal after a forgetful Friday in the pole vault when he didn't clear the qualifying height of 13-6. He placed third in the pole vault in 2016, but this year, he was off.
“She didn't know that I won,” Fox said. “She thought I finished second or third. I was real excited to come here and get some hardware. The goal was coming up here and taking first place. It wasn't my best throw but good enough to win.”
His winning toss came on his second throw of the competition. Then he anxiously watched his fellow competitors come up short.
“I was extremely nervous coming in, especially when I woke up,” Fox said. “I had a lot of expectations, and I wanted to meet them.
“I used Friday's disappointment as motivation. When you come off a day like yesterday, all you can do is rebuild. So I started to with a new foundation and tried to forget about the pole vault when I left the track.”
Fox received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy, where he'll compete in the pole vault and javelin.
“I was always known as a pole vaulter, and I still want to be thought as a pole vaulter,” Fox said. “Javelin is still my secondary event, and I still want to do the best I can in all areas that I compete in.”
Hempfield javelin coach Melissa White said Fox knew he had to clear his mind.
“Hayden knew what he had to do,” White said. “We worked hard on both events. He's one of the most mentally tough athletes I've ever coached, and he's able to deal with adversity.”
The day ended with one of the most thrilling events of the weekend, the 1,600-meter relay. The Norwin team of Nicolas Coleman, Kyle Turcovsky, Kyle Coleman and Gianni Rizzo rallied to claim the school's first state relay title.
“When I saw Gianni come around the turn, I knew we had a great chance at winning,” Norwin coach Brian Fleckenstein said. “That's when he made his move.”
The Knights' time of 3 minutes, 18.26 seconds edged teams from Milton Hershey and Central Bucks West.
“We knew early in the season that we could be good,” Nicolas Coleman said. “We ran a 3:29, and each of us knew we could knock off three seconds apiece. When we won at the Baldwin Invitational, we knew we had a shot.”
“Because we were in Lane 7, we figured we had nothing to lose,” Rizzo said. “We went all out.”
Heading down the stretch, the anchor runner for Milton Hershey was hitting Rizzo in the back with the baton.
“Someone thought I cut them off,” Rizzo said. “I didn't.”
Norwin relay coach Thom Swanson said hard work all season paid off.
“They pushed each other,” Swanson said. “They worked hard on different stuff.”
Connellsville senior Madison Wiltrout captured her fourth PIAA Class AAA javelin title with a throw of 160-9. Wiltrout, a North Carolina recruit, has been bothered by a sore right elbow.
She said the elbow was no problem. She set the tone early by hitting the winning toss on her first attempt.
“That's what I like to do,” Wiltrout said. “Put one out there. This is awesome. After the last girl threw and knew I won, I teared up on the runway. I was so emotional.”
Two future Penn State runners, Greensburg Central Catholic senior Moira O'Shea and Penn-Trafford senior Nick Wagner, captured silver medals.
O'Shea ran 5:02.07 in the Class AA girls 1,600, finishing behind Sharon's Jordan Williams' 4:50.01.
Wagner ran a school-record 1:51.79 in the Class AAA 800 and finished behind Bishop Shanahan junior Josh Hoey's 1:50.13.
“I definitely wanted to win, but, honestly, to come from where I was and get her really is a blessing,” O'Shea said. “Last year, I didn't qualify for WPIALs. I had an amazing season, and I put myself in a position to win. I just started too early, and that comes with experience.”
Wagner said the 800 final was a race he's been anticipating all season.
“He was a great runner, and I was here paving my own way,” Wagner said. “This feels truly amazing, a 2-second (personal record). It's been more than a year since I ran a PR. This is a dream come true and a great way to go out.”
Others from Westmoreland County to earn medals included: Latrobe senior Austin Butler (sixth, Class AAA javelin), Norwin junior Jessica Kolesar (fifth, Class AAA long jump), Greensburg Salem sophomore Malia Anderson (sixth, Class AAA 800), Derry junior Shawn Broadway (sixth, Class AA 300 hurdles), Ligonier Valley junior Rachel Horrell (seventh, Class AA triple jump) and the Derry 1,600 relay, seventh in Class AA.