Multiple podium finishes for Penn Hills track team at WPIAL championships
The upward climb and magical season continues for the Penn Hills track team as its stays atop the podium in multiple events at the WPIAL Class AAA track and field championships at Baldwin.
The boys 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams were able to continue their progression this season and captured gold medals.
In the 400-meter relay, the team of junior Cameron Jeffries, junior Brennon Hill, junior Cameron Tarrant and sophomore Alex Trower was able to finish with a time of 42.57, which was just in front of runner-up Belle Vernon, which finished with a time of 43.05.
In the 1,600-meter relay, the Indians team comprised of junior Azeiryus Britt, senior Keith Batiste and junior Isaiah Bailey and anchored by Hill, who was able to create separation on the backstretch, was able to finish with a time of 3:22.56, which was just ahead of Seneca Valley, which finished with a time of 3:24.20.
“Going into states, we need to train harder. We know going up there is going to be crazy and it's going to be closer than this was. It's good to get a taste of how it will be at states so we feel like we are prepared for it,” Batiste said of the PIAA championship meet Friday and Saturday in Shippensburg.
Hill was able to duplicate the Indians' performance at the WPIAL Class AAA Central Qualifier at Norwin on May 12 by capturing the win in the 400-meter relay by running a 49.80, which was just ahead of Upper St. Clair's Keith Leckenby, who finished at 49.99.
“I'm just happy for my team. We trained for this all year and we were talking about this at the beginning of the year on how we wanted to win a WPIAL championship,” said Hill. “We want that gold again at states.”
Even when the Indians finished as a runner-up, they displayed continuing improvement on their time. Bailey finished in second place in the 800-meter at WPIALs, with a time of 1:54.72, which was just shy of Seneca Valley's Mike Kolor, who won with a time of 1:54.12. A week earlier, Bailey won the Central qualifier with a time of 1:57.53.
On the girls side, freshman Jayla Ellis was able to take home the gold in the 100-meter hurdles, with a time of 14.46, which was just in front of North Hills' Amberly Valeriano, who ran a 14.93.
Ellis also qualified in the long jump after placing fifth with 18 feet. The girls 1,600-meter relay team was able to qualify for states after placing sixth with a time of 3:58.65.
The other qualifiers for the boys include Trower in the 100-meter (fourth place; 11.15), Batiste in the 110-meter hurdles (third place; 14.94), sophomore Jaden Rouse in the triple jump (fifth place; 43 feet, 3.5 inches) and sophomore Emmanuel Mitchell in the high jump (fourth place; 6 feet, 1 inch).
“It just shows how hard work pays off. They don't complain at practice. They just do a great job. It's nice when a team comes together like this. They root each other on. There is not much jealously on this team. It's the best time I have had in a long, long time,” said head coach Lee Zelkowitz.
Andrew John is a freelance writer.