Hempfield track program appears set for years to come
Maddie Holmberg was so exhausted after finishing second in the 300-meter hurdles at the PIAA Class AAA track and field championships on Saturday, she could barely stand to pose for a picture with the winning 400-meter relay team.
But the Hempfield sophomore was able to muster enough strength to stand and put her arms around her teammates on the gold-medal relay team — Jasmine Jones, Bridget Guy and Lauren George — and celebrate the school's best weekend at the state meet at Shippensburg's University's Seth Grove Stadium.
Hempfield claimed its first team state title with 53.5 points after amazing efforts from Holmberg, Jones, Guy, George, Lexi Masterson and Morgan DeFloria.
Hempfield will be favored to repeat in the WPIAL and PIAA in 2014.
Holmberg finished second in the long jump, with a record jump of 19 feet, 10 inches, and was also runner-up in the 300 hurdles. Jones placed third in the 200 and sixth in the 100, Masterson was second in the pole vault, DeFloria third in the javelin and Guy tied for fourth in the pole vault.
“It was quite a team effort,” Hempfield coach Ron Colland said. “This was something we dreamed about after finishing second to Penn Hills in 2011.”
For Hempfield seniors Natalie Shiffler, Rachel Fyalkowski, Masterson and Jenna Farruggia, the championship titles were bittersweet.
Sure they were happy with the girls team winning its second WPIAL consecutive title, but disappointed that the boys didn't win their third.
At Hempfield, the boys and girls track teams are one big family.
Late-season injuries to four key runners were the reason the boys came up short against North Allegheny and Mt. Lebanon.
But that wasn't the case for the girls squad, which rolled to easy wins against Shaler, North Allegheny and Mt. Lebanon.
With nearly everyone back and a strong middle school group ready to contribute in the coming years, Hempfield is likely to be favored to win a third or fourth consecutive title before it's all done.
“I don't see a reason why we won't win a few more,” said Shiffler, who will be attending Penn State and competing in the heptathlon. “Look at what's coming back. It's been great to be part of it.”
That impressive list of underclassmen includes Jones, Holmberg, George, Lauren Tracy, DeFloria, Jess Beal and Guy.
“We really wanted the boys to win again,” said Shiffler, who won the high jump and finished second in the javelin during the team championships. “We knew it was going to be tough with the injuries.”
Hurdlers Parker Trent and Ken Johnston and sprinters Sherman West and Scott Fox were either limited or didn't compete.
“We were hoping to score some points there,” Colland said. “But the injuries wouldn't allow it. We are one big family and when the boys won in 2011 and the girls finished second to Butler, the boys were disappointed.”
The Hempfield Middle School teams finished undefeated in dual meets. The girls won four invitationals and the boys won three. The girls have won eight consecutive Westmoreland County meets and the boys have won seven of eight.
“The dynasty should be able to go for a few more seasons,” Hempfield Middle School coach Steve Miller said. “We have some kids going to varsity that should complement the people they are losing.”
Some of the future stars include Gabby Holmberg, Michelle Burns, Samantha Orie, Roger Hayden and Alex Murray.