State champion 400 relay highlights girls team title for Hempfield
SHIPPENSBURG — When Jasmine Jones took the handoff from teammate Lauren George in the PIAA Class AAA 400-meter relay final, Hempfield trailed Upper Darby by a couple of steps.
But the Hempfield junior wasn't about to let her team down. Jones caught and passed the Upper Darby runner and sprinted to the finish line for Hempfield's only gold medal of the PIAA track and field championships Saturday at Seth Grove Stadium.
She then celebrated with George, Maddie Holmberg and Bridget Guy as they became the first relay team at the school to win a state title.
“This is amazing for us,” said Guy, who also tied for fourth in the pole vault. “After finishing sixth in 2012 and coming back is unheard of for our school. This is our race. This is what we wanted to win. It's what we trained for all year.”
Their effort, along with second-place finishes by Holmberg (long jump and 300 hurdles) and Lexi Masterson (pole vault), a third-place finish by Morgan DeFloria in the javelin, and third- and sixth-place finishes by Jones in the 200 and 100, helped Hempfield claim its first PIAA team title with 53.5 points.
“This means so much,” Jones said. “We've been getting better all year, and winning is an amazing feeling. My mindset when I got the baton was to keep on running, keep my form tight and keep catching up to her.
“Everyone's handoffs were great. We were just right. We're so happy we won.”
Hempfield coach Ron Colland became emotional when he spoke about the efforts of his team. He said the win by the 400 relay team was special.
“I'm speechless, almost,” Colland said. “This is a great group of individuals. The athletes are so tight as a team.
“It was certainly a team effort. Everyone did what they could. We have tremendous coaches, volunteer coaches that work hard through indoors and in the weight room. We're so thankful for the effort everyone puts in.”
Holmberg and Jones were tired individuals by the end of the day. Holmberg, who ran the second leg on the 400 relay, finished second in the 300 hurdles fewer than 10 minutes later.
“Winning the 400 relay was probably the best moment of my life so far,” Holmberg said. “Just seeing Jasmine cross the finish line first, I can't explain the feeling. Running over to see Jasmine and hugging my teammates, it was the best feeling ever knowing that all our hard work paid off.”
Masterson said it was a great way to end of her high school career.
“I'm happy, but never satisfied,” she said. “I didn't stress myself out, and I was confident. We wanted that team win really bad. We want that picture of the team on the wall.”
Hempfield will be the early favorite to repeat as many of the athletes return, including the entire 400 relay team.
“You have to be good, lucky and healthy,” Colland said. “We had that element this year.”
California junior Kailyn Clancy made history, becoming her school's first PIAA champion by winning the Class AA shot put.
“I achieved my goal,” she said. “I'm really excited.”
Mt. Pleasant junior Tyler Kolar also had a good day. He placed third in the Class AAA pole vault with a school-record jump of 14 feet, 6 inches. He placed eighth in Class AA in 2012.
“This is the place to PR,” Kolar said. “I didn't expect third place. Now I build on it and try to get first next year.”
Latrobe had a strong day on the track. Hanna Green placed fourth in the 400 and Maddie Mueseler was fourth in 300 hurdles. The 1,600 relay also placed fourth.
Norwin's Kelsey Plecenik, the WPIAL Class AAA pole vault champion, finished fifth, while Greensburg Salem's Courtney McQuaide tied for seventh in the event.