Relays in spotlight at WPIAL championships

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018 | 8:12 PM


While many eyes will be focused on certain individuals at the WPIAL Class AA and AAA track and field championships Thursday at Baldwin, some of the most exciting races will be the relays.

That's especially true for the Class AAA girls 400-meter relay races, where 10 teams have reached the state qualifying standard, but only eight — if they reach the state standard during the championships — can qualify for the PIAA championships May 25-26 at Shippensburg.

“It's going to be an exciting day,” Latrobe assistant coach Michelle Butler said. “The races are going to be tight.”

Avonworth/Northgate has the top time in the 400 relay (48.40) and Penn Hills (49.74) is the 10th team.

Penn Hills and Norwin (49.73) will compete in the second fastest heat and the other eight (Pine-Richland, Trinity, Mt. Lebanon, Canon-McMillan, North Allegheny, West Mifflin and Latrobe) in the fastest heat.

“I think being in the second heat could benefit us,” Norwin coach Brian Fleckenstein said. “We'll be in the middle lanes. We were ranked fourth going into the final meet of the season.”

Fleckenstein is eager to see how his team competes.

“I haven't made a decision on who will run in the relay,” Fleckenstein said. “We have options.”

The race he is looking forward to is the boys 1,600-meter relay, where his Knights are the returning WPIAL and PIAA champions.

Norwin has the top time of 3 minutes, 24.08 seconds, and West Mifflin, Gateway, Canon-McMillan and Latrobe are less than a half a second behind.

Junior Gianni Rizzo is the lone runner returning from the state champion relay team, but Fleckenstein likes the newcomers — freshman Ian Brown and sophomores Logan Huss and Brady Schmitt. Rizzo, Huss, Schmitt and sophomore Matt Federovich run the 400 relay.

“The four are running well and with confidence,” Fleckenstein said. “I like four runners who get the baton and will do whatever they can do to win. I'm looking forward to see how they run.”

Fleckenstein said the goal is to get all six relay teams to the state meet.

The Norwin girls 3,200 relay team of Emily Shaw, Courtney Kosanovic, Laurel Noe and Julia Fasiczka is seeded third behind Butler and Hampton.

So what makes a good relay team?

Latrobe's Butler said speed, explosiveness and the ability to give and receive a baton.

“Handoffs are so important, especially in the 400 relay,” Butler said. “They have to be perfect. A poor handoff can cost you a lot — a win and a chance to place.

“Also choosing the right order is important. As a coach, you have to decide who is a better corner run, who is better on the straightaways and who you might want running longer distance. I like to work the zones.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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