5 things to watch at WPIAL track and field championships

Wednesday, May 17, 2023 | 7:00 AM

The WPIAL might be known best for its football hall of famers, but don’t overlook the league’s track and field pedigree.

Consider, in the past week, Knoch graduate Jordan Geist won his fourth Pac-12 shot put title at Arizona, and North Allegheny grad Ayden Owens-Delerme at Arkansas won an SEC title in the 400-meter hurdles in meet-record time.

The WPIAL’s reputation for producing elite track and field stars could be bolstered again this year.

A number of nationally ranked high school athletes will compete Wednesday in the WPIAL individual track and field championships at Slippery Rock. In all, six WPIAL athletes are currently ranked among the top 50 nationally in an event, according to Milesplit.com stats.

Those standouts are Mt. Lebanon’s Logan St. John Kletter, Hempfield’s Liz Tapper, Riverside’s Joey Reed, Norwin’s Hannah Shaw, North Allegheny’s Alaina Fantaski and Pine-Richland’s Natalie McLean.

Tapper, a senior committed to Michigan, is ranked ninth nationally in the girls shot put (48 feet, 7 inches) and 13th in the discus (159-9).

St. John Kletter, a junior, is ranked 46th nationally in the girls 3,200 meters (10 minutes, 25.58 seconds). McLean is ranked 48th in the same event (10:26.10).

Reed is 25th in the boys javelin (194-5) and Fantaski is 39th among the girls (142-1).

Shaw is tied for 49th in girls pole vault (12-9).

Returning to the Rock

Mihalik-Thompson Stadium will serve as host for the WPIAL track championships for the fourth time in five years. (The 2020 event was canceled in the early days of the covid-19 pandemic.)

The meet starts at 11 a.m. Wednesday with preliminary heats on the track and finals for some field events.

SRU’s stadium will pull double duty this week. The District 10 track championships, for schools in the state’s northwest corner, will be held there Saturday.

Fastest in the WPIAL?

There are seven boys entered in the field for the 100-meter dash with sub-11 second times.

New Castle sophomore Kaevon Gardner has the season’s fastest mark at 10.72 seconds. Among his challengers in the Class 3A race are Mt. Lebanon’s Tim Calvetti (10.9) and Woodland Hills’ William Smith (10.93).

There are four runners in Class 2A with seed times quicker than 11 seconds: Washington teammates Ruben Gordon (10.84) and Dane Asbury (10.9), Monessen’s Tim Kershaw (10.91) and Shenango’s David McClean (10.94).

A year ago, both winners ran sub-11 times. Central Catholic’s Brandon Jackson won the 3A title in 10.76 seconds, and North Catholic’s Trevor Paschall won 2A in 10.87. Jackson and Paschall both graduated.

The WPIAL meet records are held by West Mifflin’s Montel Williams (10.65 in 2005) for Class 3A and Aliquippa’s MJ Devonshire (10.67 in 2019) for 2A.

The fastest girls sprinter this spring has been Upper St. Clair senior Dani Prunzik. She enters the WPIAL meet with the top times in the 100 (11.79) and 200 (24.9).

Going 4 for 4?

Four events is the limit set for athletes in the WPIAL championship, yet Canon-McMillan’s Rose Kuchera appeared favored to finish Wednesday with four gold medals around her neck.

The junior entered the 3A meet as the top seed in the girls 100-meter hurdles, long jump and triple jump. That alone is a big deal, but she was also scheduled to run with a 400-meter relay team that’s seeded first overall.

Kuchera is the defending WPIAL champion in the 100 hurdles and triple jump.

Back for more

The roster depth that let North Allegheny sweep the big-school WPIAL team titles a week ago should also serve the Tigers well here in the individual championships.

NA has more than two dozen boys or girls seeded top 10 in the Class 3A meet, with some positioned highly in multiple races. Sophomore runner Wren Kucler was seeded first in the girls 800 meters, second in the 1,600 and fourth in the 3,200.

Among her teammates, sophomore Isabella Costa is first in the girls 400 meters and Alaina Fantaski is first in the girls javelin. The boys 3,200-meter relay also entered as the WPIAL favorite.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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