Baldwin girls relay team dazzles at South Hills Classic

Friday, April 12, 2019 | 6:55 PM

Lena Barakat, Kaylee Garofalo, Devon Schroeder and Gina Bolla are tireless distance runners on the Baldwin girls track and field team.

Schroeder is a senior, Barakat and Bolla are sophomores and Garofalo is a freshman.

The four girls banded together to win the 3,200-meter relay at the 15th annual South Hills Classic on April 6 at Baldwin Stadium.

“The girls surprised us in the first final of the day, the women’s 4-by-800 relay,” said Ed Helbig, Baldwin coach and meet director. “Coach (Rich) Wright and I decided that Macy Hale, our best 800 runner, wasn’t going to compete in the meet. So we didn’t know how the other girls would perform knowing Macy wasn’t running.

“But Lena, Kaylee, Devon and Gina ran extremely well and finished first with a time of 10:26.27. Needless to say, we were both surprised and very happy for the girls.”

Bolla also was a medalist in the 1,600 (fifth place) and 3,200 (eighth place), and Schroeder took sixth in the 1,600.

Schroeder, one of five seniors on Baldwin’s girls team, was proud of the relay unit’s impressive winning performance.

“We had an incorrect seed time, and we were missing Macy Hale, who is a solid member of the 4-by-800, so we weren’t sure how we were going to perform,” Schroeder said, “but we remained optimistic. Everyone performed well and had PR’s, especially freshman Kaylee Garofalo in her first 800 race.”

Schroeder is a multifaceted student-athlete. Between track, cross country and swimming, she will graduate with 12 varsity letters.

Schroeder will attend Temple to major in biology and minor in military science while doing Army ROTC.

“I plan on attending medical school afterwards and becoming a military physician,” she said.

During her time at Baldwin, Schroeder participated in Math League, Key Club, Purbalite and symphonic band. She is a member of National Honor Society with a 3.9 GPA.

“This season, I want to get my mile time into the 5:20s and go to states with my 4-by-800 team,” she said. “I’m excited to see where this season takes me and my team, but it’s bittersweet leaving my coach Rich Wright, who has served as an amazing mentor and father figure for four years.”

Other medalists for the Baldwin girls team were juniors Mia Fischetti (third) and Ashley Wilson (eighth) in the pole vault, and junior Emma Brandwene and freshman Sierra Schmidt, who placed seventh and eighth in the discus.

The star of the show for the Baldwin boys was senior Brendan O’Malley, with first-place finishes in the 100 (11.12), 200 (22.45), 400 (50.61) and long jump (23-2.5). He broke the team record in the long jump.

Junior Nasser Penn placed second in the triple jump and third in the long jump. Senior Jared Koenig was seventh in the pole vault.

Senior Bailey O’Malley, Brendan’s twin brother, was the runner-up in the shot put. Jason Depretis, also a senior, placed seventh in the shot put.

In the running events, senior John Ziegler finished fifth in the 800, and the Highlanders’ 400 and 800 relay units ended up sixth and eighth, respectively.

Four junior football players — Penn (WR), Angelo Priore (RB), Jarren Kelly (WR) and Mason Stahl (QB) — competed in the 400 relay.

Ziegler, senior Ethan Hoey and juniors Teddy Boehm and Caden Harsh ran in the 800 relay.

The South Hills Classic, the brainchild of Helbig, started out as a small, early-season meet in 2005. There were half as many schools in the field compared to 2019.

Baldwin, Bethel Park, Brentwood, Chartiers Valley, Elizabeth Forward, Keystone Oaks, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township, South Park, Thomas Jefferson, Upper St. Clair and West Mifflin participated, along with McDowell, Mercyhurst, Washington and Waynesburg.

“The classic was started because we couldn’t find an early-season meet unless we went east to one held at Norristown High School outside of Philadelphia,” Helbig said. “After traveling east for a few years, I talked to my staff about holding an early-season invitational at Baldwin.”

This year, 30 schools registered for the invite, some from as far away as Erie and Altoona.

“The 15th annual classic was totally different from many of the classics of the past,” Helbig said. “First, the meet has grown to a 30-team meet with over 1,000 athletes competing. Secondly, the weather decided to cooperate with the temperature getting into the mid-60’s with partly sunny skies.

“Usually the temperature is in the mid-40’s with the possibility of rain or snow. One year, we had to use leaf blowers and brooms to remove snow from the track and runways. The coldest meet was run when the wind chill was in single digits, so (this year’s) weather was a pleasant surprise.”

One meet record was set at this year’s invite; Brownsville’s Gionna Quarzo broke the girls 3,200-meter mark with a time of 10:29.29.


More High School Track and Field

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OLSH’s Antonio Votour claims state gold in 110 hurdles
Waynesburg’s Andrew Layton fights through pain to win PIAA Class 2A pole vault