Bethel Park senior turns focus to pole vault, reaches new heights

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Saturday, May 29, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Megan Malecki gave up the hurdles this season to concentrate on her pole vaulting career.

It proved to be a wise decision.

A senior at Bethel Park and a Millersville University recruit, Malecki took first place in the pole vault at the WPIAL Class AAA championships May 19.

“I loved my performance at WPIALs. I had a great day to vault,” Malecki said. “I was confident with the poles I was on and was relaxed the entire meet. It really put into perspective how much I love this sport and how much fun it is.”

Malecki cleared 11 feet, 9 inches in winning her WPIAL title.

“I couldn’t believe I did it,” she said. “The fact that I got first still hasn’t sunk in. I met all of my goals this season and am excited that I will be competing at states.”

The PIAA finals were scheduled for May 28-29 at Shippensburg University.

Bethel Park coach Mark Jacobs said winning the WPIAL championship was a season-long target for Malecki.

“I am ecstatic for her,” Jacobs said. “We talked about winning the WPIAL title all outdoor (season) and to have her reach the goal is very exciting and rewarding,” Jacobs said. “There were a lot of great vaulters, so it was not an easy meet. The meet did not start off well, but she never got frustrated, kept her composure and just went one height at a time. Once we knew she had the win, it was a great feeling. I could not be happier for her.”

Malecki has overcome various setbacks in her athletic career, suffering a broken ankle as a freshman, then a torn quad as a sophomore. Her junior season was lost to covid-19 pandemic protocols.

But she hung in there throughout her intense recoveries and utilized a strong background in gymnastics to propel her to new heights in the pole vault. Malecki has done gymnastics competitively for 16 years.

“It has helped me tremendously with learning to pole vault,” she said. “A lot of the skills and drills (on bars) can translate into pole vaulting.”

Jacobs has been impressed with the determination displayed by his talented pole vault specialist, who enjoys music and hiking in her spare time.

“Megan has improved so much this year,” Jacobs said. “We talked just the other day about how far she has come in the last few months, let alone this year. Coming into the year, the highest registered outdoor height for her was in 2019 at 9-6, with an indoor PR of 10-4. She now has a personal-best of 12-1 (which ties Malecki for 13th best in WPIAL history) and has won a WPIAL title. Her improvement this year is unbelievable, but at the same time, with her, it is not. I always knew she was capable of these heights and accomplishments. She just had to get the time to put it all together.”

During the outdoor season, Malecki took first place at the South Hills Classic, was a medalist at the TSTCA and South Fayette meets and placed fifth at the Baldwin Invitational.

She plans to study chemistry engineering/instrumentation automation in college and was to be joined at the PIAA meet by teammate Jenna Lang, a Bethel Park freshman and two-time WPIAL medalist.

Lang finished second in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 5:03.24 and fifth in the 3,200 in 11:06.65.

Another medalist on the BP girls team was senior Alexa Psotka, who secured fifth place in the javelin event with a toss of 113 feet, 8 inches.

The leading competitors for the boys were seniors Michael Conroy and Scott Orzechowski and junior Isaac Nirella.

Conroy was a double medalist, placing sixth in the 110 hurdles (15.50) and eighth in the 300 hurdles (40.43).

Orzechowski ended up sixth in the javelin (162-11), while Nirella landed in eighth place in the pole vault (112-3).

Other WPIAL qualifiers from Bethel Park included junior Olivia Underwood and sophomore Katie Krol in the pole vault, freshman Artemis Conaboy in the 200 and the girls 3,200 and 1,600 relay teams.

The 3,200 relayers include senior Julia Gasiorowski and juniors Kaitlyn Hughes, Madelyn Sellati and Olivia Toomey. Conaboy, Sellati, Lang and sophomore Lauren Heh are 1,600 relayers.

The boys 1,600 relayers, which included Conroy, senior Angel Feliciano, junior Jack Kirchner and sophomore Jack Reilly, also qualified for the WPIAL meet, as did junior Maxwell Blanc in the javelin.

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