Burrell girls on track for another WPIAL team title

Sunday, May 6, 2018 | 10:44 PM

Faith Remich witnessed every part of the Burrell girls track and field team's growth over the past four years, from an under-the-rader program to a WPIAL champion.

The Bucs completed that climb last season, winning the first WPIAL Class AA team championship in their history, but Remich sees no reason why the progress should stop.

Burrell will go for its second consecutive WPIAL title Monday afternoon at Baldwin, competing against Beaver, Mohawk and Shenango.

“This year's been the coolest of all because you're defending the section title and defending the WPIAL title,” said Remich, a senior and the Bucs' top distance runner. “You feel like you're better than the other teams, but you obviously know there's great people for every school, so you have to push yourself. But it's honestly cool to be on a team that's grown over the years and has become a threat to other schools.”

Just a few years ago, Burrell had several talented athletes — namely sprinter Nikki Scherer, a WPIAL and PIAA individual champion, and thrower Lizzie Weimer, a WPIAL champion several times over — but not the depth to contend for WPIAL team championships.

But the Bucs gradually built their depth and, along with it, their success. The addition of a cross country program bolstered the team's distance running, and an influx of athletes helped the team gain the second- and third-place finishes in events that can prove pivotal in track and field team scoring.

After advancing to the WPIAL team championships in 2016 via a three-way tie in the semifinals, Burrell made it back to the finals last season and emerged on top.

“It was amazing to think we could do that (last year),” Remich said. “And now, this year, to have the abilities to recreate that again, it doesn't feel we're out-reaching or too crazy, but it almost feels cool that we were able to build a team.”

Burrell's accomplishment this season might look even more impressive given last season's graduation of a talented senior class that included Scherer and Weimer, two of the top track and field athletes in school history.

But the Bucs dug in, with seniors such as Naomi Hanna (throws), Taylor Johnson (sprints and jumps) and Remich (distance) leading deep event groups.

All three relays, including the 400 relay that lost three of four runners after placing first at last season's WPIAL individual championships, set season-best marks at last week's WPIAL semifinal meet, where Burrell held off Brownsville, Southmoreland and South Park to reach the finals.

“To be quite honest, we're not surprised,” Burrell coach Steve White said. “To this extent? Yes. We were optimistic we would do well. We start with the section and try to win the section and move on from there. We were optimistic knowing we'd face good competition, which we did. But now that we're here, these girls, it's just a pleasure to watch how they go about their business.”

White praised the athletes' ability to remain prepared during a spring with challenging weather. That included Sunday, as the Bucs planned to hit the track even as rain fell on Western Pennsylvania.

Remich pronounced herself anxious and excited as Burrell attempted to add another accomplishment to its growth: defending its WPIAL title. A victory Monday would make the Bucs the latest Class AA girls team to win two consecutive titles, joining South Park (2009-10), Freeport (2011-12), South Fayette (2013-14) and Beaver (2015-16).

“At the end of the day, the chips have been falling very well for us,” White said. “And again, here we are at finals and they're saying, ‘what do you think, coach? Do we have a chance?' And my answer is ‘yes, we do have a chance,' because of their hard work and how they're approaching coming to practice every day. It's just been outstanding.

“There's some really good teams this year in the finals. I expect a heck of a competition. But with their mental toughness, and I really mean that, I know we're going to compete.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.


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