Burrell girls sprint relay unit aims for another golden performance at WPIAL meet

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | 5:52 PM

Every year at this time, members of the Burrell girls 400-meter relay are focused on getting to the top of the podium at the WPIAL Class AA track and field championships.

It has happened 11 times before, including the past four years and five out of the last six.

Seeded second to Mohawk for Thursday’s race at Slippery Rock, the Bucs are hoping for another golden performance.

“Mohawk is one of our biggest rivals,” sophomore Madi Walsh said. “It pushes us even more, and we know we can beat them. It comes down to how it all comes together (Thursday). Nothing before that matters.”

Burrell and Mohawk went head-to-head in a championship preview April 30 at the WPIAL team semifinals at Riverside. The Bucs won that day, but Mohawk later regained the top seed at 50.57 seconds to Burrell’s 50.74.

“I feel really confident when I am out there with these girls,” junior Olivia Kelly said. “I think you can throw the seed time out the window. We’re capable of so much more.”

Kelly and seniors Allee Kuhns and Mckenzie White teamed up with the graduated Taylor Johnson to edge Shenango by four one-hundredths of a second for last year’s WPIAL crown at Baldwin.

The team went on to place 10th at states.

Shenango is back in the mix this year as the No. 3 seed (51.34).

The lineup for Thursday will feature Walsh, Kuhns, Kelly and sophomore Jocelyn Vickers.

“It was a blessing to join the relay this year,” Vickers said. “I didn’t expect anything of what happened this year. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Vickers (fourth seed), Kelly and Kuhns also have qualified in the 100 dash, and Vickers will run the 200.

White will be the first alternate Thursday.

“I’ve worked hard because I know I have to be ready to go immediately if something happens,” she said. “We’ve been working on so much, from handoffs to our speed.”

Burrell coach Steve White said it was a tough decision that placed Mckenzie White (no relation) in the alternate position.

“Her attitude has just been tremendous,” coach White said. “She is such a good teammate. I can’t tell you how impressed I’ve been with how she’s handled it with such maturity. Relays are always tough with kids battling back and forth for spots.”

Alle-Kiski athletes head into WPIALs with 15 top-three seeds. Burrell senior Kaylen Sharrow (Class AA 300 hurdles) and Josh Yourish (Class AA 800 run) are among those seeded first.

Sharrow is expected to face a challenge in the 300 hurdles from defending WPIAL champion and Thursday’s No. 2 seed Kiera Cutright, a senior from Deer Lakes.

“Based on the numbers and performances alone, this has been one of the better years for track and field in the A-K Valley,” coach White said. “There is just so much talent in the area, and I expect a large contingent to not only do well at WPIALs but get to states. The local athletes kind of form a brotherhood up there.”

The top five finishers in each Class AA event and the best four in Class AAA earn automatic bids to the PIAA championships May 24-25 at Shippensburg.

Also, those who finish eighth or better and meet the pre-set state-qualifying standard will head to states.

“I am pretty excited for WPIALs,” said Fox Chapel senior Kate Carnevale, who is seeded fourth in the girls Class AAA 200 and fifth in the 100.

“Hopefully, we get some great weather. It’s always great competition. I’m hoping to see all of my hard work pay off.”

Carnevale said she has been feeling healthy this season after shin splits previously hindered her progress.

Plum sophomore Logan Parker returns to WPIALs with an opportunity for gold. He is seeded second in the Class AAA shot put after a season-best toss of 51 feet, 5½ inches at the Rock Relays at Slippery Rock last month.

Apollo-Ridge senior Brian Sproat finished 12th in the pole vault at last year’s WPIAL Class AA championships. He is jumping at 12-9 and is seeded third, 3 inches away from Patrick Brewer, a junior from Greensburg Central Catholic.

“I had been doing really well in practice, but the last meet I went to didn’t turn out so well, so I definitely know I can go higher than what’s on the (heat sheet),” said Sproat, who hit his season best April 30 at the WPIAL team semifinals at Shenango. “I was able to get over 13 feet in practice a couple of times. It’s just a matter of doing that in competition.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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