Canon-McMillan’s Rose Kuchera wins 4 gold medals while crisscrossing WPIAL track championships
Wednesday, May 17, 2023 | 11:07 PM
Canon-McMillan’s Rose Kuchera was relaxing in the team’s tent when a teammate asked if she was running the 100-meter hurdles.
As defending champ, of course she was.
The junior’s hectic schedule for the WPIAL track and field championships included the hurdles, the long jump, the triple jump and the 400-meter relay. What Kuchera didn’t know was that the stadium’s PA announcer had already called for hurdlers to assemble near the starting line.
“Our tent is all the way in the back, so it’s really hard to hear any of the calls,” she said. “I was actually almost late to all of my events today.”
Kuchera hurried more than 100 meters to the starting line, arriving in time to turn around and beat everyone to the finish line. She spent Wednesday crisscrossing Slippery Rock University’s stadium, bouncing from event to event and winning four gold medals along the way.
“It feels really great,” said Kuchera, who was the defending 3A champion in the 100 hurdles and triple jump. “Last year I won two. Going 4 for 4 feels awesome.”
She was the only athlete to leave Mihalik-Thompson Stadium with four gold medals, but seven others won multiple individual titles at the WPIAL championships.
Upper St. Clair’s Dani Prunzik (100 and 200), Mt. Lebanon’s Logan St. John Kletter (1,600 and 3,200) and Hempfield’s Liz Tapper (shot put and discus) won two apiece in 3A girls, while Laurel’s Tori Atkins (200 and 400) and Brownsville’s Jolena Quarzo (1,600 and 3,200) won twice in 2A.
Among the 2A boys, Washington’s Dane Asbury swept the 100 and 200 meters, and Riverview’s Amberson Bauer won the 800 and 1,600.
This was the third year in a row that Quarzo won the 3,200 meters, a feat also accomplished by Prunzik in the 100, Moon senior Jacob Puhalla in the 800 meters and Quaker Valley senior Nora Johns in the 300 hurdles.
“Even though my times aren’t PRs today, it’s really nice to see how much I’ve grown since my sophomore year,” said Quarzo, a senior and five-time WPIAL champion committed to N.C. State. “It’s kind of like a bittersweet moment. It’s sad to leave the WPIAL, but at the same time, I’m ready for it.”
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart’s Antonio Votour set a meet record Wednesday by winning the 2A boys 110-meter hurdles in 14.3 seconds, bettering a mark that stood for 23 years. Center’s Mike Heiser set the previous record at 14.44 seconds in 2000.
The weather was sunny and dry, but there were cool temperatures and blustery winds.
The top six finishers in Class 2A and top four 3A automatically qualify for the PIAA championships, along with any athletes who meet the qualifying standard up to eighth place. The state meet is May 26-27 at Shippensburg.
Kuchera intends to have another busy day then by competing again in all four events.
She won the triple jump with a leap of 40 feet, ran away with the 100 hurdles in 14.9 seconds, won the 400 relay in 48 seconds and finished her day with a winning 18-foot, 9-inch effort in the long jump. The relay time was her team’s fastest of the season, shaving a half-second off their previous best.
As a sophomore, she won the hurdles and triple jump, but said she tired later in that WPIAL meet and finished fifth in the long jump. Now a year older, she wasn’t nearly as tired Wednesday when her long day finally ended.
“I’m just stronger,” she said. “Even if I’m not hitting my personal bests, I’m still able to get close to it, even when I’m getting tired. Last year, when I did long jump last, I jumped 16s because I felt tired from the day. This year. I’m stronger and able to muscle through.”
She has already set some big goals for states. First, she’d like to reach 41 feet in the triple jump, which would be three inches farther than her best jump from this season.
Her long jump goal is 20 feet, along with a hurdle time in the mid-to-low 14s.
Of course, she’d take some PIAA gold medals too. A year ago, she placed second in the state in the hurdles and third in the triple jump.
Kuchera ran from event to event Wednesday with stops in between on the medals stand. The hectic day might fluster some athletes, but not her.
“If I have to be somewhere, I’ll get there,” she said. “There’s not much to it.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .