Freeport track and field duo ready to tackle PIAA championships

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Wednesday, May 24, 2023 | 10:09 PM


Before Reese Skiba and Isaac Wetzel can throw and run Friday and Saturday at the PIAA Class 2A track and field championships at Shippensburg, the Freeport duo will take one of the most important walks of their lives.

The seniors will take part in commencement activities Thursday evening at Freeport High School.

They will take a few photos, spend a few moments with family and friends and soak in the moment 12-plus years in the making before jumping into vehicles and making the 180-mile, three-hour trip east.

It is a busy time for Skiba and Wetzel, two of more than three dozen Alle-Kiski Valley athletes who will test their mettle on the state’s grandest stage for high school track and field.

Preparation is about over for those who garnered automatic and at-large (time) qualifications to the PIAA championships as the two-day competition is almost here.

“It was an amazing feeling, as a senior, to perform the way I did at WPIALs and living up to how I had done throughout the season,” said Wetzel, who runs the preliminaries of the 110-meter hurdles at 11 a.m. Friday and the prelims of the 300 hurdles three hours later.

He earned silver in the Class 2A 110 hurdles (14.72 seconds) at WPIALs on May 17 at Slippery Rock before capturing the 300 title (38.90). Both were personal bests.

“I want to continue that at states and hopefully go even faster. I am really excited to see what I can do,” Wetzel said.

Events on the track and in the throws and jumps begin at 9 a.m. Friday.

Burrell senior Kadi Bauer, Riverview senior Amberson Bauer, Kiski Area junior Eliza Miller and Plum senior Connor Pivirotto lead things off for the local contingent on the track with the finals of the 1,600-meter run.

Also competing right out of the gate Friday are Skiba and Riverview senior Alexandria Bibza in the Class 2A girls discus, and Apollo-Ridge junior Sophia Yard in the Class 2A girls high jump.

Skiba, the WPIAL champion in the discus with a career-best throw of 120 feet, 2 inches, is seeded third behind a pair of fellow seniors in Homer-Center’s Justley Sharp (147-3) and Delco Christian’s Evezi Omuyeh (122-11).

Sharp is the defending Class 2A state champ. She also finished second last year in the shot put.

“I saw her during the indoor season at Edinboro and outdoors at the Butler Invitational,” Skiba said.

“She just drives her technique through and through. She’s very confident in her throws, and I can appreciate that. It will be fun to compete against her again and also go up against all the other great throwers. I am hoping that with the confidence built from WPIALs, I can throw even further at states.”

Skiba also is seeded 22nd in the shot put.

Bibza threw the discus 116-3 at WPIALs and is the eighth seed for Friday morning’s event.

Wetzel owns the highest seed out of anyone from the A-K Valley as he is second in the 300 hurdles (38.90), not too far from top seed Levi Prementine, a junior from Slippery Rock, who clocked a time of 38.70 at the District 10 championships.

“I feel good where I am seeded,” Wetzel said. “Of course, I am going to run my own race at states and see what happens. When it comes down to it, it really doesn’t matter where I am seeded. If I can run my best, I have a really good shot at challenging for the title.”

Wetzel and Prementine ran in the same heat at the Butler Invitational on April 21. Prementine won that day, and Wetzel was fourth.

“I came up short against him a couple of times before, but at states, I feel I have the best chance to beat him. I am really confident coming off of WPIALs.”

Bauer, a double WPIAL champion in the 800 and 1,600, is excited for where his two events are positioned.

After his 1,600 at 9 a.m. Friday, he doesn’t compete again until 2 p.m. Saturday. He returns to states seeded third in the 800 (1:57.33) and fifth in the 1,600 (4:21.43).

“It’s nice to run early and have that long break between the mile and the 800 to recover my legs,” said Bauer, who also is looking forward to running the 800 at New Balance Nationals on June 18 at Penn.

“It feels great to get back to states and be there with my (Riverview) teammates. I think we all are in position to do well.”

Freeport sophomore Michael Braun ran at cross country states in Hershey in early November, and, as the newly minted WPIAL Class 2A 3,200 champion (9:23.64), is ready to make his mark in his PIAA outdoor track debut.

“I just wanted to run smart at WPIALs to make sure I could win it,” Braun said.

“Time wasn’t an issue. I just wanted to run as relaxed as possible, and I figured I would have a lot more left in the tank at the end.”

He said he likes where he’s positioned as the No. 3 seed and is ready to go after the top two seeds, seniors Rory Lieverman and Logan Strawser from District 4’s Danville and East Juniata, respectively.

Both ran sub-9:16 times at their district meet.

All four of the 3,200 races are at 9 a.m. Saturday.

“I don’t think I could’ve gotten a better spot to be in a position to cut down time,” Braun said.

“The top two kids are running times that I want to be running. I feel as long as I can get out and stick with them for the first mile, I can hold the second mile and cut down time. I think it will be a really good race.”

Kiski Area senior Eliza Miller, the winner of the WPIAL Class 3A 800 (2:14.71), is seeded 12th in a loaded field at states.

“It’s crazy how fast everybody is in the 800,” Miller said.

She also is the 14th seed in the 1,600 (5:00.76) after taking sixth at WPIALs. She also ran the 1,600 at states last year.

The WPIAL is highly represented in the girls Class 3A 1,600 with the top two seeds and four in the top seven.

“It’s awesome to see the WPIAL be that strong in comparison to the rest of the state,” Miller said.

Like Amberson Bauer, Miller will have a long break between the 1,600 on Friday and the 800 on Saturday.

“I am a little nervous for my races, but I’m also well-prepared with my workouts,” she said.

“Hopefully, I can get PRs in both. I think running that first one (1,600) and getting it out of the way will relax me, and I can then focus on the 800.”

All the information on the PIAA track and field championships, including the complete schedule and heat sheets, can be found at piaa.org/sports/championship_details.aspx?sport=track

PIAA Track and Field Championships

Alle-Kiski Valley Entries

Class 2A

Girls

Allison Smola, junior, Burrell, 100-meter hurdles (16.00)

Erin Schaeffer, junior, Freeport, 100-meter hurdles (16.17); 300-meter hurdles (48.00)

Ciara Olexa, junior, Deer Lakes, 100-meter dash (12.69)

Kadi Bauer, senior, Burrell, 1,600-meter run (5:19.74)

Sophie Yard, junior, Apollo-Ridge, high jump (5-2)

Jessica Ross, senior, Apollo-Ridge, pole vault (10-0)

Kendall Loos, junior, Knoch, long jump (16-9½)

Reese Skiba, senior, Freeport, discus (120-2); shot put (34-3)

Alexandria Bibza, senior, Riverview, discus (116-3)

Emenet Richardson, junior, Redeemer Lutheran, javelin (118-01)

Karlee Buterbaugh, sophomore, Knoch, javelin (116-6)

Freeport 1,600-meter relay (4:14.42)

Riverview 1,600-meter relay (4:15.82)

Knoch 3,200-meter relay (10:08.82)

Boys

Isaac Wetzel, senior, Freeport, 300-meter hurdles (38.90); 110-meter hurdles (14.72)

Amberson Bauer, senior, Riverview, 800-meter run (1:57.33); 1,600-meter run (4:21.43)

Aidan Herman, senior, Deer Lakes, 800-meter run (1:59.08)

Zach Kruse, junior, Deer lakes, 800-meter run (1:59.86)

Jake Mull, senior, Apollo-Ridge, 200-meter dash (22.76)

Michael Braun, sophomore, Freeport, 3,200-meter run (9:23.64)

Christopher Barnes, sophomore, Riverview, 3,200-meter run (9:53.64)

Dom Curci, senior, Apollo-Ridge, discus (142-1)

Riverview 3200-meter relay (8:29.17)

Class 3A

Girls

Eliza Miller, junior, Kiski Area, 800-meter dash (2:14.71); 1,600-meter run (5:00.76)

Gabrielle Layne, sophomore, Plum, 100-meter dash (12.38)

Anna Troutman, junior, Fox Chapel, 100-meter hurdles (15.42)

Claire Conti, freshman, Fox Chapel, discus (112-11)

Boys

Connor Pivirotto, senior, Plum, 1,600-meter run (4:19.06)

Jack Crider, senior, Kiski Area, discus (140-1)

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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