Girls relay team uses home-track advantage to win at Baldwin Invitational

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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | 11:01 AM


The girls 3,200-meter relay team’s performance at the 50th annual Baldwin Invitational is one senior Mackenzie Hirt won’t soon forget.

If ever.

Hirt, a fourth-year competitor for the Baldwin girls track and field team, and sophomores Molly Gorman, Mackenzie Bowen and Julianne Ott, took first place at the invitational May 3 at Baldwin Stadium.

“It’s a really good feeling to get first place at my last home invitational,” Hirt said. ”The past two Baldwin Invitationals have been the best moments during track I have ever had. My family and friends were there for both, and last year I ran my 800 PR. This year, I ran on all three relays and ran the 800 and ran well in all of them.

“I think what is most satisfying this track season has been seeing the growth of my younger teammates. All three of the girls that I ran the 4-by-8 with are my best friends on the team, and it was awesome to see how amazing they did throughout the day.”

The team, anchored by Ott, finished with a winning time of 9:56.10.

“The way our team ran to win the race was really incredible,” Hirt said. “We all PR’d and this late into the season, a 15-second relay PR is not expected.

“We have all been running good times during the relay but at different meets. This is the first time we have all been able to work as a team and run our best at the same meet. I’m really proud of all of us and have high hopes.”

Baldwin’s ailing coach Ed Helbig was proud of the Highlanders’ effort at the invitational.

“Our girls team is very young and they really stepped up and competed,” Helbig said. “I’ve always told the kids, ‘Don’t run with a time in mind. Compete against those in your race. Time and performances will take care of themselves if you just compete.’

“Regarding the girls 4-by-8 relay, it was a total surprise. All the girls ran their best individual splits.”

The 18-year-old Hirt has been competing in track since seventh grade and also has soccer and softball on her athletic resume. She has a weighted GPA of 4.3 and is a member of the National Honor Society and The Purbalite, her school’s newspaper.

Hirt will be attending St. Francis (Pa.) to study biochemistry. She also plans to join the women’s cross country and track teams.

“Upon my first visit, St. Francis as a school seemed like a great environment that I would want to be surrounded by,” Hirt said. “Everyone was greeting each other and very welcoming, and I knew it was the school for me. As for athletics, St. Francis has a great team and has won the championship many times within the past few years. I really wanted to be a part of a strong team and am excited to see the success, individually and as a team, in these upcoming years.

“I considered other schools like Allegheny, RMU, Edinboro and some others for running, but ultimately thought all together St. Francis was the best choice.”

The girls 1,600 relay team, consisting of Ott, sophomore Aliya Blount, freshman Laila Ruvolo and Hirt, also medaled at the invitational. The Highlanders placed third in 4:10.23.

Hirt also ran in the 800 at the invitational while Ott, Bowen and Gorman participated in the 400, 800 and 3,200, respectively.

Long-time assistant Rich Wright coaches the Baldwin runners.

“The girls are a very hard-working group,” he said. “Led by senior Kenzie Hirt, they have worked really hard. Kenzie is a 400- and 800-meter runner that has run the 1,600 and 4-by-1 for endurance and speed. Jules Ott is strong 400 runner that plays basketball on most weekends. Molly Gorman has improved, setting PRs in the 3,200 1,600 and 800, and works not just on the track but at her (part-time) job. Kenzie Bowen is a member of our softball team. Many times she runs at practice then goes off to softball practice, never missing a beat.

“All four are gifted athletes. They are members of our cross country team and with great skills in so many ways. And with Bella Niles as the alternate, we have four super sophomores to keep an eye on for the next two years on the basketball court, softball field and the track. Our girls team can really be special.”

Assistant Mike McLaughlin has been instrumental in the relayers’ improvement this year. McLaughlin is a 2014 Baldwin grad who ran at Edinboro then coached at Carlow for four years.

“Mike has worked with these girls all season with his system of blending sprints, tempo and runs,” Wright said. “Now luckily, he’s with us again. He is a strong presence with all the distance kids and has done an outstanding job with our distance team all season.”

Another top performance for Baldwin at the invitational was turned in by junior Brooklyn Lucas, who placed seventh in the shot put and ninth in the javelin.

Jahzara Green, also a junior, just missed an appearance on the medal stand with a ninth-place showing in the discus. She also competed in the shot put event.

Other individual track competitors for the girls team included junior Grace Wyse (100, 200), Ruvolo (100, 200), Blount (400), senior Alayana Kercher (400), sophomores Isabella Niles (800), Addison Hirt (1,600), Ella Schwarzmiller (100 hurdles) and Vivien Skalos (300 hurdles), freshmen Charlotte Fauls (100 hurdles, long jump), Morgan Leaf (1,600) and Abby Hirt (1,600) and seniors Madison Mussomeli (100 hurdles), Angelena Gromo (300 hurdles) and Elise Diebler (300 hurdles).

Other field competitors included juniors Annabelle Herrle (high jump, long jump, pole vault) and Rebecca Knight (discus, shot put), senior Alayna Scanlon (pole vault), sophomore Anna Pluckett (discus) and freshmen Becca Gruntz (long jump, triple jump), Caitlyn Campbell (triple jump) and Rhiana Lavelle (javelin).

Two seniors set the pace for the Baldwin boys team as double medalists in the field events.

Marcus Toto placed third in the triple jump and fourth in the long jump, while Jake Kunzman zeroed in on third in the javelin and sixth in the discus.

Jonus Ruvolo, another senior, finished fifth in the 200, and the Highlanders secured sixth place in the 400 relay. Senior Kurt Maiden, Toto, junior Warren Jones and Ruvolo teamed up in the relay race.

Other individual track competitors for the boys team were Jones (200, 400), freshman Logan Breisinger (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles), Maiden (400), sophomores Zach Lieu (400), Jackson Presto (800), McKinley Beech (800) and Tanner Zalar (800), freshmen Jack Reichl (1,600) and Kacee Davenport (3,200), juniors Arturo Gromo (1,600) and Andrew Winschel (1,600) and sophomores Alex Castaneda (3,200) and Gavin Reis (3,200).

Other field athletes included senior Amara Sheriff (long jump, triple jump), sophomore Noah Saccani (triple jump), Kunzman (long jump) and juniors Gabe Herrle (pole vault) and Nathaniel McWilliams (javelin).

“As I told the kids, just compete,” Helbig said. “Times and performances will take care of themselves. Even though they may not have medaled, most of the athletes bettered their performance in their events by just competing.”

The Baldwin Invitational celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and former coach and founder Chuck McKinney was on hand.

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