Hampton athletes sprint toward WPIAL track championship meet

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Saturday, May 15, 2021 | 9:01 AM


The Hampton boys track and field team last month won its first section title in 36 years.

Next up for the Talbots is the chance for some individual accolades.

Hampton heads into the WPIAL Class AAA track and field championships May 19 at Slippery Rock with a number of highly seeded hopefuls.

The 400 and 1,600 relay teams are both ranked in the top 5. Seniors Gage Galuska and Corey Letterle, junior Matt DeMatteo and sophomore Joey Mayer — who comprise both relay teams — have also posted WPIAL-qualifying times in individual events, while the Schwartz brothers, senior high jumper Nick and junior javelin thrower Logan, are in good position to qualify.

The top 24 in each event based on the WPIAL regular-season performance list will punch their ticket to Slippery Rock.

“I feel like we can do really well in the WPIALs in the (1,600 relay),” said Mayer, who will also compete in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles. “I feel like if I start off and give us a pretty good lead, Matt (DeMatteo) isn’t going to give up that lead. And once Matt gives that to Corey (Letterle), it’s pretty much game over, because Corey and Gage (Galuska) are really good.”

Galuska tuned up for the WPIALs with a record-breaking performance at the Northern Area Last Chance meet at Pine-Richland on May 11. He timed 22.43 seconds in the 200-meter dash to break the school record of 22.6 set by Ross Howat in 2007. Galuska also ran the 100 in 11.13, which, when converted to hand time, equaled the school record of a hand-timed 10.9, set by Frank Todd in 1988 and Jimmy Heaton in 2008.

Galuska will not compete in the 100 or 200 at the WPIAL championships. Rather he will focus on the 400, in which he’s the No. 3 seed with a time of 50.69, and anchoring the two relays. Galuska finished fourth in the 400 at WPIALs as a sophomore.

Another record-breaking senior at Hampton, Hannah Schepner, will compete in the high jump, long jump and triple jump in what promises to be a busy day at WPIALs.

Schepner turned in a memorable performance at the Butler Invitational on April 24. She was named the Field MVP after placing first in the long jump, third in the triple jump and fourth in the high jump. Along the way, she leaped 17 feet, 5.75 inches in the long jump to break Caitlin Ward’s school record (17-5, 2002) and soared 36-11 in the triple jump to erase Julia Conley’s school record (36-9.25, 2008).

Competing in three events, Schepner rarely slowed down for about five consecutive hours.

“There is no down time,” she said. “Between my triple jump finals and the end of high jump, I was actually running back and forth across the field.”

Freshman Kat Milon has qualified in the 400, and Ava Vitello (1,600), Hannah Dietrich (shot put) and Abbey Cullen (long jump) were on the right side of the WPIAL cut line as of May 10.

The boys team placed second in the Butler Invitational, believed to be the Talbots’ best finish in the prestigious event, on April 24 and two days later, defeated Mars, 99-51, to wrap up a 6-0 mark in Section 4-AAA and win their first section crown since 1985.

“It felt great,” Mayer said. “I really wasn’t expecting this track season to be much with covid. I felt like we were going to get shut down again. But that didn’t happen. We just kept going with it and next thing you know, we are section champs.”

The boys celebrated by dumping a bucket of water over the head of Derek Brinkley, their 18th-year coach.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Brinkley said. “It was cold and wet and everybody thought I was going to be annoyed, but I wasn’t. I thought it was good. It was fun. The kids were excited.”

The Talbots fell short in the WPIAL team semifinals against South Fayette, Hempfield and Mt. Lebanon on May 4, but the experience was valuable for a program that had reached the WPIAL playoffs only three times in the past two decades.

“We were really excited about going to that meet,” Brinkley said. “We ran a bunch of best times. Whatever we wanted to happen there, happened. … For us to compete the way we did was pretty cool.”

Letterle is ranked seventh in the 400, and DeMatteo is seeded in the top five in the 300 hurdles and the triple jump.

The 1,600 relay is ranked No. 4 and the 400 relay is No. 5.

Other than Galuska and Schepner, the rest of the Talbots will be competing at the WPIAL championships for the first time. The top four at the WPIALs, plus as many as four additional finishers who meet the PIAA standard, will qualify for states.

“I really don’t know what to expect,” Mayer said. “I know there is going to be a lot of people there. But with both relays I feel like we are going to do pretty good, and I don’t really care how many people are there.”

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