Hampton runners good as gold at WPIAL, PIAA meets

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Saturday, June 3, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Hampton track won WPIAL and PIAA gold medals in May with a relay team that got a late start and a miler who had a great finish.

The girls 3,200 relay team of Kevyn Fish, Ava Vitiello, Teresa Grimm and Kathleen Milon, who ran together only twice prior to the WPIAL finals, raced to the Class 3A title, and junior Dale Hall followed with a gold medal in the 1,600 at the PIAA Class 3A track and field championships.

“I knew I had a lot of speed at the end,” Hall said after the race, “and I was confident I could outkick anyone.”

Hall hit the wire May 26 at Shippensburg with a school-record time of 4 minutes, 8.52 seconds, edging Butler junior Drew Griffith by seven-hundredths of a second.

Hall, who was seeded 11th, stayed with Griffith, the WPIAL champion, for the first three laps before taking the lead in the final 100 meters and holding off the top-seeded Butler runner. Hall, who had placed third at the WPIALs, covered the final 400 meters in a blazing 57.54 seconds.

“I just have felt really fresh the last few days,” Hall said after practice three days before the state finals.

Hall became the first PIAA champion from Hampton — boy or girl — in 41 years and joined Mike England (880, 1977-78) and Karl Kopczynski (discus, 1982) as the only boys state champions in program history.

Hall also broke Hampton’s 45-year-old 1,600 school record of 4:11.7, set by England in 1978.

Hall was joined by two Hampton 3,200 relay teams at the PIAA championships. The WPIAL champion girls placed 14th — first among WPIAL schools — in a personal-best time of 9:32.48, and the boys took 23rd in 8:08.53.

The boys quartet of Ben Sheets, Chris Belch, Jacob Bonnar and Hall placed third in the WPIAL finals with a personal-best time of 8:05.64.

Hall was determined at the state meet after he “mentally lost it on the third lap” of the 1,600 at the WPIAL championships. Despite running a pedestrian 1:10 on the third lap, he finished third with a then-personal-best time of 4:15.97.

“It gave me a lot of confidence, but it was still disappointing,” he said.

The girls 3,200 relay team wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the WPIAL championships. The quartet of Fish, Vitiello, Grimm and Milon competed together for the first time May 4 at the WPIAL Class 3A team semifinals, only two weeks before the big meet. They ran again at the Northern Area Last Chance meet May 11 at Pine-Richland, finishing first in 9:44.47.

“We just saw the talent that we thought they had and when we put them together, it just jelled,” Hampton track coach Heather Dietz said. “It was always in the back of our minds. We were just seeing how the season played out. As a coaching staff, we knew they had the potential to win.”

In the first event of the WPIAL championships May 17 at Slippery Rock, the girls relay team put it all together.

“I was super emotional about it,” said Vitiello, a Northeastern recruit. “I think we all knew we could do it, but it was kind of like an unspoken thing. We all knew we were fast enough and strong enough to do it.”

Fish, a sophomore, was eighth after the first leg, but Vitiello’s two-lap surge clawed the Talbots into second place. Grimm, a senior, kept pace and finally took the lead after leg-weary Mt. Lebanon sophomore Maeve McNamee collapsed to the track in the final 50 meters of her leg. Grimm handed off to Milon, who turned back Peters Township and Norwin runners on the way to the finish line with a winning time of 9:35.53. Norwin was second in 9:42.32.

“That was a crazy moment,” said Milon, a junior. “When Teresa passed the girl, I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this is insane. I have to keep this lead.’ I was just running for my life, those two laps.”

The Hampton girls didn’t fare as well in their individual events. Vitiello, Milon and Fish all placed worse than last year in their respective events.

Milon, who took a disappointing 10th in the 400 after qualifying for the PIAA championships each of the previous two years, admitted it was difficult to regain her competitive fire after the exhaustive gold medal-winning effort in the 3,200 relay.

“I tried to do my best, mentally,” Milon said. “I didn’t do as well as I wanted to, but I feel like we all kind of put everything into that relay for it to be so successful.”

Vitiello placed 10th in the 1,600 after taking fifth last year. Fish was 21st in the 3,200 after being seventh last year.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really super upset about it,” Vitiello said of her 1,600 effort. “It was really hard to get back into the mode mentally … because we were all just so happy. You kind of get a little bit lost in that. But I don’t have regrets about it. I had a great last WPIALs, and I’m really proud of the team.”

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