Hempfield state champ Liz Tapper named Tribune-Review Westmoreland Girls Athlete of the Year

Saturday, July 2, 2022 | 6:19 PM

Liz Tapper’s unbelievable junior track and field season at Hempfield is turning into a great summer.

That’s because Tapper has been on the road visiting colleges. She’s made a unofficial visits to Duke, Penn State, Michigan and Maryland and plans to make a couple of officials visits later in the summer. One possible visit is UCLA.

“I plan on picking a school during the early signing period in the fall,” Tapper said. “It’s an exciting process.”

Tapper recently capped her junior season by becoming a high school national champion in the discus at New Balance Nationals at Franklin Field in Philadelphia on June 17 with a throw of 163 feet, 2 inches.

The effort came a few weeks after Tapper won WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A discus and shot put titles. Her winning throw was 153 feet at the PIAA meet at Shippensburg and 147-7 at the WPIAL meet at Slippery Rock.

Her personal best throw is 163-9.

She also was a first-team all-section volleyball player as an outside hitter, and she placed second in the state during the indoor shot put season.

She carries a 4.0 GPA.

For her efforts, Tapper is the Tribune-Review Westmoreland Girls Athlete of the Year. She edged out Mt. Pleasant freshman swimmer Lily King, Southmoreland junior Olivia Cernuto and Greensburg Central Catholic senior Corinn Brewer.

“First of all, Liz is a great person,” Hempfield throwing coach Dave Murray said. “She works extremely hard and never misses practice. We had a throwing session recently, and she made it back to work out after visiting Maryland.

“She’s also become a team leader. She pushes other throwers to work hard. She’ll do anything to help the team.”

Not only is Tapper an outstanding thrower, she’s also one of the top pole vaulters in the state. She placed second in the WPIAL with a jump of 11-6. Her personal record is 12-2.

“I had a good season in volleyball,” Tapper said. “The team made some strides, and I’m excited about my senior season.”

But it was in track and field is where she shined the brightest.

Tapper started her athletic ventures in gymnastics. It was pole vault coach Melissa White who got her involved in track.

“I had her in sixth grade, and I knew she was in gymnastics,” White said. “I like to get gymnasts to pole vault, and she told me she was quitting gymnastics because she was getting too tall.

“She started vaulting when she was in sixth grade, and she’d come to the indoor meets to watch and help out. She was like a sponge. She watched everything.”

Tapper competed in the sprint relay, high jump and pole vault in middle school. When she got to ninth grade, she had foot issues because of running. So White suggested she see Murray about becoming a thrower.

“We like our athletes to compete in multiple events,” White said. “There is no challenge too big for her. You have to be disciplined to be able to go from event to event.”

“Coach White thought I should give pole vault a shot,” Tapper said. “But coach Murray saw something in me I didn’t know I could do. I can’t thank them enough for making me who I am.”

Tapper’s goals in the throwing events were met early in the season. She hoped to throw 150 feet in the discus, and she easily surpassed the mark.

Now her goal in the discus is to reach the 170-180 range. Murray said she already is working toward those goals, having surpassed 170 in practice.

“Reaching my goals early gave me a lot of confidence,” Tapper said. “One thing I need to do is get stronger. My technique is good.”

Tapper hopes to surpass 50 feet in the shot put and feels she can clear 13 feet in the pole vault.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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