Hempfield throwers looking to dominate at WPIALs, PIAAs

Sunday, May 16, 2021 | 7:51 PM

Not everyone’s yard has a throwing circle in it.

Dave Murray’s does, and he thanks his wife, Amanda, for allowing it.

It has paid dividends over the years as Hempfield has produced top-notch throwers year after year. This season has a chance to be the best of all.

Murray has been the Hempfield throwing coach for more than 20 years, and he coached numerous WPIAL and PIAA champions. That number has a good chance of increasing Wednesday at the WPIAL track and field championships and May 29 at the PIAA meet at Shippensburg.

Seniors Dan Norris and Isabella Gera are seeded No. 1 in Class AAA in the state in the discus. Norris is No. 1 in the shot put, and both will face tough competition the next few weeks.

“We’re looking to sweep at WPIALs,” Murray said. “Dan and Bella have been throwing well in practice. But we have others I feel have a good chance at earning medals.”

They are sophomore Elizabeth Tapper (shot put and discus), freshman Peyton Murray (discus and shot put), sophomore Brooke Bomer (discus), sophomore John Paul Gera (shot put) and senior Emma Fox (shot put).

“We’re excited,” Murray said. “This could be a big week.”

Norris’ best throw of the season came April 7 against Penn-Trafford: 190 feet, 2 inches. His top throw in the shot put is 62-4, which came May 1 at Latrobe at the Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association meet.

Hot on his heels in the shot put is Somerset senior Dustin Hyde (60-4), who is originally from Southmoreland.

“I just have to keep working hard and keep things smooth,” Norris said earlier this season. “I have to keep it up in the weight room. I’d like to add more distance in both. I feel it should come.”

Norris plans to compete in track and field at Southern Illinois.

“Coach Murray has kept working on me over the years,” Norris said. “Now I’m bigger and stronger.”

Peyton Murray, son of the coach, is ranked ninth in Class AAA in the state with a throw of 162-8.

Gera said she and Norris are looking to break school records, and those distances are within their grasps. Gera already owns both, but she’d like a shot at the state record of 168 held by Greensburg Central Catholic’s Colleen Rosensteel.

Gera is second in the shot put. Her best throw is 45-5. Council Rock South’s Siniru Iheoma (51-5½) is No. 1.

Gera’s top discus toss is 161-1. Iheoma is No. 2 with a 155-5, and Tapper is third with a 140-1.

“We’ve started to taper down for the end of the season,” Gera said. “Coach Murray has set up different workouts to get us ready.”

Gera will throw for Wake Forest.

Murray said the other banner year season for Hempfield — which has won nine state titles in throwing events — came in 2007, when Weston Banks won the shot put and discus, and Kim Kanala won the discus.

WPIAL Class AAA track and field championships

Where: Slippery Rock

When: Wednesday, 3:15 p.m.

Goal: Top four finishers in each event automatically qualify for the PIAA championships May 29 at Shippensburg. An additional four can qualify if they meet state qualifying standards.

Boys to watch

• Sprinters: Butler’s Guinness Brown (100 meters, 200, 400), Seneca Valley’s Tyler Yurich (100), Canon-McMillan’s Justin Egizio (200) and Blake Lauper (400)

• Distance runners: Butler’s C.J. Singleton (1,600, 3,200), Moon’s Jacob Puhalla (800), Butler’s Skyler Vavro (3,200), Ringgold’s Ryan Pajak (3,200)

• Hurdlers: West Mifflin’s Dontae Lewis (110, 300), Central Catholic’s Anderson Cynkar (110), Seneca Valley’s Aiden Kutchma (110, 300), Elizabeth Forward’s Robert Hrabosky (300)

• Relay teams: Butler (1,600), Canon-McMillan (1,600), Central Catholic (400, 3,200), Pine-Richland (400), Seneca Valley (3200)

• Jumpers: Beaver’s Tyler Ziggas (high), Seneca Valley’s Tyler Yurich (long), North Allegheny’s Dwayne Taylor (long, triple)

• Throwers: Hempfield’s Dan Norris (discus, shot put), Plum’s Logan Parker (shot put), McKeesport’s Colin Lyons (discus), Norwin’s Aaron Schmook (javelin), Butler’s Landon Kretzer (javelin)

• Vaulters: Hempfield’s Tanner Barnhart (pole), Butler’s Tristan McGarrah (pole).

Girls to watch

• Sprinters: Central Valley’s Paige Drake (100), Upper St. Clair’s Dani Prunzik (100, 200), South Fayette’s Amy Allen (200, 400), Trinity’s Alyssa Clutter (200)

• Distance runners: Moon’s Mia Cochran (1,600, 3,200), Baldwin’s Lena Barakat (800), Pine-Richland’s Meredith Price (3,200)

• Hurdlers: Butler’s Emma Lehman (100, 300), Norwin’s Natalie Shuster (100) and Layla Robertson (300)

• Relays: Butler (1,600), Central Valley (400), South Fayette (400, 1,600, 3,200)

• Jumpers: Beaver’s Emma Pavelek (high), Mt.Lebanon’s Matisse Gelblum (long), New Castle’s Maria Owen (long), Canon-McMillan’s Bennett Pidro (long), Franklin Regional’s Rayna Todero (triple), Butler’s Baggetta (triple)

• Throwers: Hempfield’s Isabella Gera (discus, shot put), Hempfield’s Elizabeth Tapper (discus, shot put), Latrobe’s Anna Rafferty (shot put), Armstrong’s Kylie Grafton (javelin), New Castle’s India Bailey (javelin)

• Vaulters: Bethel Park’s Megan Malecki (pole), South Fayette’s Melana Schumaker (pole)

Races to watch: The girls 3,200 has seven runners who have reached the state standard. … The boys 110 hurdles has three runners within a second of each other.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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