Led by record-setting performances, Quaker Valley girls defend WPIAL team track title

Sunday, May 21, 2023 | 11:01 AM

It wasn’t even close.

The Quaker Valley girls track and field team easily defended its WPIAL Class 2A championship in this year’s finals May 9 at Peters Township.

The QV girls cruised past Winchester Thurston, 92-57, Knoch, 100-50, and Derry, 100.5-49.5, to claim their second straight WPIAL title and ninth in school history.

“I am very proud of the girls’ performance,” coach Jared Jones said. “Going into the meet as the defending champions and favored to win the meet is a lot of pressure, but they outperformed their expectations.

“We had several girls achieve personal and season bests. This is usually pretty rare in a team championship meet due to the number of events the girls have to do. We even had two individuals set school records.”

Jay Olawaiye and Sarah Minard, both sophomores, were the record setters.

Olawaiye’s triple jump of 39 feet, 5.5 inches is a new school record and currently the No. 1 mark in the state for Class 2A girls.

“Jay is one of the most positive and humble athletes I have ever worked with,” Jones said. “She is very new to the sport and is learning more and more about jumping every day. It seems like every time she touches the runway, anything can happen. That was truly the case (at the WPIAL meet). She has a lot left in her this season.”

Olawaiye’s improvement in the triple jump has been a work in progress.

“It took me about half my freshman season to figure out that I was best fit for jumping,” she said. “I tried many other events until one day, (the coaches) told me to try triple jump. I ended up winning first at a meet with a jump of 32-5. From that point on, I worked on triple jump, and by the end of my freshman year, I had a triple jump of 34-2 and was 10th in the WPIAL 2A division.”

The 15-year-old athlete competed in indoor track this winter and ended up placing ninth at the state championships.

“What I wanted to do was to improve my jump so that I could place at outdoors states,” Olawaiye said. “I had trouble this season exceeding 36 feet for various reasons. One of my coaches, John Doucette, helped me get out of this slump and coached me until I got it right.

“I did break 36 at both invitationals I attended near the end of the season, so I gained my confidence back. At the (semifinal) playoff meet, I fouled on all three of my jumps. This devastated me but gave me motivation to avenge myself for the WPIAL final.”

Olawaiye posted a 36-7 on her first attempt at the WPIAL meet, followed by a 37-7 until hitting 39-5 on her third jump.

“I had all my teammates supporting me on both the girls and boys side,” Olawaiye said. “I really focused on my first jump, and I really put all of my energy into my next two jumps. The second jump was a foot over my personal record. On the third jump, I took in everything my coaches said and broke the school record.”

Olawaiye is a two-sport standout at Quaker Valley. She competed at No. 1 singles for the girls tennis team in the fall.

She also is vice president of student council and assistant chairman of the council’s service committee. She participates in mock trial and Science Olympiad, two writing clubs, Bittersweet and Quaker Quill, and annually competes in the “Battle of the Books.”

Olawaiye also participates in her school’s orchestra and choir and RMU’s Health Professions mentor program and volunteers at her church.

The QV underclassman thoroughly enjoys all her time practicing and competing with the girls track and field program.

“Every girl on the team works hard in practice and contributes to our success,” she said. “They are all wonderful people, and I’m so excited to run another track season with them.

“I expected us to do well this season. There were some very strong returning athletes and strong freshmen as well.”

Minard broke her school record twice in the pole vault with a final height of 10-2.

“I’m proud of Sarah’s performance and overall growth this year,” Jones said. “In my opinion, high jump and pole vault are the most challenging events from a mental perspective because you can see the standard you are trying to hit. In other events, you just perform, but in high jump and pole vault, the bar is set where it is set.

“Sarah has done an amazing job with the mental side of the event, and it has led her to fly to new heights when it matters most.”

One of Minard’s goals this year was to break the school record in the pole vault.

“I really wanted to beat the school record or get a personal record in the double digits,” she said. “I did track last year as a freshman. It was definitely a lot different from this year’s season, but I enjoyed them both equally. I made a lot of close bonds this season, which made meets and invites a ton of fun.

“We all worked really hard this year, especially on the days where the weather was horrendous. We also supported each other, which helped our performances.”

Minard, 17, competed in gymnastics until suffering an elbow injury last year.

“After my injury, it was really difficult to get back into gymnastics, so I started to focus on pole vault a lot more,” she said. “Gymnastics definitely prepared me for pole vault and the pressure of going to big meets.”

Minard said the QV girls team actually exceeded its early outlook this spring.

“My expectations were really high since we did win the WPIAL last year,” Minard said. “I was definitely more nervous though, because that meant we had more of a target on our backs.

“I think, as a team, we exceeded our expectations by getting lots of personal bests and just stepping up when it really mattered.”

Along with Olawaiye’s and Minard’s winning WPIAL efforts, individual titlists for the Quakers consisted of junior Ellie Cain (800, 1,600), senior Nora Johns (300 hurdles), sophomores Kwilai Karto (100 hurdles) and Cecilia Montagnese (3,200), and freshmen Mia Gartley and Oumou “Mimi” Thiero, who tied for first in the high jump.

“The girls team was favored going into the meet after winning the WPIAL championship last season,” Jones said, “and they showed up to defend their title, taking first overall in nine of 15 individual events and two of the three relays.”

Quaker Valley’s boys capped their WPIAL team season with a second-place showing at the Class 2A finals.

Greensburg Central Catholic won its first WPIAL boys team title and was followed by QV, Shenango, the defending champion, and South Park.

“I am extremely proud of the boys and how they battled throughout the meet,” Jones said. “Greensburg Central Catholic was heavily favored, but the (QV) boys significantly outperformed their expectations.

“At the end of the meet, the score was 75-70 with only the 4-by-4 relay left, which was worth five points. Our relay had a season’s best time but fell just short of tying the meet.”

The Quakers “fought hard” to defeat Shenango, 98-54, and South Park 97-53, but ultimately lost to the Centurions by a final score of 80-70.

Two distance runners, sophomore Clark LaLomia (1,600) and freshman Tyler Bell (3,200), were individual winners for QV. The 3,200 relay team, consisting of Bell, junior Matt Cohen, freshman Corben Hopkins and sophomore Jackson Pethel, also connected to take first place.

“Our boys’ 4-by-400 performed admirably with our anchor, Clark LaLomia, taking second in the 3,200-meter run just minutes before the relay,” Jones said.

The winning relay team for the QV girls consisted of Montagnese, juniors Lizzie Szuba and Kate Hines and Cain in the 3,200, along with freshman Zora Washington, Karto, sophomore Vanessa Pickett and Johns in the 400.

“The girls 4-by-800 relay time of 9:47.30 is ranked first overall in the WPIAL while the 4-by-100 relay time of 49.81 is second overall,” Jones said.

Additionally, senior Zoey Murawski (3,200), and sophomores Amelia Pribik (javelin) and Olivia Jordan (pole vault), placed in the top three for the QV girls.

Others finishing in the top three for the boys team were sophomore Thomas Debalak (long jump, triple jump), seniors Timmy Burda (300 hurdles), Luke Hotchkiss (800), Noah Jordan (pole vault), Noah Leathers (110 hurdles) and Alex MacDonald (discus), junior Izzy Emerson (200), sophomore Macky Gartley (110 hurdles), freshman River Capek (400) and Pethel (800).

Debelak had PRs in the long and triple jumps but was outjumped by a GCC athlete’s final attempt in both events to push Debelak into second place.

Emerson registered PRs in the 100 and 200 to secure unexpected points for the Quakers. Jordan shattered his previous high-water mark in the pole vault by a foot, and senior Jakub Pickett posted a PR in the long jump.

During the regular season, several top five marks in school history were attained by QV tracksters, including Thiero (second in the high jump), Gartley (third in the high jump) and Jordan (third in the pole vault) along with MacDonald (fourth in the discus) and Leathers (fifth in the 110 hurdles).

QV has won three WPIAL championships (1995-97) in boys track and field in school history.

A total of 99 athletes initially signed up for QV’s track and field program this season.


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