North Hills athletes bring home WPIAL hardware

Thursday, May 24, 2018 | 11:00 PM

The North Hills track and field team put forth a strong showing at the WPIAL Class AAA track and field championship meet May 17 at Baldwin, with four of its athletes finishing high enough in their individual events to qualify for the PIAA meet.

One of the Indians' athletes, Elaina Longjohn, bested the entire field of WPIAL competitors in the triple jump as her leap of 37 feet, 3 12 inches secured her a gold medal. The sophomore took first place in the event by a considerable margin, with Norwin's Lexi Gray finishing second at 35-10.

In addition to her impressive performance in the triple jump, Longjohn also finished fourth in the long jump (19-2.25), allowing her to qualify for the state championships in two separate field events.

“She's a heck of an athlete,” North Hills coach Doug Sundo said. “She's been jumping very consistently and putting it all together. The light bulb really came on for her here in her sophomore year, and she just couldn't be trending in a more positive direction.”

Her brother, Andrew Longjohn, joined her at states after the senior grabbed fourth in the triple jump (43-2.75).

Another senior for North Hills, Amberly Valeriano, posted two top-four finishes in her marquee events at the WPIAL championships. Valeriano placed second in the long jump (18-8.50), giving the Indians two state-qualifying athletes in that event, and fourth in the 100-meter hurdles (14.56 seconds).

In addition to her strong individual performance, Sundo credits Valeriano and her fellow seniors with winding down the tension for the team's younger athletes at the WPIAL meet.

“Those seniors, they worked hard all year, they were focused. They just had their sights set, then they went out and executed in order to make it happen and make their way to states. The younger kids on the team were able to lean on them,” Sundo said.

“The seniors helped calm their nerves. It was beautiful to watch these seniors take the younger kids under their wing a little bit.”

One of those younger athletes, Tom McDonough, showed up in a big way for North Hills, posting top-four times in multiple sprinting events. The sophomore ran a blazing time of 10.93 seconds to secure second place in the 100-meter dash, and ran 22.09 in the 200 to take fourth. He qualified for the PIAA meet in both events.

“We worked with him all week at coming out of the blocks, and once he gets comfortable coming out of the blocks, the sky is really the limit with this kid,” Sundo said.

“I think this sport will open doors for him. With that 100 he ran, he just hit another gear and took off like nothing I've ever seen. He has the potential to be special, and we're just seeing hints of it so far.”

The PIAA Class AAA championship track and field meet was held over the weekend at Shippensburg, after deadline for this edition.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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