Oakland Catholic’s Jayla Ellis earns 4 medals, sets record at TSTCA championship
By: Chris Harlan
Saturday, April 13, 2019 | 9:30 PM
Two first-place medals, two seconds and a meet record caused Oakland Catholic’s Jayla Ellis to smile Saturday, but so did a candid compliment from her coach.
George Rudolph has coached track for 47 years including the past 30 at Oakland Catholic. In a career that spans nearly five decades, Rudolph says with confidence that Ellis is “obviously, for sure” the most versatile athlete he’s ever coached.
“I had Laura Grignano, who was a state champ and a national champion, and I’ve had lots of wonderful kids,” Rudolph said. “Jayla could win four events in a meet. To see her come along at my twilight years is great.”
That left Ellis a little speechless.
“It’s just an honor,” said the senior, who won four medals and broke a 22-year-old meet record at the Tri-State Track Coaches Association Outdoor Championship in West Mifflin.
“I try to do what I can for the team,” Ellis said. “To see that’s noticed and appreciated, that really means a lot.”
Ellis won the long jump (18-10¾) and high jump (5-2), and she placed second in the 100-meter hurdles (14.5) and the 1,600 relay (4:01.60). Her distance in the long jump broke a meet record set by Erie McDowell’s Carrie Mitchell (18-9) in 1997.
At various times in her high school career, Ellis also has run the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 300-meter hurdles. The Purdue recruit is a future college heptathlete, so she’s attempted a lengthy list of events.
“She’s throwing the javelin, shot put, high jump, long jump, hurdles — she’s doing all these things — and she’s excellent in all of them,” Rudolph said.
Ellis finished second in the state last season in the 100 hurdles (14.03 seconds), 13th in the long jump (16-10¾) and 18th in the high jump (5-0). In the WPIAL championship, she finished first, seventh and third in those events.
So, she entered this spring with title aspirations.
If there’s anything that has surprised Rudolph, it’s how Ellis is posting times and heights better than they’d expected for early April.
“She was even expressing that herself, she’s never started out this fast before,” Rudolph said. “Last year she started off the hurdles at 15 (seconds). This year 14. She started high jumping last year around 4-10. This year she’s jumping 5-2.
“She feels like she’s stronger.”
Ellis competed indoors all winter, and took fourth in the state in the long jump and fifth in the 60 hurdles.
As a senior, Ellis credits her start to maturity and motivation.
“I know what I want for this year,” she said. “I want to jump 20 feet. I want to go 13 in the hurdles. So having those goals, knowing that a strong start will be a foundation for that, has really pushed me.”
Six athletes won two individual events Saturday.
Along with Ellis, Oakland Catholic teammate Hannah Schupansky won the girls 800 (2:19.65) and 1,600 (4:59.08), and South Park’s Maura Huwalt won the girls shot put (43-10) and discus (147-7). Central Catholic’s Tyhir Royster won the boys 100 (11.07) and 200 (22.20), Baldwin’s Brendan O’Malley won the boys 400 (50.50) and long jump (22-7), and Mt. Lebanon’s Patrick Anderson won the boys 1,600 (4:18.03) and 3,200 (9:38.51).
Royster claimed a third victory with Central Catholic’s 400-meter relay team.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .