Penn Hills athletes prepare for postseason competitions

Thursday, April 25, 2019 | 11:18 PM

Last year, the Penn Hills track and field program was well represented by the boys team in the postseason meets. This year, it’s the girls turn as they look to bring a big contingent to states.

After dealing with injuries last season, senior Lillia Allen is getting back into form in the shot put and discus events.

Allen finished second in the shot put (39 feet, 10.50 inches) at the Tri-State Track Coaches Association meet at West Mifflin on April 13. Allen finished behind South Park’s Maura Huwalt (43-10).

In the discus, Allen finished third (122-08) behind Huwalt (145-06) and Bethel Park’s Sarah Gilliam (124-09).

A week later, Allen improved in both events as she finished second in the shot put (40-10) and third in the discus (125-09) at the Rock Relays at Slippery Rock University on April 20.

During her sophomore year, Allen finished second in the shot put at WPIALs and 11th at states. In the discus, Allen finished fourth at WPIALs.

“She is really getting her confidence back now and picking up where she left off before the injury,” coach Lee Zelkowitz said.

Zelkowitz is hoping to have a handful of other athletes to join Allen at WPIALs and states.

Junior Kemi Balogun will aim for the podium at WPIALs in the triple jump. Balogun won the event at the TSTCA meet and Rock Relays with a 35-5.50 mark at West Mifflin and 35-01 mark at Slippery Rock.

Junior Eliza Brennan has her eyes set on running the 200-meter dash at WPIALs, while freshman Drew Hines looks to run the 400.

Brennan finished third in the 200 with a time of 26.63 seconds at West Mifflin, while Hines finished second in the 400 with a time of 59.98.

Freshman Miniya Pinnix, who is battling a knee injury, looks to qualify in the 800-meter run. During the indoor season, Pinnix finished 10th in the state meet in the 800 with a time of 2:17.64.

Zelkowitz has been working with Pinnix to make sure she peaks for the WPIAL and state meets even with the knee injury.

“It’s a little tough with younger kids because you have to specialize their workouts. You can’t give them too much, but you have to give them enough so they can compete,” Zelkowitz said.

“A lot of it is mental. You want them to feel fresh and strong. It can be a juggling act sometimes.”

The three also will make up three-fourths of the 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams.

In the 1,600 relay, Zelkowitz prefers to have Brennan lead off, while Hines does the second leg. Pinnix anchors the unit, leaving the third leg up for grabs between Jalynn Mitchell, Faith Crawford and Skye Brown.

At this time, Zelkowitz believes the ideal 400-meter relay team has Liz Blackwell leading of the relay with Brennan doing the second leg. The last two legs has a combination of Crawford, Hines, Brown and Kiera Ward.

Zelkowitz likes the ability to have options for his relay teams, especially when it comes to the 1,600.

“In the 4-by-400, you need five or six options; it’s the last event of the meet and a lot of things can happen as people could be banged up. You definitely need your alternates. It’s a blessing in disguise if you have to put somebody else in there,” Zelkowitz said.

Last year, Penn Hills’ boys team was represented by a trio of seniors — Alex Trower, Jaden Rouse and Emmanuel Mitchell — at states. This year, Zelkowitz hopes to bring a bigger group with him to states.

The Indians are preparing for the WPIAL Class AAA championships at Slippery Rock on May 16. If they qualify, the Penn Hills athletes will compete in the PIAA meet May 24 at Shippensburg.

“They have a good shot,” Zelkowitz said. “You never know; some funny things can happen at the district championship. But I think the girls team has a really good shot of getting a lot kids up to states this year.”


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