Penn Hills relay team gets feet wet at PIAA track championships

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Sunday, June 4, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Penn Hills track and field coach Lee Zelkwotiz was happy to be able to take another group of athletes to Shippensburg to compete in the PIAA Class 3A championships on Memorial Day weekend.

Following a few years with lower numbers after the start of the pandemic, the Indians track team bounced back with a group of new athletes coming out for the team.

The Indians’ 1,600-meter relay team — consisting of Maliah Powell, Janaya Coleman, Mackenzie McIntyre and Mylah Faulk — finished in 17th place at the state meet. Penn Hills finished the race in a time of 4 minutes, 5.20 seconds.

Freshman Milani Oliver was unavailable to compete after having a previous commitment to AAU basketball.

“They got their feet wet, but they ran OK,” Zelkowitz said. “It wasn’t their best time, but it happens. There were some really fast relay teams this year. The competition was tough.”

Further complicating things for Penn Hills was the conflict with the prom. Two of the four relay runners went to the dance and didn’t have much time to get out east before the event started.

Despite a few scheduling conflicts, Zelkowitz was happy to see how his roster was able to grow throughout the season. At a time when in the past, kids would have thrown in the towel, the Indians had more athletes stick around.

“It was a pleasant surprise this year to see kids hang in there,” Zelkowitz said. “Usually we have a good turnout in the first week and then kids dwindle down when they see how hard they have to work. We had a lot of young kids who ran events they’d never run before that they didn’t want to run. No one complained.”

Achan Green and Paris Bey each had strong seasons in the hurdles for Penn Hills. Alayna Bey also showed some progress.

“She showed progress and was able to do well in the 300 hurdles,” Zelkowitz said. “That is a technical event, and she was able to go there and do it.”

Zelkowitz also expects Coleman to excel in the 400-meter run next season as well. What he is most excited about is to see how Penn Hills can make progress with another year of experience.

Zelkowitz won’t be coaching the cross country team this fall. He is stepping down, and Ryan Donnelly will take over the program. Zelkowitz will return for the spring season next year.

“We had the spring letter ceremony (May 30),” Zelkowitz said. “I said this is a young team, we aren’t graduating a lot of seniors this year. If the kids stick with it and come back, we have a nice foundation to build off of.”

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