Penn Hills track team ready for anything after canceled season

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Sunday, March 21, 2021 | 10:01 AM


The 2021 track season at Penn Hills will be filled with many unknowns.

One thing for certain is youth will be served this spring.

“I have a very young team this year,” said veteran coach Lee Zelkowitz. “All the coaches are enjoying working with these athletes. They are very motivated and eager to learn.

“I look to this track season as building for the future as missing the entire 2020 season because of the pandemic had a huge effect on the program. This year we are small in numbers. Having the hybrid school year makes it hard to get the word out.”

Now, for some of the uncertainties.

“The upcoming season is still filled with many unknowns,” Zelkowitz said. “I have no invitationals scheduled yet; many have been canceled. We have our section meets, an additional home meet with Clairton and two scrimmages.”

Two athletes Penn Hills is counting on to have big outdoor seasons are Jonah Silverman, a senior team captain, and junior strongarm Angelo Allen.

Silverman is a multi-sport athlete. He also plays soccer, was a kicker on the football team and will add baseball to his resume this spring.

“We do have a few veterans this year,” Zelkowitz said. “Jonah Silverman had a fantastic 2020 indoor season and was ready to explode for the outdoor season. However, we were shut down and it took away that opportunity. He is set to have a good 2021 outdoor track season as he wants to pick up where he left off last year.

“Jonah is a good athlete. He’s decided to renew his passion for baseball this year.”

Silverman specializes in the 800 meters and runs a leg in the 1,600 and 3,200 relays.

“He should qualify for the WPIAL championship meet in the 800,” Zelkowitz said, “and possibly states.”

Allen enjoyed a record-breaking indoor season. He was the only Penn Hills athlete able to compete in indoors, which allowed him to break a 52-year-old shot put record set by Jack Poindexter. Allen plans to compete in the shot put and discus.

“Angelo is our top thrower,” Zelkowitz said. “We are looking forward to watching Angelo excel and break the outdoor shot put record.”

The 5-foot-11, 235-pound Allen logged a toss in the shot put of 56-3.5 on Feb. 6 at an indoor throwing meet at Hempfield, eclipsing Poindexter’s mark of 53-10.5 set in 1969. Poindexter also holds the Indians’ outdoor shot put record of 57-5, also set in 1969.

“When Angelo started training in December, I noticed not only how much bigger he was than last season but how much stronger he was,” Zelkowitz said. “He really has been working hard in the weight room.”

Allen went through a rigorous training schedule in the offseason, working out five days per week.

“I would do heavy weight training for two days in the gym at my high school and two days at home by myself,” Allen said. “And one additional day, I did plyometrics up at the high school, usually in the evening but definitely after normal throwing practice.”

Allen hopes to become the first Penn Hills athlete to top 60 feet in the shot put and to eclipse 140 feet in the discus.

Zelkowitz expects senior Faith Crawford to be a force on the girls team this season. Crawford runs the 100, 200 and 400 and will be part of the 400 and 1,600 relays.

During the 2019 season, she also competed in the high jump.

“Faith has been with our program since her freshman year and has experienced success both indoor and outdoor in past seasons,” Zelkowitz said. “I expect Faith to have a good senior season. She trains hard and is a tough-minded competitor.”

There are many first-year athletes in the Indians’ track and field program this season.

“I’m looking forward to the upcoming season with all the new faces on the team,” Zelkowitz said. “It gives us the chance to teach what the sport is about and let our student-athletes discover the toughness and resolve they have.

“Keeping this year’s group motivated and excited is key to rebuilding our program and returning to the tradition of Penn Hills track and field excellence.”

Zelkowitz has been involved in the track and field program at Penn Hills since 1996.

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