Pole vaulters help Hempfield clinch WPIAL track championship
Tuesday, May 7, 2019 | 4:22 PM
If members of the Hempfield boys track and field team needed any extra motivation to win WPIAL Class AAA team championship, maybe it came in their seeding by the WPIAL committee.
Hempfield coach Ron Colland’s team was seeded fourth behind North Allegheny, Seneca Valley and Mt. Lebanon.
But Colland knew his team had a chance to win if the athletes performed to their abilities.
His squad did that and more.
Hempfield won its seventh WPIAL team championship late Monday night at Peters Township despite the odds being stacked against it. The Spartans’ last title came in 2012 and the first was in 1975.
“The entire team stepped up,” Colland said. “We have a small group of athletes this year who worked so hard. The field event people were outstanding. They PR’d all over, and the runners did their jobs knowing we’d have a tough time scoring against the top three cross country teams.”
Colland was dealing with a smaller squad than normal — 38 boys, down from 65 a year ago — and his top pole vaulter, Tanner Barnhart, was out while dealing with a foot injury. His injury occurred at the WPIAL semifinals April 29 when he slipped on the grass.
Hempfield needed to win the final event of the meet, the pole vault, to defeat North Allegheny and Seneca Valley. The Spartans had already defeated Mt. Lebanon, but were clinging to a one-point lead over the other two.
Junior vaulters Rylan Kauffman and Lucas Kissel stepped up by winning the event, and Hempfield celebrated a 79-71 victory over both North Allegheny and Seneca Valley. They defeated Mt. Lebanon, 87-63.
Kauffman actually had to deal with another obstacle. He snapped his first pole.
“That was a trip,” Kauffman said. “Luckily, I landed on the mat. I’m just happy we pulled through for the team.”
Another the juniors clinched the title, the 24 members of the team who competed in the finals did a victory lap around the track singing and chanting.
The meet did not end until after 10 p.m.
The Spartans got a great effort from senior Gavin Mayo, who broke the school long jump record with a mark of 23 feet, 7 1/2 inches. Ed Buggs set the previous mark at 22-11 in 1975.
Nathan Roby set a personal record in winning the 100, Jared Bannon shined in the hurdles, Jacob Board won the javelin and Dan Norris won the shot put.
Colland, who spends his winters in Arizona with his son and grandchildren, said he is considering his future and possibly retirement.
“My coaches told me before the season that we had a good chance at winning the title,” Colland said. “I’m going to decide if I should retire or come back. I can go out on top, but it’s going to be tough to walk away after this.
“We’re going to lose a lot of good seniors, but we have a lot good athletes coming back. I’ll take some time to decide.”
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .