Quaker Valley runs it back with WPIAL girls team championship repeat

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Sunday, June 11, 2023 | 11:01 AM


It was a celebratory rerun of 2022.

Quaker Valley’s talented girls track and field team repeated its performance of last season by winning the WPIAL Class 2A team championship in 2023.

The QV girls easily defended its WPIAL title at the finals May 9 at Peters Township, rolling past Winchester Thurston, Knoch and Derry.

The Quakers took first place in 11 of the 18 events and had eight individual titlists, including junior Ellie Cain in both the 800- and 1,600-meter runs.

Cain won the 800 in 2:21.40 and the 1,600 in 5:29.83, but she said it took a team effort to claim a second consecutive team title.

“We all worked really hard to get to the WPIAL championships in the first place,” Cain said. “We also could not have won without the help of our coaches pushing us at practice every day and just being supportive in general.

“My expectations are high for next year. I think we are going to be very strong again.”

Others winning finishes for QV at the team finals were achieved by senior Nora Johns (300 hurdles), sophomores Kwilai Karto (100 hurdles) and Cecilia Montagnese (3,200) and freshman Zora Washington (200).

In field events, QV titlists were sophomores Sarah Minard (pole vault) and Jay Olawaiye (triple jump) and freshmen Mia Gartley and Oumou Thiero, who tied for first in the high jump.

The Quakers also won the 3,200 relay (9:47.30) and 400 relay (49.81).

Several of the QV girls talked about winning this year’s WPIAL 2A championship starting with the 6-foot-4 Thiero, a basketball standout who shared the high jump title with Gartley with a leap of 5 feet, 1 inch.

“We all did our very best to get to where we are. We all did great at what we do events-wise,” Thiero said. “I knew we had a good chance at the championship based on how skillful my teammates are, and I congratulate them all on how well they did. To say I’m surprised, not so much. I am very proud of the team. We have many great girls and athletes on our QV girls track team. They completely blew it out of the water, and everyone performed their best.

“We are only losing three seniors (next year) on the girls side, so our team is still quite strong. While those seniors will be missed, and I’m sad to see them go, I believe our team will continue to succeed.”

Gartley was one of the numerous outstanding freshman athletes on this year’s championship squad.

“The team had amazing performances all around,” she said. “Moving up as a freshman, there was a lot of pressure to defend our WPIAL title, but with the amazing performances the team was able to pull through to win.

“And I have high expectations for next year’s team since I heard there’s a lot of talent coming up from the middle school. I’m super excited to compete with them next year, and we’re hoping for another WPIAL title.”

One of Minard’s goals in 2023 was to break the school record in the pole vault. She actually shattered it twice at the team championships, eventually clearing 10-2.

“I really wanted to beat the school record or get a personal record in the double digits,” Minard said. “I did track last year as a freshman. It was a lot different from this season, but I enjoyed them both equally. I made a lot of close bonds this season, which made meets and invites a ton of fun.

“We all worked really hard, especially on the days where the weather was horrendous. We also supported each other, which helped our performances.”

A former gymnast, Minard said the Quakers actually exceeded their early outlook of this spring.

“My expectations were really high since we did win the WPIAL last year,” she said. “I was definitely more nervous though, because that meant we had more of a target on our backs.

“I think, as a team, we exceeded our expectations by getting a lot of personal bests and just stepping up when it really mattered.”

Olawaiye’s triple jump of 39-5.5 was a new school record as well as the No. 1 distance in the state at that time for 2A girls.

However, she praised the efforts of the other team members.

“Every girl works hard in practice and contributes to our success,” Olawaiye said. “They are all wonderful people, and I’m so excited to run another track season with them.

“I expected us to do well this season. There were some very strong returning athletes on the team and strong freshmen as well.”

Olawaiye is a two-sport standout. She competed at No. 1 singles in girls tennis in the fall.

Karto’s winning time in the 100 hurdles at Peters Township was 16.92.

“We had a very successful season,” she said. “We surpassed our 2022 WPIAL scores at the 2023 WPIAL championship meet. We were led by a wonderful group of experienced coaches.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to create friendships with athletes from so many different backgrounds and with a wide array of talents.”

Peak conditioning is key for the Quakers for 2024, according to Karto.

“The expectation is to come into next season further conditioned in order to achieve even more than the past two years,” she said. “I look forward to seeing new faces at the track and continuing old friendships. We have an incredible team and an exciting year ahead of us.”

Montagnese, a distance specialist, crossed the finish line in 12:31.76 in the 3,200.

“I’m really proud of my team and hope that we can continue this winning streak,” she said. “We are losing some seniors but also have a strong freshman group coming up. I’m confident we can continue our WPIAL victory (streak) and have a really impressive season next year.”

Johns captured the 300 hurdles championship in 47.41. She ended her highly successful career with three WPIAL and two PIAA gold medals, along with being an essential part of the two WPIAL team championships.

“The best part about track is the team,” she said, “so I am very happy we’ve had an amazing team all three years. I have enjoyed my high school track career, and I am going to miss it. It has been a huge part of me and the memories I have made will be with me forever.”

Washington finished with a time of 27.16 in the 200 at the team finals.

QV’s winning relay team at the meet consisted of Cain (anchor), Montagnese and juniors Lizzie Szuba and Kate Hines in the 3,200, and Johns (anchor), Karto, Washington and sophomore Vanessa Pickett in the 400.

Additionally, senior Zoey Murawski (3,200) and sophomores Amelia Pribik (javelin) and Olivia Jordan (pole vault) placed in the top three for the Quakers.

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