Returning state track qualifiers provide high expectations for Hampton girls

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Saturday, April 8, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The Hampton girls track and field team will be led this season by a Kat, a Fish and a soon-to-be Husky.

The trio of returning PIAA qualifiers — junior Kathleen Milon, sophomore Kevyn Fish and Northeastern-bound senior Ava Vitiello — give the Talbots a formidable foundation in the running events.

“The team looks really good,” said Vitiello, who last year placed fifth in the 1,600 at the WPIAL Class 3A championships. “I’m really excited for the season.”

The Talbots are aiming to finish in the top two in Section 4-3A and qualify for the WPIAL Class 3A team playoffs for the first time since 2019. They opened the season with a 98-30 section victory at Highlands on March 30.

“The kids are really excited, and they work hard during practice,” coach Heather Dietz said. “Our goal is to improve each and every day. I think in terms of our section, we could be successful on both (girls and boys).”

It has already been an emotional spring for Dietz, a longtime Hampton cross country coach in her second season atop the track program. Her mom, Pamela Batykefer, of Mars died at age 72 on March 3, three days before the start of track and field practice.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Dietz said.

But a bit of normalcy had returned by late March, as Dietz handed out track spikes and leaned on her staff, including assistants Joe Cangilla and Nick Panza, during a chilly afternoon practice at Fridley Field. Around her, athletes worked on relay handoffs and timing their long jump and triple jump launches.

“They are all working hard and having fun,” Dietz said, “and hopefully we will see some success.”

Milon, nicknamed “Kat,” is one of the top 400-meter runners in the WPIAL Class 3A, placing fourth last season as a sophomore, and Fish took seventh in the 3,200 as a ninth-grader.

Others being counted on this spring include freshman Sophie Shelkey, who will sprint and jump; sprinters Sara Kenst, a sophomore, and Claire Hukriede, a freshman; along with senior jumper Tess Restori, sophomore thrower Carolyn Clutter, senior twins Adrianna and Teresa Grimm and senior runner Kendall Solkovy.

Vitiello, also a cross country standout, has big plans for her final track season at Hampton before leaving for Division I Northeastern. Her personal best time in the 1,600 (5:01.14) is fewer than four seconds shy of the Hampton school record (Gina Alm, 4:57.42) set in 2014. Vitiello has continued to shave time since her sophomore season, when she placed 11th at WPIALs.

Vitiello and her teammates will tune up for the WPIAL Class 3A championships with trips to the Butler Invitational (April 21), the Mars Invitational (April 28) and the Pine-Richland Invitational (May 5).

“I’m hoping to go sub-5 (minutes),” Vitiello said. “We’ll see where that brings me. I’m feeling good. I had a great season last year, and I’m feeling good going into this one.”

Milon joined the track team as a ninth-grader as a way to “have fun and meet people” while also staying conditioned for basketball, her favorite sport. But she placed sixth in the 400 at the WPIAL Class 3A finals as a freshman and, before long, her competitiveness took over.

“I just started track my freshman year as a way to get in shape, but it really became a major part of my high school sports,” Milon said. “(At first), I just liked running fast on the track, and I hoped that was enough. But then it didn’t become enough.”

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