Runners Yourish, Shemanski set sights on WPIAL track medals

Wednesday, May 1, 2019 | 3:20 PM

Deer Lakes senior Josh Yourish and Freeport junior Sidney Shemanski are two of the top middle distance runners in the state.

Success from both previous seasons and this spring have put targets on their backs as ones to beat with the WPIAL championships two weeks from today. Both, however, are ready for the challenge.

“You can’t take anything for granted in your preparation,” Shemanski said. “At WPIALs, anything can happen.”

As a freshman, Shemanski burst onto the scene by capturing the WPIAL Class AA title in the 800.

“I felt like that underdog coming up, and I was driven to win and show people what I was all about,” Shemanski said.

Last year, a rivalry blossomed between Shemanski and then-freshman Melissa Riggins from Shady Side Academy. The two matched up several times in and out of section meets before Riggins and Shemanski finished first and second, respectively, at WPIALs and states.

Their state battle saw them complete the 800 separated by 17 one-hundredths of a second.

On the latest WPIAL Class AA performance list for the 800, Shemanski is No. 3 with a time of 2 minutes, 21.01 seconds. Riggins has the best time at 2:16.81, and Greensburg Central Catholic freshman Corinn Brewer is second at 2:19.40.

Shemanski, who has not faced Baker or seen her race, understands there always are several runners, including newcomers like Baker, ready to challenge for the top spot.

Shemanski also is second on the performance list for the 400, and she hopes to run that and the 800 at WPIALs. The events, however, are separated by only the 300 hurdles.

“It’s a little frustrating they are so close, but I have been running both events in dual meets, and there will be some more time between them at WPIALs,” Shemanski said.

She also is part of the Freeport girls 1,600 relay that is seeded sixth.

“We’re confident we can get a place or time that can get us to states,” Shemanski said.

Last week’s Section 7-AA meet was the last official meet for Shemanski before WPIALs.

“I’ll have a lot of time for some hard training to get my times down,” she said. “It’s about setting a schedule of the proper workouts each day to make sure I am ready to go for WPIALs.”

Yourish is atop the WPIAL performance lists in the 800 (1:59.46) and 1,600 (4:27.55) in Class AA. While those lists help him to see where he stands, he understands there is no time to rest on his laurels.

He has used last year’s WPIAL runner-up finish in the 800 as motivation.

“I was at the top of that 800 list for most of last year, but it didn’t turn into a WPIAL championship,” Yourish said. “I know I can’t be satisfied with where I am at. I have to keep dropping those times. Hopefully, I can turn those two current No. 1 seeds into gold medals.”

Yourish also is a part of the boys 3,200 relay that is seeded eighth this week (8:48.84).

His mental focus as WPIALs draws closer, he said, is matched by how he is feeling physically.

“I am feeling great right now,” Yourish said. “At the beginning of the season, I had a nagging groin issue and a few other things that I’ve worked through. I’m doing the right things in training that will help me stay fit for WPIALs.”

Yourish said finalizing his commitment to Division I George Mason helped take away some of the stresses of the season.

In addition to his personal accomplishments this season, Yourish said helping the boys team capture its first section title since 2006 and qualify for the WPIAL team semifinals for the first time since ‘11 was a special feeling.

“That was great because we didn’t expect it,” Yourish said. “We thought we lost a good bit of talent last year. But everyone stepped up. It was motivation for each of us to do our best at every meet.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .

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