Shorthanded Penn-Trafford track teams eye individual success

Friday, April 5, 2019 | 5:14 PM

For the second year in a row the Penn-Trafford boys and girls track teams have small rosters, but that doesn’t mean there is a shortage of talent.

Being low on numbers will make it tough to score enough points to win meets, but the Warriors have several athletes who plan on making an impact at the individual level.

That starts with senior thrower Evan McAllister, who is the lone returning state qualifier. Cam Elma, who qualified for states in shot put in 2018, graduated.

McAllister placed third in discus at the WPIAL championships last year with a throw of 149 feet, but didn’t have as good of a day at Shippensburg, hitting 133.

Penn-Trafford coach Eric Reger appreciates McAllister’s work ethic and sees last year’s result at the PIAA meet as a motivating force.

“(Evan) is up at the throwing area all months of the year,” Reger said. “He stays an hour after practice every day throwing discus. He’s intent on returning to states and placing well. States is a big stage, and that’s a really big venue. It’s the first time we’ve been to a venue that big, so I think he’s ready for that now.”

McAllister may have some company with him in the conversation for qualifying for states in senior high jumper Chris Colligan.

Colligan placed first in the high jump at the Tri-State Track Coaches Association Indoor Championships in February at Edinboro. He won with a 6-1 jump in the final. That result has heightened expectations for the spring.

“He won the indoor tri-state and he might be the favorite in the WPIAL for high jump,” Reger said. “He’s definitely another one that has a good chance to go to states.”

On the girls side, sophomore Lizzie Cermak is off to a good start in the 100 and 200 meters, going undefeated in her first three outdoor meets. Cermak placed eighth at WPIALs in the 100 last May.

Cermak, like many of Penn-Trafford’s athletes experiencing early success, has benefited from offseason training.

“This is the second year in a row that we’ve done a pretty concentrated conditioning program in the winter, and I think it’s really helped our kids,” Reger said. “They’re all doing better than they have the last couple years. We have a small team, which really limits our scoring ability, but they’re all doing really well.”

The Warriors also have a couple of underclassmen runners who could take a step forward for the boys team.

Freshman Ian Demiri had a good showing at the Tri-State indoors in the 100, and Reger thinks he can continue to improve all spring.

“I think he’ll be a favorite to get to WPIALs and maybe even make the final,” Reger said. “For a freshman, that’s really good. He’s a football player, and he crosses over to track to help with football, which is good for him.”

Another Warrior who uses track to cross-train for another sport is sophomore distance runner Joe Whipkey.

Whipkey is a soccer player and specializes in the mile in track. It helps him build up the endurance needed for his main sport and at the same time could make a push toward qualifying for WPIALs.

“He keeps bumping his mile time down, and I think he’ll make it to WPIALs as a sophomore,” Reger said. “It’s good to get the young guys there.”

When Reger was a runner at Hempfield and even in college at Cal (Pa.), he had a lot of his classmates in other sports use the spring track season to stay in shape, but now he sees that as a diminishing trend.

While Penn-Trafford does have a couple of athletes who use track and field to cross-train for their fall or winter sports, Reger has seen more and more people choose to specialize and play one sport year round.

A lack of athletes from other sports has really taken a toll on the numbers for the girls team, which Reger described as “bare bones” roster. The girls team has to skip some events every meet because of lack of participation.

Though they don’t have the numbers to field a team that can score enough points, Penn-Trafford should be well-represented at the WPIAL meet in May.

“We have a lot of talent, but unfortunately we don’t have enough people to form a complete team,” Reger said. “We have a lot of kids with individual goals that motivate them even though our team scores haven’t been great because we don’t have a full roster.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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