South Fayette track caps another successful season

Friday, June 8, 2018 | 8:30 AM

There are a number of different ways to determine how well a season has gone. Wins and losses is one. A section title and the number of medal winners at the WPIAL track and field championships are a few other benchmarks.

There's one other barometer that might slip beneath the radar when it comes to measuring the success to a season — hotel rooms.

When South Fayette coach Scott Litwinovich checked out of his hotel room on the last day of the 2017 PIAA track championships at Shippensburg, he reserved five rooms for the 2018 championships. As it turns out, five rooms was not enough; the Lions needed eight.

“We had a really good problem,” said Litwinovich, who just finished up his fourth season as coach. “I scrambled to get more rooms at the Country Inn & Suites in Chambersburg. You always look ahead and see what you have coming back, and I saw a lot of talent coming back.”

What Litwinovich didn't see was that he had more talent than he anticipated a year ago. After winning back-to-back Class AA girls team titles in 2013-14, it took some time for Litwinovich and his staff to build a program that could compete at the Class AAA level. Competing in Section 6 against long-time blue bloods such as Baldwin, Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon didn't make things any easier.

“They're all great track programs,” Litwinovich said, describing the section. “I love the section we're in; the coaches in the section and everybody has their heads in the right places.”

The girls team reappeared back on the WPIAL track and field map this year when they reached the WPIAL Class AAA team semifinals before falling to powerhouse Butler.

“We thought we had an outside chance against them,” Litwinovich said. “We had to win all the relays, and we knew that it was going to be tough after that if we didn't get all of the relay points.”

Nevertheless, the Lions put the team portion of the season behind them and went on to chase individual glory. Senior Rachel Helbling punched her ticket for the fourth and final time when she finished second at the WPIAL championships in the 400-meter run in 56.41 seconds. Helbling, a Richmond commit, went on to earn her third career PIAA medal when she finished fourth (55.91).

“I was very happy with states this year,” Helbling said. “Being this was my fourth year, I knew what to expect. It turned out well, and I ran a season-best time in the 400 (meters).”

Junior high jumper Hailey Bair finished 20th after clearing 5 feet. Bair tied a school record at the WPIAL championships with mark of 5-3 and finished sixth. Sophomore Mariah Mastro made great strides in her development as a thrower by placing 14th at states in the discus with a top throw of 100-9.

On the boys side, it was all about the seniors. Sam Mastro, a Liberty commit, came away with a fifth-place finish in the discus with a top throw of 166-5. And while Sam Snodgrass might have done a few things different this season, he came away with a 15th-place finish in the 1,600 meters (4:23.13). Snodgrass ran both the mile- and two-mile runs during the season but chasing glory in both events seemed to do more harm than good for the Duquesne track and cross country commit.

“I basically chose to focus on the two-mile run throughout my season,” Snodgrass said. “I won the two mile at the Butler invite, and I guess I just made the wrong decision and I didn't make my goal of (making) the second day at states or make it under the 4:20 mark.

“I don't think it's something that I could have changed. It's more of hindsight and hindsight is 20/20. You live and learn.”

Fellow senior Silas Mays placed 15th in the 800 meters (1:57.27).

“Silas, in his first year, finished third at WPIALs, and there's a lot to be said about that,” Litwinovich said. “It's pretty tough competition.”

Looking a head to next season, Litwin­ovich has plenty of reinforcements coming up on the girls side but will find himself trying to fill some bigs shoes on the boys team. He has a hunch that things will be just fine in the future.

“I (reserved) eight rooms (next year),” Litwinovich said. “If eight's not enough, that's a great thing, but we'll see what happens.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.


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