Surging sophomore leads Quaker Valley track team at states

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Sunday, June 4, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Sophomore sensation Jay Olawaiye made the biggest impact for Quaker Valley at the PIAA track and field championships at Shippensburg University.

Olawaiye finished as the Class 2A runner-up in the girls triple jump thanks to a leap of 37 feet, 7 inches.

“Jay’s performance was phenomenal,” QV coach Jared Jones said. “On her final jump of the day, she moved from fourth to second. I could not be happier for her. I am so proud of what she has done this season.”

Nataly Walters of Palmerton locked up first place in the event with a mark of 38-11.

“I am completely blown away by my improvement since I’ve started triple jumping,” Olawaiye said. “I never thought I would make it this far with this event, and I feel genuinely proud of myself.

“All the girls who were triple jumping with me (at Shippensburg) were so kind and sweet, and it was a dream come true.”

Ending her season as the runner-up at the state meet turned into an emotional experience for the 15-year-old Olawaiye.

“My initial reaction to hearing I placed second was breaking into tears,” she said. “I remember looking up at my coach and my friend and they were both holding up a number two. I started sobbing, and then the first-place winner hugged me, and I got myself together for the medal ceremony.”

Olawaiye is known as Jay, instead of her given name Joyce, at her high school and around her friends.

“I go by the name Jay because it’s shorter and I like it better,” she said. “It originally started as just ‘J’ but then I decided to spell it like the name just for aesthetic purposes.”

Olawaiye also placed second at the WPIAL championships this year with a triple jump of 36-9.5.

What’s next on the agenda for the 5-foot-6 trackster?

“I might do a track camp,” Olawaiye said. “However, my summer is occupied by tennis, vacation and SAT prep.”

Other PIAA medalists for the QV girls were senior Nora Johns (300 hurdles), freshman Mia Gartley (high jump), junior Ellie Cain (800) and the 3,200 relay team, consisting of Cain, juniors Kate Hines and Elizabeth Szuba and sophomore Cecilia Montagnese.

Johns placed fifth in the 300-meter hurdles in 46.81 after winning the event the past two years. She ended her career as a three-time medalist in the 300 hurdles at both the PIAA and WPIAL meets.

“I am pleased with my performance at the state meet,” Johns said. “Of course, I was trying to win, but my main goals were to have fun, try my best and enjoy my last high school track meet. I’m happy and have no regrets.”

Johns, who competed in basketball and soccer since her freshman year at QV, recently committed to continue her basketball and track careers at Ohio Wesleyan.

She fought through various injuries during the outdoor track season after straining a hamstring early on then straining her quad right before the WPIAL individual finals.

“Nora had a difficult season battling through adversity. I’m very happy she finished the season on a high note,” Jones said. “I am so proud of what Nora has done during her three years competing for Quaker Valley.”

Johns won the WPIAL championship earlier this year and wrapped up her career with three WPIAL and two state titles.

“Some of my fondest memories,” Johns said, “are winning the team WPIAL team championships both years and also meeting new people and having fun at states all three years. The best part about track is the team. I’m 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. It has made me a better athlete and an all-around better person. I’m thankful for the amazing coaches, my parents and my teammates.”

Gartley, who also competes in volleyball, corralled fifth place in the high jump by clearing 5-2.

“I was super stoked about my performance. It felt super surreal to place as a freshman,” Gartley said. “When I found out I was a medalist, I felt so accomplished because this is what I had been working towards all season. I would like to add a thanks to my coaches for pushing me to do track and helping me perform to my full potential.”

Gartley also topped 5-2 to finish first in the WPIAL Class 2A high jump.

“We knew right away Mia had a lot of potential,” Jones said. “To finish as the WPIAL champion and fifth overall in the state is truly amazing. I think the sky is the limit for Mia’s future in track and field.”

Cain placed seventh in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:19.24. She finished ninth in 2022.

“Ellie’s goal all season has been to break the 2:20 barrier and medal as an individual,” Jones said. “She achieved both feats.

“She is also the anchor of our 4-by-800 relay team. I’m very happy with how Ellie progressed and finished her season on a positive note.”

The girls 3,200 relay unit rambled to fifth place in 9:40.22, seven seconds faster than its WPIAL-winning time of 9:47.17.

The QV runners also improved from their eighth-place showing at states last year.

“I am so proud of our relay and the outcome at states,” Hines said. “We worked so hard all season, and it definitely paid off at states. We dropped another seven seconds from our time at WPIALs and placed fifth overall. This is a huge step up from last year, and we hope to continue this momentum into next season.”

All four of the 3,200 relayers will return in 2024, a fact not lost on Montagnese, the youngest member of the group.

“I’m really proud of the team for our performance at states,” she said. “We did everything we could, and I think everyone did their part to put us in a good position. Moving up three places to fifth is really encouraging.

“Since no one from the group is graduating, I know we are really excited to go back next year and do even better.”

Other state qualifiers for the Quakers were sophomore Kwilai Karto (100 hurdles), Mimi Olawaiye (triple jump), Sarah Minard (pole vault), Kate Hines (800) and the 1,600 relay team — Cain, Hines, Karto and freshman Emma Currier.

The QV girls finished with 21 points in the PIAA team scoring, which was the best total among WPIAL participants.

“We sent 11 girls to compete at the state championship meet,” Jones said. “We knew with that many competitors, we had an opportunity to score a lot of points as a team. The fact that we finished with the most points of any school in the WPIAL is very rewarding.

“I am proud of all the girls who competed at the PIAA meet along with all that contributed to the WPIAL team championship.”

For Quaker Valley’s boys team, senior Alex MacDonald had a near-miss medal performance, placing ninth in the discus with a toss of 154-6.

“Alex performed very well, but the other boys just barely outpaced him to bump him out of medal contention,” Jones said.

“Sarah Minard also finished 10th in the pole vault. That was the highest place of any 2A boy or girl in the WPIAL.”

Other state qualifiers for QV’s boys team were sophomores Thomas Debelak (triple jump), Clark LaLomia (800) and Davin Gartley (110 hurdles), along with the 3,200 relay team — senior Luke Hotchkiss, freshman River Capek, sophomore Jackson Pethel and LaLomia.

The relay team won the WPIAL title with a time of 8:08.63.

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