Valley’s Buzzell seeks golden debut at WPIAL championships

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 | 10:12 PM

Jared Buzzell is making his debut at the WPIAL track and field championships.

The Valley senior sprinter missed out on an opportunity to run there last year because of injury. He's taking nothing for granted Thursday afternoon and evening at Baldwin.

Buzzell is the top seed in the boys Class AA 200-meter dash (22.83 seconds) and third in the 400 (51.47).

“I am pretty confident and feeling good,” Buzzell said. “I have just been concentrating on improving my own speed and not worry about other people. I know the races will be competitive. Winning medals from invitationals this year has given me confidence.”

He hit his season-best in the 200 in taking third at the Pine-Richland Invitational on May 4.

Buzzell is just one of several dozen Alle-Kiski Valley individuals or relays who are highly seeded and shooting for top-eight medals, WPIAL championships and trips to the state meet.

Field events and others on the track are set to begin at 1 p.m. The athletes mostly likely will be dealing with less-than-stellar weather as forecasts are calling for a 90 percent chance of rain.

Buzzell is not alone in his understanding that so many are pushing to be the best in the WPIAL. The seeding only is a starting point, and as history has revealed at the championships, anything can happen.

Freeport sophomore Sidney Shemanski (800), Valley senior high jumper Darius Johnson and the Burrell girls 400 relay team are hoping to defend their WPIAL Class AA titles.

Shemanski is the third seed heading into the 800 (2:19.59). Her Section 7 rival, Shady Side Academy freshman Melissa Riggins, sets the pace in the 800 with a top-seed time of 2:16.19.

“I'm feeling a little pressure, but I am also comfortable. It's kind of hard to describe,” Shemanski said. “There's a lot of good competition in this race again.”

The Burrell girls 400 relay has won the WPIAL title three years in a row and in four of the past five seasons. The quartet of Taylor Johnson, Alle Kuhns, Mckenzie White and Olivia Kelly are the lone sprint quartet in girls Class AA to break 50 seconds. They ran 49.97 at the WPIAL team semifinals.

“I walked off the track, and they weren't telling us the times yet,” said Kelly, the relay's anchor. “Coach (Steve) White had our hand time, and he said it was in the 49s. I got really excited. When we saw 49.97, that's when the tears came. To drop close to two seconds from our previous best was crazy.”

Burrell will hope to fend off the challenge of teams such as Shenango (50.69), Carlynton (51.34) and Mohawk (51.34).

Darius Johnson won the Class AA boys high jump title last year with a top leap of 6 feet, 5 inches. He jumped 6-4 early in the season and is seeded second behind Hopewell senior Dantae Ranieri (6-6). Johnson has been battling through an injury.

“Darius' leg isn't bothering him as much as it had before,” Valley coach George Webb said. “He was able to get a couple of jumps in at Pine-Richland, and he won that meet.”

The top five finishers in each Class AA event and top four in Class AAA automatically qualify for the PIAA championships May 25 and 26 at Shippensburg.

Also, individuals or relays placing eighth or better will qualify to states if their time, height or distance is equal to or better than the qualifying mark established by the PIAA.

Senior Caelen Miller leads a deep Fox Chapel girls distance squad. She's seeded second in the 1,600 (5:06.20) and fifth in the 3,200 (11:16.04). Sophomore Grace Sisson (3,200, third) and junior Sarena Seeger (3,200, fourth) also are gunning for trips to states.

“I haven't PR'd yet, so I am really hoping to do that Thursday,” Miller said.

The distance success on the track follows the cross country team's runner-up finish at the WPIAL championships in October.

Burrell junior Kaylen Sharrow is the top seed in the 300 hurdles (46.49), and she again will duel with Shenango senior Logan Ferrucci (46.89). Sharrow edged Ferrucci at the WPIAL team finals on May 7.

Deer Lakes junior Josh Yourish hopes to challenge for the WPIAL title in the Class AA boys 800. He is seeded second (1:58.53), and he reached his seed time, a season best, at Pine-Richland.

“I'm feeling good right now,” said Yourish, who medalled in the 800 (seventh) at WPIALs last year. “I went into this year with a lot of confidence knowing that I had a chance to do even better.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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