WPIAL runner-up finish caps strong season for Quaker Valley boys track

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Sunday, June 18, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Quaker Valley’s boys track and field team emerged from the shadow of its counterpart girls squad this season.

The QV girls captured their second consecutive WPIAL Class 2A team title in 2023. The QV boys also capped a successful team season with a runner-up finish at the WPIAL championship meet.

“That is a huge accomplishment based on the questions we had coming into the season,” QV coach Jared Jones said. “We were fortunate to have a strong freshman class join us this year, but we also had multiple junior and senior boys step up and make major contributions.

“Senior leaders Gavin Eshenbaugh and Luke Hotchkiss set an example for the younger athletes. I was extremely proud of how they progressed over the course of the season.”

Greensburg Central Catholic won its first WPIAL boys team title, followed by the Quakers, last year’s champion Shenango, and South Park in 2A.

“When it came time for the WPIAL playoffs, every single boy set new standards for himself,” Jones said. “Even though Greensburg Central Catholic was a pretty big favorite and set multiple school records in the championship meet, our boys team was still in the running to win the WPIAL championship at the final event. That is quite an accomplishment.”

Two QV distance runners, sophomore Clark LaLomia (1,600) and freshman Tyler Bell (3,200), were individual winners at the WPIAL finals.

“I think we had a strong season overall,” LaLomia said. “We were very diverse in our point scoring through all different events, and that gave us a depth and edge over most other teams.”

Like most high school teams, the Quakers were highly goal-oriented for the spring season.

“We made our expectations extremely clear from the first practice: We wanted to win WPIALs,” LaLomia said. “Everyone knew that was the goal, and we all worked towards it.

“I think we had an excellent season even though we didn’t achieve our goal in the end. We knew we were underdogs to Greensburg Central Catholic going into the final, and I believe we put up a great fight all-around.”

The QV boys 3,200 relay team — Bell, junior Matt Cohen, freshman Corben Hopkins and sophomore Jackson Pethel — also took first place at the WPIAL meet.

“I would say it was overall a really good season,” Cohen said. “Being second in the WPIAL is not an easy feat to accomplish and everyone should be proud.

“The bar was set high. Our coaches wanted us to be in contention for the WPIAL championship and we were.”

Others QV athletes placing in the top three at the WPIAL meet were sophomore Thomas Debelak (long jump, triple jump), seniors Timmy Burda (300 hurdles), Noah Jordan (pole vault), Noah Leathers (110 hurdles) and Alex MacDonald (discus), junior Izzy Emerson (200), sophomore Macky Gartley (110 hurdles), freshman River Capek (400), Hotchkiss (800) and Pethel (800).

“I think our team performed as well as we possibly could have,” Hotchkiss said. “The whole team expected to win team WPIALs, and we were happy to take second. I’m very proud of our performance. Every team member put out the times (and marks) that we needed, and we achieved our season goals.

Debelak racked up PRs in the long and triple jumps but was outdistanced by a GCC athlete’s final attempt in both events to push the QV sophomore into second place.

Emerson recorded PRs in the 100 and 200 to secure unexpected points for the Quakers, while Jordan shattered his previous high-water mark in the pole vault by a foot, and senior Jakub Pickett posted a PR in the long jump.

Quaker Valley came within a whisker of tying GCC for first place in the team standings.

“I’m extremely proud of the boys and how they battled throughout the meet,” Jones said. “Greensburg Central Catholic was heavily favored, but the (QV) boys significantly outperformed their expectations.

“The score was 75-70 with only the 4-by-4 relay left. Our relay had a season’s best time but fell just short of tying the meet.”

The Quakers are hoping to take that next step to the next level and win the WPIAL championship in 2024.

“We are losing a very strong senior class, but I’m excited to see how the underclassmen grow and fill in the voids for next year,” Jones said. ”I think both the girls and boys teams are in a good place for next year. A lot will change in the next 11 months, but our focus will be on getting both teams to the championship meet so that they have a chance to compete for a WPIAL team championship.”

LaLomia already is radiating confidence for next year.

“I think the expectations stay the same. We know what we want to do,” he said. “We are losing some seniors to graduation, but we also have some good eighth graders coming up, and I believe a lot of the juniors and sophomores from this year will be able to fill in the gaps of where we lose some seniors.”

Cohen also is hopeful for another banner season in 2024 for the Quakers.

“We could strive for the championship,” he said. “We are losing a couple of really good athletes, but we have a lot of our team coming back.”

QV has won three WPIAL titles (1995-97) in boys track and field in school history.

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