WPIAL scholar-athlete award shines spotlight on Nora Johns’ remarkable Quarter Valley career

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Sunday, April 30, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Nora Johns’ high school resume is exemplary.

Many have acknowledged that fact, and the WPIAL agrees.

A senior three-sport star at Quaker Valley, Johns recently was named as a recipient of the WPIAL’s James Collins Scholar-Athlete Award and the $1,000 scholarship that goes with it.

The selection committee chose 10 boys and 10 girls from among the 162 applicants, the most since 2002, according to the WPIAL.

“I am honored and extremely happy that I was one of the winners,” Johns said. “It feels good to have the sacrifices and time spent on school and sports recognized.”

Mike Mastroianni is the athletic director and boys basketball coach at Quaker Valley. He offered the highest of praise for the dedicated and resolute QV athlete.

“Nora is such a deserving recipient of this prestigious scholarship award,” Mastroianni said. “Her academic and athletic profiles are truly outstanding, and over the last four years, she has been a terrific representative of Quaker Valley athletics in all the sports she has participated in.”

Johns owns a 4.35 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society, peer jury and yearbook club at her school.

Not only was the QV senior thrilled to receive the WPIAL award, she was gratified to learn of her accomplishment.

“I was shocked and extremely excited,” Johns said. “Coach Mastroianni was the first to tell me, and he gave me a big hug. That alone told me what a big deal it was.”

Johns is a four-year letter winner in soccer and basketball and a three-year letter winner in track.

She was named all-section for soccer and basketball in 2022-23, was selected for the Roundball Classic all-star game and has been nominated for a few other awards and scholarships.

This spring, Johns hopes to defend her titles as a two-time WPIAL and PIAA Class 2A champion in the 300-meter hurdles.

Johns broke the school record in winning the girls 300 hurdles in 44.78 seconds at last year’s PIAA finals at Shippensburg.

Remarkably, she just began competing in the 300 hurdles as a sophomore and won the state title that season in 45.07.

“Nora is a great athlete but an even better competitor,” QV track coach Jared Jones said. “I tell her all the time that she is a baller. It doesn’t matter the sport. If there is a competition involved, Nora is all in and will do whatever it takes to do her best.”

Johns was a triple medalist at the PIAA meet and a four-time medalist at the WPIAL finals in 2022 and holds the school record in the girls 100 hurdles.

She also ran with the 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams that placed sixth and eighth at last year’s PIAA meet. Two then-freshmen, Vanessa Pickett and Kwilai Karto, sophomore Spencer Elliott and Johns teamed up in the 400, while sophomore Ellie Cain, junior Kathryn Karwoski, Johns and Karto competed in the 1,600.

While Johns credited all her coaches for helping her develop and enhance her skills on the track, J.J. Veshio stands out above the rest.

Veshio coaches the Quaker Valley boys soccer team, regarded as one of the elite programs in the state. He had nothing but praise for the hard-working Johns.

“Nora is a very selfless individual who comes from a wonderful and caring family,” Veshio said. “She doesn’t have a shred of arrogance and simply works hard to better herself and those around her. She is a true leader by her actions and the results show by her accomplishments in track and field.

“Nora is a dedicated, year-round athlete. Having someone who is easy to work with and has high standards makes a coach’s job very enjoyable, and Nora’s work ethic ends up pushing us to work harder for her. I wish every athlete had the attitude Nora has because she is a shining example of what a high-level athlete can be without the attitude.”

Johns was a three-year starter in the backcourt on the QV girls basketball team, which has produced a winning record in each of the past five seasons.

The Quakers advanced to the WPIAL finals in 2020-21, quarterfinals in 2021-22 and semifinals in 2022-23. They also competed in the PIAA playoffs the past two seasons.

Johns led the team in points per game, assists and steals as a junior and was the team leader in assists, 3-point field goal percentage and free-throw percentage as a senior.

Her father, Ken Johns, has coached the QV girls basketball team for three years.

“We’re very happy for Nora and proud of her,” he said. “The accomplishments and resumes of the other award recipients are really impressive, so to have her considered in that company is really something. It’s great to see her hard work get recognized. I see up close how much work she puts into school and her sports, and I know it’s the same for all of the other award winners and many kids across the WPIAL.

“Just to be nominated is a feat. She’s really all about the team she’s on and Quaker Valley, so I think she is proud to represent the school more than anything.”

A 5-foot-9 guard, Johns had several goals for the basketball team this season.

“I think it would take too long to list all my goals,” she said, “but to sum it up, what I really want to do is form a team culture and set an example of what the girls basketball program at Quaker Valley is. We may not have achieved every single goal we had, but we came pretty darn close. I think this season was a great beginning to what the Quaker Valley girls basketball program has in store for the future.”

“Of course, a WPIAL title is on my list for the team, but what I really want is for our team to develop a sense of unity and be one of the best, if not the best, girls basketball programs in the WPIAL.”

Johns ended her QV soccer career Oct. 19 by scoring the winning goal late in the game in a 1-0 victory against Blackhawk.

“Nora Johns is the type of player who never stops working hard,” said Rachel Loudermilk, who coaches the girls soccer team along with Maggie Behun. “She spent most of the season playing defense, but we knew with her speed she was capable of beating our opponent’s back line and scoring goals. In this game and all of our games, Nora never backed down or slowed down.”

Added Behun, “Nora stands out on the field because of her speed and versatility as a player, which is what helps her make an immediate impact on the field.

“Whether she was keeping the other team from being dangerous in our defensive end or creating opportunities in the offense, Nora was a force to be reckoned with. She is tough and plays with her heart. She letters in three sports, which benefits her on the pitch. That is what led her to our game-winning goal.”

Defensively, QV gave up 25 goals in 16 games in 2022 and allowed two goals or less 11 times including six shutouts. In their final five games, the Quakers won two by shutout, lost twice by 1-0 scores and finished in a 0-0 tie with Beaver.

QV’s top defenders included Johns, sophomore Mia Modrovich, juniors Mia Strelec and Megan Campbell, plus freshmen Emma Currier and Lucy Roig. The Quakers’ starting goalkeeper was junior Grace Waller.

This was the 32nd year for the WPIAL Scholar-Athlete Award program.

Along with Johns, the female winners this year were Freeport’s Cassidy Dell, Mt. Lebanon’s Deirdre Flaherty, Mars’ Gwen Howell, Mapletown’s Ella Menear, Neshannock’s Aaralyn Nogay, North Allegheny’s Christina Shi, West Green’s London Whipkey, Trinity’s Eden Williamson and Carmichaels’ Sophia Zalar.

The male winners were Trinity’s Ty Banco, Waynesburg’s Michael Church, Aquinas Academy’s Vinnie Cugini, Mt. Lebanon’s Chase Dustevich, North Allegheny’s Harron Lee, Seneca Valley’s Beaux Lizewski, Armstrong’s Cadin Olsen, Avonworth’s Matthew Purcell, Peters Township’s Steven Suchko and Bentworth’s Landon Urcho.

MacDonald, Cain lead at Butler

Four Quaker Valley athletes were medalists April 21 at the 58th annual Butler Invitational.

Senior Alex MacDonald placed fourth in the boys discus with a toss of 137 feet, 1 inch and sophomore Clark LaLomia ended up eighth in the 800-meter run in 1:58.66.

Ellie Cain, a junior, finished fifth in the girls 800 with a time of 2:20.26 and Mia Gartley, a freshman, took eighth in the high jump by clearing 4-11.

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