WPIAL track and field championships: What to know for Wednesday’s meet

Wednesday, May 19, 2021 | 2:45 AM

The WPIAL endured a season without track and field last spring, but the championships are back. Individual champions in Class AAA and AA will be crowned Wednesday at Slippery Rock University.

Here’s a breakdown of what to know and who to watch.

Split schedule

To fit under state covid-19 guidelines for gathering sizes and social distance, the WPIAL meet will feature a split schedule this year.

Class AA boys and girls will compete in the morning session and Class AAA athletes compete in the afternoon. The sessions start at 9:30 a.m. and 3:15 p.m.

Traditionally, the two meets run concurrently, alternating between Class AA and AAA events.

Return to the Rock

This will be the second time in three years that Slippery Rock hosts the WPIAL track championships. It would have been the third if last season hadn’t been canceled because of the pandemic.

Baldwin had been the championships’ home for decades, but the WPIAL ended that arrangement after the 2018 meet and moved to SRU’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium a year later.

SRU will host the District 10 track championship Saturday.

Making history?

If any WPIAL championships records fall this year, Shady Side Academy’s Melissa Riggins might be the favorite to break them.

The senior already owns WPIAL meet records in the 800 and 1,600 meters from times she ran as a sophomore in 2019, so she’s the most likely athlete to make history. Her seed time in the 800 meters is already 15-hundredths of a second faster than her record-setting run from 2019, when she won in 2 minutes, 11.53 seconds.

In the 1,600 meters, Riggins’ time entering Wednesday is a little less than 2 seconds slower than her record pace from 2019, but Wednesday’s weather could be almost ideal for runners.

As a Class AA school, Shady Side Academy will compete in the morning session.

And still champion

Last year’s meet was canceled, so no gold medals were awarded, yet there will be eight reigning champions in the field Wednesday.

Those athletes won titles two years ago as sophomores or freshmen.

The list includes South Park sprinter Maddie Raymond, the reigning Class AA girls champion in the 100 and 200 meters. She enters Wednesday’s meet with the top seed in both races. Reynolds and Riggins are the only returning champions in two events.

The other athletes back to defend their titles are Beaver’s Emma Pavelek (AAA girls high jump), Waynesburg’s Taylor Shriver (AA girls pole vault), Pine-Richland’s Danielle Bryant (AAA girls 300 hurdles), New Castle’s Maria Owens (AAA girls triple jump), Seneca Valley’s Tyler Yurich (AAA boys 100 meters) and West Mifflin’s Dontae Lewis (AAA boys 300 hurdles).

Pavelek won the Class AA title in 2019 but Beaver moved to AAA this year.

The WPIAL program and list of entries are available online.

Tornado warning

Without question, the top track team this year has been Butler.

The Golden Tornado swept the boys and girls team titles in dominant fashion last week, and they appear destined to add more individual track medals to their collection.

The boys dominance starts with sprinter Guinness Brown and distance runner C.J. Singleton, both juniors. Brown own the WPIAL’s top times this season in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races, and Singleton is tops in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

If you’re going

Slippery Rock University intends to cap its stadium at 50% of capacity, a 5,000-person total that includes athletes, coaches, officials, spectators and others.

To meet that number, the WPIAL will limit spectator tickets to 2,000 for each of the two sessions. The $10 tickets can be purchased online or at the gate.

The university will ask spectators to wear masks inside the stadium.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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