WEST PITTSTON – The entire District 2 Class AAA championship 400-meter relay team returns leading a Wyoming Area squad that will attempt to repeat as Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2 girls track and field champions.
Senior Bree Bednarski, juniors Vanessa Shedlock and Jillian Spak and sophomore Jalen Rhodes not only formed the championship relay team. They each also medaled individually when the Warriors followed up their regular-season success by going all the way to the final event of the district meet in title contention before settling for third place out of 19 teams.
With many of the leaders back, the keys to potentially repeating last year’s performances – or even getting stronger – come down to building up a thin distance running group and replacing key losses in the jumping events.
“I think we can be stronger,” Wyoming Area coach Joe Pizano said. “It’s just a matter if some of these freshmen are willing to move up and push it in the distance races.”
Senior Laura Heinzlmeir is back to run distance and middle distance races. Senior Rachel Solano is back for the middle distances and could get help from Jolene Fink.
The rest of those spots may need to be filled by freshmen, who Pizano thinks are ready to compete on the varsity level.
Shedlock was fourth in the district in the long jump last season when eight of the other nine spots in the long, triple and high jumps were filled by seniors.
Sophomore Shelby Stackhouse and seniors Nicole Wright and Solano could help make up for those losses.
The 400 relay success shows the potential in the sprints, but that is also an area where the Warriors are counting on multi-sport athletes, who may not always be available. Both Bednarski and Julia Kopetchny double as softball players.
Bednarski and Shedlock finished 2-3 in the district in the 200 last year and Shedlock was third in the 400. Bednarski was third and Rhodes eighth in the 100.
Solano can also help in the sprints.
Sophomores Stackhouse and Olivia Astolfi join Spak in what Pizano expects to be a strong hurdling group. Spak was sixth in the 300 hurdles while Stackhouse was seventh in the district in the 100 hurdles as a freshman.
Bednarski’s versatility comes into play in the javelin where she was fourth in the district last year. Junior Morgan Coolbaugh is also promising there and Wright also has experience.
Sophomore Sara Baylor is the top returnee for the shot put and discus where Lexi Crossley and Wright are also working.
Jess Sorick is a javelin thrower and high jumper. Stackhouse is another high jumper.
The Warriors open their season Thursday at home against Nanticoke.