The Hempfield Area boys and girls track teams are formidable.
At today's WPIAL Team Track and Field Championships at Baldwin, the Spartans are going to make things interesting.
While some teams tapered their efforts at last Friday's Baldwin Invitational, Hempfield went forward like a freight train.
Sophomore Maddie Holmberg enjoyed a red-letter day. She took first place in the 100-meter hurdles (14.92 seconds), second in the long jump (18 feet, 113/4 inches), and she was a part of the winning 400-meter relay team (48.12) as she joined Jasmine Jones, Bridget Guy and Lauren George.
According to Hempfield assistant coach LaRoyal Wilson, the 400-meter relay squad has been assembled this season on a "by-meet" basis. He noted, however, that the winning squad from Baldwin would most likely run the race today at the WPIAL team championships.
Jones took first place in the 200-meter dash at Baldwin with a clocking of 24.74 seconds. Jones also came in second in the 100-meter dash (12.25), finishing behind Vincentian Academy's Ally Bartoszewicz by only 0.03 seconds.
"From my vantage point, it was nip and tuck the whole way," Wilson said. "Three hundredths of a second is just a blur. Both ladies ran at max effort into the wind they were facing that evening. They were neck and neck the whole way down the track." In the girls' pole vault at Baldwin, Bridget Guy recorded a height of 11-6, equaling North Allegheny's Brooke Mancuso, Mancuso won because she recorded fewer misses.
"Both young ladies are excellent vaulters," Wilson said. "They have excellent coaching. [At the championships] it's going to come down to who's on that day and who's not on."
Natalie Shiffler, who is probably the Spartans most versatile female athlete, placed second in the javelin competition (129-6) at Baldwin. Shiffler was 7 feet, 3 inches behind South Park standout Sarah Stanley (136-9).
"[Shiffler] is a senior and she's been with us four years," Wilson said.
Shiffler scores points in a variety of events for Hempfield. Triple jump, hurdles, relays and shot put are among her events. Wilson felt Shiffler has the potential to be a college heptathlete.
Shiffler also cleared 5-4 in the high jump to finish fourth at Baldwin.
Meanwhile on the boys side, Max Adams hurled the discus 187 feet, 2 inches to take first place. This was about 15 feet farther than the distance recorded by Wilmington's Jon Yohman, the meet runner-up.
In the 400-meter dash, the Spartans' Chandler Crusan missed first place by 0.09 seconds, finishing second to Central Catholic's Torey Doaty (48.72).
"I thought that was one of the more exciting races on the boys side of the whole track meet," Wilson said.
He noted that Crusan was on an upswing following some health issues.
De'Lorian Day has consistently been the Spartans' best jumper this season. On Friday, he took third place in the long jump (22-11/2) and fifth in the high jump (6-2). When asked if he felt Day could make the jumps a key place for Hempfield to score in the team championships, Wilson agreed. He had one caveat, though.
"In a championship meet, everybody comes to the top," Wilson said. "The other three teams we're going against all have excellent athletes. There are going to be advantages for different teams in different areas."
Wilson also noted that Day has split time this season between track and varsity baseball.
Tyler George finished fourth in the javelin (170-6) last Friday at Baldwin and senior Aaron Anderson was sixth in the shot put (49-1). Tyler George, a junior, is sprinter Lauren George's brother.
"[Anderson] is a good example of hard work paying off -- he's really coming into his own his senior year," Wilson said.
All in all, Hempfield had a total of 24 top-eight finishes in boys' and girls' events at Baldwin, probably the district's most prestigious regular-season high school track event.
But the Spartans always feel the most important competitions are the ones that are ahead of them.
"I just came from a meeting with the kids," Wilson said. "We briefly talked about Friday, but we're always looking ahead for what is coming up."