Shaler's Brianna Schwartz heads the list of top 1,600-meter runners in WPIAL history -- but with an asterisk.
She could use her feet to erase the asterisk.
Schwartz will be one of the athletes to watch Thursday at the WPIAL individual track and field championships. She already could be considered among the best distance runners in recent WPIAL history and is on the cusp of adding to her lore.
Schwartz is a super sophomore who seems to be peaking at the right time. Two weeks ago at the Baldwin Invitational, Schwartz won the "McKinney Mile" with a time of 4 minutes, 50.83 seconds. But high school track events are in meters. Schwartz's mile time converted to 1,600 meters would be 4:49.23, which is the best of any runner in WPIAL history.
But because Schwartz ran a mile and not the 1,600, there is an asterisk next to her mark on the WPIAL all-time list, which is compiled by track and field historian Jim Faiella. But Schwartz can remove the asterisk with another top performance at the WPIAL championships.
In her sight is arguably the greatest distance runner in WPIAL history. Baldwin's Carole Zajac ran the 1,600 in 4:51.6 in 1990. Zajac went on to win NCAA championships at Villanova and also ran in the U.S. Olympic Trials. Schwartz's top 1,600 time is 4:54.
"I feel [Zajac's mark] is reachable," Schwartz said. "That's right around where I'm looking. Hopefully, I can finish strong and be able to beat that."
But the possibility of besting Zajac is a little lost on Schwartz. When asked if she ever heard about Zajac, Schwartz said, "Not really."
Schwartz also will run the 800 meters at the WPIAL meet.
About the championships
The WPIAL track and field championships will start in the afternoon, and running event finals usually start at 6. Tickets will be available at the gate.
Four for four?
The Aliquippa boys 400 relay team of Hassahn Thompson, Dravon Henry, Malik Shegog and Shaquere McBride is the No. 1 seed for Class AA. The Quips are trying to pull off a rare feat -- win the 400 relay for the fourth year in a row. Thompson has run on the previous three first-place teams.
"I wonder if it's ever been done, a school winning the relay four years in a row?" said Aliquippa coach Sherman McBride, Shaquere's father. "It's pretty unusual. I know since I started coaching I haven't heard anything like that."
Aliquippa has had a standout 400 relay team for the past decade or so. A neat tidbit is that three NFL players have run on Aliquippa's 400 relay teams that won three WPIAL titles the past decade -- Darrelle Revis, Jonathan Baldwin and Tommie Campbell.
This year, Henry is being recruited by many major colleges. He is a running back-defensive back.
When to throw No. 1?
For the first round of the WPIAL playoffs Monday, Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia had a decision. Should he throw ace Brendan McKay or save him for the quarterfinals and try to get by with his second and third best in the first round? The way the WPIAL schedules playoffs, a team could throw its No. 1 pitcher in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.
Amalia chose to use McKay in the first round, and McKay responded with a one-hitter and 16 strikeouts in a 2-0 victory against Mars. Blackhawk plays Hopewell in the quarterfinals today, and McKay can't pitch, under PIAA and WPIAL rules.
"It wasn't a decision to make at all," Amalia said. "I knew we were facing a really good pitcher [Mars' Dave Bednar] and I didn't know how many runs we would score. I'm a pretty conservative guy. I think you have to win today and worry about tomorrow when it comes."
The victory against Mars stretched McKay's scoreless streak to 24 innings. In that time, he has allowed only four hits and struck out 48. He has allowed only three runs, including one earned, all season.