South Xtra: South Park duo is prospecting for WPIAL gold

HIGH SCHOOL TRACK & FIELD

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Senior Danielle Carmen holds South Park's record in the high jump -- an event she discovered by accident.

Sophomore javelin star Sarah Stanley is the younger sister of Ohio State freshman Billy Stanley, who recently won the Big Ten championship. But Sarah is the one who influenced Billy to throw.

Today, Carmen and Stanley will vie for WPIAL titles in their respective events at the district championship meet at Baldwin High School.

Carmen's high jump personal record -- which is also the South Park school record -- stands at 5 feet, 4 inches. It's somewhat surprising, considering she had never tried high jumping until this year.

South Park assistant coach Kristen Hutter explained that Carmen tried high jump as the result of a knee injury.

"I had this hunch if we did high jump, [Carmen] was going to be jumping off [her non-injured] leg," Hutter said. "So we went to the middle school, where they have a couple of indoor mats and a high jump bar. We went down to the middle school a couple of times, and I was confident enough she would be the best girl we had in the high jump."

So the coaches tried Carmen in the high jump event, and the results were good. Right from the get-go, Carmen recorded a 4-10 at the April 6 South Hills Classic.

Today, Carmen will go for the championship in the high jump as well as the long jump, the triple jump and the 1,600-meter relay. Her goal is to make it to the PIAA meet in as many events as she can.

Carmen has done a lot of drills to meet her goals, but none have been so helpful as the ones she's done in the pool.

"We go off the diving board a lot," she said

In an offbeat training method, the high jumpers do backflips off the diving board to get used to the feeling and form of the jumps.

For the long jump and triple jump, Eagles jumpers have a very different task. They do the jumps in the water while bungee corded to the pool walls.

Clearly, the added resistance has aided Carmen's strength on land. Her best triple-jump distance is 36-51/2, and her best long jump stands at 17-2.

Carmen will compete for Robert Morris University next year.

Stanley's story actually goes back to elementary school. She was 9 when she joined the South Park Track Club and she first threw a "turbo jav," a small plastic javelin often used by young athletes for training. The experience had a marked influence on her older brother, Billy, who wanted to try it.

Bill Stanley eventually became a WPIAL and PIAA champion in the javelin and took his talents to Ohio State University. Last weekend he won the Big Ten Conference championship with a 249-foot throw. It was his sister, however, who had initiated the course of his athletics.

Sarah Stanley's own PR is 137-7, the third-best throw on the WPIAL Class AAA Honor Roll.

"I want to reach the high 140s by the end of this year," she said.

In order for Stanley to meet her goals, the most important thing is form. She trains under the tutelage of South Park throwing coach Chuck Villa. In addition to drilling on form, she conditions in the weight room and does a lot of abdominal exercises. The conditioning and form-practice allow Stanley to keep her arm fresh while increasing muscle memory.

Although Stanley is a sophomore, she suspects she'll do her college throwing somewhere in the South so that she can train year-round. In the meantime, she is focused on winning a PIAA championship.

"Going to states freshman year and coming in 11th place was exciting," she recalled. "It was pretty cool to accomplish that as a freshman."

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