North Xtra: Springdale's Lelis retains hurdles titles

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Springdale junior Emily Lelis was in a familiar position last Thursday, winning WPIAL Class AA championships in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles events.

Lelis had won both events in 2012, but she won them again in this year's championship meet last Thursday at Baldwin High School. Her times were 14.84 seconds and 44.57 seconds, respectively.

In the 300 hurdles, Lelis had been 1.23 seconds ahead of Valley's Ameriah Walters. Lelis beat Chartiers-Houston's Amanda Balzer by 0.83 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles. Both of Lelis' wins were solid, but she had to earn them.

The prospect of being challenged didn't make Lelis nervous.

"I really don't get nervous before my races -- I just get excited," Lelis said in describing her feelings before both championship races last week.

"Emily has the best form of any hurdler I have seen in my four years as a coach," Springdale track coach Jake Lauer said. "When she takes off from the starting line, she has a burst of speed that is unbelievable."

The burst of speed was good to Lelis, who was happy with her results.

"There was a slight headwind, but based on the conditions I was satisfied with my time," she said.

Lelis had used the headwind to her advantage in the 300 where she broke her own WPIAL record of 45.08 seconds.

Like any standout athlete, Lelis is already looking ahead to the next challenge.

"The competition for AA girls hurdles at states will be tough -- the toughest in a while," she said. "So, I'm just looking to improve my times from last year ... and I think placing in the top three this year would be a great accomplishment."

Right up until the WPIAL championship meet, Lelis trained for strength and stamina. The 300-meter hurdles event is a brutal race, and Lelis noted that the endurance training was specifically intended for the 300.

The training is working. Lelis recorded a personal record this year in the 300: 44.03 seconds. In the 100 hurdles, Lelis' PR stands at 14.72 seconds (from 2012).

Lelis' track and field background goes back to her freshman year at Springdale.

"My brother [Tyler Lelis] was a WPIAL champion in the hurdles and he got me into it," she said. "It just came naturally to me."

Lelis does not participate in sports other than track and field at Springdale. In her free time, however, she enjoys playing tennis. The 100- and 300-meter hurdles events are so different from each other that Lelis enjoys them both for very different reasons.

"It's hard to master both events, because the training is completely different," she said. "It's like trying to master the 100-meter dash and 400-meter dash at the same time. It's very difficult."

Lauer, a former assistant coach, is in his first year as head coach at Springdale. But he has been able to see the ways Lelis has progressed as an athlete.

"She has grown as a leader on the team over the last few years," Lauer said. "She leads all of the drills during practice and pushes her teammates to be the best that they can."

Lauer added that Lelis competes in a variety of events for Springdale's dual meets, including 100- and 200-meter sprints. In fact, one of Lelis' brightest memories with Springdale was the Dynamos' 1,600-meter relay squad.

"From a team perspective, my most memorable moment was winning the [1,600-meter relay] at the WPIAL championships as a freshman when I ran the lead-off leg," she said.

Nonetheless, Lelis' first love remains the hurdles.

"My most memorable experiences in my track career so far are winning the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles at state championships last year," Lelis said.

"She has not been challenged much this year, so we are excited for the state meet," Lauer said.

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