East Xtra: Hempfield's gold rush continues


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Maddie Holmberg has had one of the most successful track and field careers of any female athlete in the WPIAL in the past decade.

What's scary is that her career is only at its halfway point.

Holmberg, a junior at Hempfield Area, is off to another strong start this season, one that could end with her attaining plenty more of what has become her favorite color -- gold.

Winning is what Holmberg does best. She takes care of business individually and plays a big role on what has been the WPIAL's best girls team the past few seasons.

Holmberg already owns five gold medals from the WPIAL Class AAA individual championships, one from the PIAA individual championships, two from the WPIAL team championships, and another from the PIAA team championships. That's nine gold medals in two seasons.

Holmberg is extremely versatile, excelling in hurdles, jumps and sprints. She is considered one of the WPIAL's top performers in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles and long jump, and runs a leg on Hempfield's ultra-fast 400 relay team.

So, what is her favorite event?

"I really just like all four of them," Holmberg said. "It kind of depends on the day."

Regardless of the day or the weather, Holmberg shines. That's especially the case at the WPIAL championships.

As a sophomore, she swept the hurdle events and helped the 400 relay team capture gold, in addition to finishing fourth in the long jump. As a freshman, she won the long jump and was on the gold-medal winning 400 relay team, and also placed second in the 100 hurdles.

Holmberg has helped Hempfield win back-to-back WPIAL Class AAA team championships and led the Spartans to a PIAA team title last season.

She owns personal records of 14.6 seconds in the 100 hurdles, 43.6 in the 300 hurdles and 19 feet, 10 inches in the long jump. There's a chance Holmberg could break the WPIAL long jump record this season. It stands at 19-111/2. She won the competition at the state indoor championships last month.

"For this year, I would obviously like to help my team to win WPIAL and states again," Holmberg said. "Individually, I'm working on my form for both the long jump and hurdles."

Holmberg said that by midseason she hopes to be consistently jumping 19 feet. She's already had jumps of 19 and 18-11 this season. She also would like to see her 100 hurdle time dip to the low-14s.

Holmberg also hopes for more success at the PIAA championships. Last season, she won gold with the 400 relay team, and took second in the 300 hurdles and long jump.

Competing in such a variety of events, Holmberg has a bunch of coaches. Head coach Ron Colland was selected as state coach of the year by the Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association last season. Larry Williams coaches Holmberg in the hurdles, Dee Waters in the long jump, and LaRoyal Wilson in the sprints.

Holmberg credits a lot of her success to her coaches and teammates, but also her father. Rob Holmberg was a football standout at Penn State and played eight seasons in the NFL.

"He's given me so much advice over the years, so I can't even begin to explain [how much he has meant to me]," Maddie said.

Maddie's father and mother, Deidre, are now helping her with the college selection process. Holmberg has a lot of colleges in pursuit, and said Pitt, Georgetown, Ohio State and Virginia are currently her favorites.

Holmberg and her team are the favorites to win their third consecutive WPIAL team title. Last year's championship 400 relay team remains intact -- Bridget Guy, Ravenne O'Lear and Janelle Crosby join Holmberg -- and a long list of standouts also includes Jasmine Jones, Lauren George, Morgan DeFloria and a promising freshman, Holmberg's sister, Gabby.

Said Holmberg: "It's early in the season, but from how our indoor season went and how determined the girls are working at practice, I think that this could be another really big year for us if everything keeps on the same track."


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