The crowd stood as Brianna Schwartz was on her final lap. It was a prelude to history.
The crowd cheered as Schwartz came down the straightaway in the 3,200-meter run Friday night at the Baldwin Invitational. When she crossed the finish line, she didn't just walk through the door to WPIAL history. She kicked it in.
Schwartz, a junior at Shaler High School, added to her reputation as the greatest distance runner in WPIAL history when she won the 3,200 with a time of 10 minutes, 10.03 seconds.
The 3,200 isn't Schwartz's best event. She rarely runs it and specializes instead in the 1,600 and 800, owning the best times in WPIAL history in those two races. She decided to run the 3,200 at Baldwin and not the other two, simply because she wanted to see what she could do running the 3,200 fresh. All she did was leave her lasting mark on another event.
Her time was a whopping 15 seconds better than the best in WPIAL history. Legendary Baldwin runner Carole Zajac ran 10:25.7 in 1990 before she went on to win NCAA championships at Villanova. Schwartz surpassed even her own expectations.
"I knew the record was 10:25, so anything under that I would've been happy with," she said. "[On the last lap] I knew I would be faster than 10:25. But I wanted to beat my own expectation and I had 10:15 on my mind. So I just hung in there."
To put Schwartz's performance in perspective, consider second-place finisher Mary Malone. Also an accomplished distance runner, she ran a personal best, but finished 31 seconds behind Schwartz.
"It was fun to run a different race," Schwartz said.
The Baldwin Invitational is one of the largest meets in the eastern part of the country. More than 1,500 athletes competed this year and all medalists received Eat'n Park smiley cookies when they were announced at the medals stand. Hempfield's Maddie Holmberg and Gateway's Montae Nicholson had to be full by the end of the night.
Holmberg, a sophomore, and Nicholson, a senior, kept making trips to the medals stand, and usually to the top. Holmberg won three individual events and was part of a first-place relay team. Nicholson won two events, placed second in another and ran a leg on a first-place relay team.
"The past couple meets, I haven't been disappointed, but I know I can do better," Holmberg said. "Here, I did better, so I'm very satisfied."
Holmberg won the 100 hurdles in 14.64 seconds, but ran a personal-best time of 14.55 in a semifinal race. She won the 300 hurdles in 45.02 seconds and the long jump with a season-best leap of 19 feet, 1 inch. She only took her three preliminary-round jumps and didn't even take her three jumps in the final.
"My coach [LaRoyal Wilson] wouldn't let me jump in the finals. He said I had did enough," Holmberg said with a laugh. "I would've cared if I hadn't jumped well, but that [19-1] is my best this season, so it wasn't worth fighting him over it."
Nicholson won the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.15 seconds, the long jump with a leap of 24-3½ and finished second in the high jump at 6-2. For one of his medals, Nicholson stepped to the winners stand wearing a Michigan State hat and jacket. He is a Michigan State football recruit, but also plans to compete in track and field for the Spartans.
He is certainly showing plenty of ability this fall.
"I want to get in the 13s in the hurdles by the end of this year," Nicholson said. "I feel pretty good where I'm at right now with times, but it has been hard to really get in some good training because of the weather."
Nicholson was one of two major college football recruits to win at least one title. Mt. Lebanon's Troy Apke, a Penn State recruit, won the 100 in 10.96 seconds.
Hempfield's Max Adams won the discus with a meet-record throw of 192-0. He also finished second in the shot put with a mark of 60-1.
For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.