West Xtra: West Allegheny junior finds tough competition in sprints

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Lauren Costa didn't plan on being a track star.

A junior at West Allegheny High School, she first competed in the sport as a freshman to spend more time with her friends and older brother, Sammy.

"I think just the bond that my team has really motivates me," Costa said. "I love spending time with my older brother, sharing something we both loved. It's a way to hang out while doing something you enjoy."

Last year the siblings watched each other's events, giving advice and calming nerves. Primarily a distance runner, Sammy competed in the 1,600 and 3,200. He is currently a student at Penn State and still acts as Costa's No. 1 supporter during track season.

Growing up in North Fayette, Costa's primary sport was soccer. She began playing in first grade and stuck with it until last year after her track career quickly took off. As a sophomore, Costa won the WPIAL Class AAA 100-meter dash title and was the PIAA runner-up. She currently holds school records in the 100 and 200, and is a key part of record-holding 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams.

Noticing the potential for growth, she decided to quit competitive soccer and focus on track. Costa admitted that she would like to compete in collegiate track and field if the right school made an offer. She would like to study physical therapy in college.

"I wanted to put more into track," Costa said. "There is always a risk of injury with soccer, and with the potential I was seeing with track, I didn't want to risk it anymore."

A slender 5-foot-7, 125-pound track star, she stands atop Jim Faiella's WPIAL Class AAA Honor Roll for the 100-meter (11.9) and third for 200-meter (25.3). Her lofty times helped West Allegheny win the Section 8-AAA title.

Competitors Jasmine Jones of Hempfield Area (24.92) and Taylor McCorkle of Oakland Catholic (25.11) are the only runners that stand above her on the list for the 200-meter dash.

They prove to be strong contenders late in the season. McCorkle barely outran Costa in both the 100 and 200 at the South Fayette Lions Track and Field Invitational last month.

"She's one of the most talented athletes that we've coached," West Allegheny coach James Hamilton said. "She had some tough competition at Baldwin. She's going to get a lot better the last couple of weeks."

Costa has her sights set high. Her goal is to win the state title before she graduates.

She knows it won't be easy.

Costa says she needs to work on getting out of the starting blocks quicker, which she will be working on with assistant coach Will Mills for the postseason.

"That's what wins you the race," she said.

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