Beaver Area reaped the benefits of top talent this year.
Sprinters Ruthe Neeley, Emily Ledbetter and Sarah Johnson take the top three spots on the Class AA Honor Roll list in the 400-meter dash.
All three athletes qualified to compete in the 400 at the WPIAL AA Southern Qualifier last Tuesday. Only Neeley competed in that event, however. She ran a state-qualifying time of 58.28 seconds for first place. A junior from Brighton Township, she also placed second in the 800.
Neeley will move on to defend her 400-meter title in the WPIAL Class AA championships today at Baldwin.
Neeley missed the first two weeks of the season due to illness and had to make up for lost time.
"I can see where I would have been a lot better," she said. "I have to keep making sure I work really hard to make sure I'm where I would be if I didn't get sick."
Although Johnson and Ledbetter also will be competing at the individual championships, they won't be running the 400 because it's not their main event.
"They wanted to run their true events. They did the 400 as a commissioning thing. Not many teams have the ability to do that," Beaver coach Jason Gallagher said. "It shows their athleticism and their ability to help the team."
Johnson's primary events are the 100 and 300-meter hurdles. A sophomore from Beaver, she ran a first place state-qualifying time of 46.23 in the 300 hurdles. She placed fifth in the 100 hurdles.
Ledbetter, also a sophomore from Beaver, finished sixth in the 100-meter dash and second in the 200 with a time of 26.24.
Ledbetter said their success comes from practicing together.
"We compete against each other sometimes when we do our workouts at practice," She said. "Neither Sarah nor I like to lose."
Not only do the girls perform well individually, but they also work well together.
The trio also makes up the Beaver 400 and 1,600-meter relay teams, along with Neeley's younger sister, Olivia. They recorded a time of 50.94 for second in the 400-meter relay and 4:05.58 in the 1,600 relay.
Olivia replaced graduating senior Kailee Loose on the relays and is feeling the pressure to help get the 1,600 back to PIAA championships this year.
So far she has stood up to the challenge with the help of her teammates.
"It's really cool to help Olivia," Ledbetter said. "I really like answering her questions on and off the track."
No matter the event, all the girls have one goal in mind -- qualifying for the PIAA championships.