Brianna Schwartz already has nudged her way to the top of the WPIAL track list in three distance events. Now, she has her sights set on moving past one of the all-time great distance runners from the other side of the commonwealth.
Schwartz, a junior at Shaler, will compete in the Class AAA 1,600-meter race at the PIAA track and field championships Friday and Saturday at Shippensburg University. Schwartz believes she has a shot at breaking one of the oldest records in PIAA history, and it seems like a realistic belief.
The PIAA championship meet record for the Class AAA 1,600 is 4 minutes, 41.08 seconds, run by Upper Dublin’s Kim Gallagher in 1981. Only two other girls records have been around longer. They are held by Trinity’s Elaine Sobansky (1980 Class AAA shot put) and Saucon Valley’s Thea Ackerman (1979 Class AA high jump).
Gallagher is a Pennsylvania running legend. She went on to win a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics in the 800 and a bronze in the event in the 1988 Olympics. She died in 2002 at age 38.
“I’m thinking about the record, but also beating my personal record,” Schwartz said. “Both of those marks are kind of right there.”
Despite running on a wet track Thursday at Baldwin, Schwartz won the 1,600 title with a time of 4:45.19, the best in WPIAL history. Schwartz also owns the best times in WPIAL history in the 800 and 3,200.
Amazingly, Schwartz believes she can do much better. In the indoor season this past winter, she ran the mile in 4:42.58, the third-best mark in the country this year (indoor or outdoor). The mile, which isn’t run in WPIAL or PIAA championships, is about 9 meters farther than the 1,600.
“My best time is 4:42, so I think if I could run that, I could definitely run a little faster,” she said.
Schwartz’s main competition in the 1,600 could come from a runner just up the road from Shaler. Madeleine Davison is a freshman at North Allegheny who is looking like a star of the future.
At the WPIAL championships, Davison finished only two seconds behind Schwartz. Davison’s time of 4:47.32 is the second best in WPIAL history.
Davison sometimes trains with Schwartz and other top runners in the northern suburbs under Shaler distance coach Sam Bair and retired North Hills distance coach John Wilkie.
“I think [Davison] definitely has a bright future,” Schwartz said. “She has improved a lot and she’s running around the same times that I was running last year, so that’s really good.”
Schwartz is one of 14 individuals from the WPIAL who are No. 1 seeds for the PIAA meet. Another one is Connellsville freshman Madison Wiltrout, who leads the Class AAA javelin at 141 feet, 7 inches. She is the only freshman in the meet who is a No. 1 seed.
Wiltrout is trying to become only the second Connellsville female to win a PIAA title. Christina Roadman won the Class AAA discus championship in 2003.
Two WPIAL relay teams are No. 1 seeds — the Washington boys in the 3,200 and the Riverside boys in the 1,600.
Besides Schwartz and Wiltrout, here are the other WPIAL individuals who are top seeds:
Class AAA boys — Matt Bernadowski, Elizabeth Forward (110 high hurdles), Max Adams, Hempfield (discus).
Class AA boys — Dom Peretta, Beaver Falls (800 and 1,600), Landin Delaney, Winchester-Thurston (3,200).
Class AAA girls — Taylor McCorkle, Oakland Catholic (100), Maddie Holmberg, Hempfield (long jump).
Class AA girls — Emily Lelis, Springdale (100 hurdles), Alyssa Wise, Washington (100), Beth Shenck, Avonworth/Northgate (1,600), Ally Bartoszewicz, Vincentian (200), Kaily Clancy, California (shot put), Jenna Lucas, Fort Cherry (javelin).
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.