West Xtra: Quakers feel their oats at PIAA meet
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SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. -- In recent years, Quaker Valley had established itself as one of the WPIAL's top programs for distance runners. The Quakers only enhanced that reputation in Shippensburg.
The Quakers added more gold medals to match their black and gold uniforms. On the individual side, L.J. Westwood won the Class AA 800-meter run for the second year in a row while the 3,200 relay team finished first for the third time in four years.
Westwood's title was the final chapter in his comeback story from -- of all things -- a badminton injury.
Westwood dislocated his right kneecap and strained his MCL while playing badminton at a school function earlier this spring. He didn't compete for about a month and only came back shortly before the WPIAL qualifiers.
Given PIAA track history, winning two consecutive 800 titles is a monumental feat for Westwood. The PIAA track and field championships date back to 1925, and only four other runners from the WPIAL have won consecutive 800 titles (it was the 880-yard run before the PIAA changed to meters in 1979).
The other back-to-back winners from the WPIAL were Connellsville's Ken King (2004-05), Hampton's Mike England (1977-78), Scottdale's Sam Bair (1963-64) and Connellsville's Jack Senor (1943-44),
Westwood also was a WPIAL cross-country champion as a junior and Quaker Valley has won five consecutive WPIAL team championships in that sport.
As for the championship 3,200 relay team, Westwood and Nat Fox were two members who also ran on the 2010 team that won a PIAA title. The other two members of the relay team this year were Roy Hadfield and Matt Cooper. Fox also finished fifth in the 800 (Hadfield won the WPIAL cross-country championship in the fall).
"We really weren't that focused too much on a time. We were just focused on winning," Westwood said of the relay team.
In addition to the distance runners, the Quakers also got an excellent performance from pole vaulter Joey Rakowski, who earned a PIAA Class AA silver medal.
Rakowski cleared 14 feet, 6 inches with his best vault, second to Kane's Patrick Anderson, who set a PIAA record in the event with a vault of 15-11.
Saturday was a hot day in Shippensburg with temperatures near 90 degrees and it certainly added to the challenge for Beaver Area's Josef Dipietrantonio.
A senior long-distance specialist, Dipietrantonio competed in both the 1,600-meter run and the 3,200. That also involved running a qualifying heat on Friday for the 1,600 final, then running two races that started three-and-a-half hours apart on Saturday.
He ran the 3,200 on Saturday morning at 9, finishing third in 9:25.31 behind North Schuykill's Brendan Shearn (9:22.09) and Holy Cross' Rico Galassi (9:23.84).
He returned to the sizzling Seth Grove Stadium track at 12:30 p.m. and finished fifth in the 1,600 in 4:23.49. North East's Ryan Smathers won the event in 4:12.39.
Aliquippa's 400-meter relay team finished second to Trinity of Camp Hill ... by .04 second.
Trinity won the event in 42.23 seconds. Aliquippa, which won the WPIAL championship, was second in 42.27.
Members of the Quips team are Kaylan Kenney, Hassan Thompson, Dravon Henry and Shaquere McBride.
At the PIAA championships, any competitor who finishes in the top eight in their event earns a medal.
Here are other athletes representing schools in the PG West Xtra circulation to achieve that:
• West Allegheny freshman Lauren Costa finished eighth in the Class AAA girls 100-meter dash.
• Hopewell junior Shatori Walker-Kimbrough was third in the Class AAA girls triple jump.
• Ambridge senior India McCoy was fourth in the Class AAA girls high jump.
• Three Ellwood City girls placed in their Class AA events -- Abbey Eisenbrown was fifth in the pole vault, Angela McCowin was sixth in the 100 hurdles and Kelsey Kozora was eighth in the long jump.
• Beaver's Ruthe Neeley was fourth in the Class AA girls 400 and her teammate, Aubrey Hutchinson, was fifth in the 300 hurdles. The Bobcats' 1,600 relay team finished third.
• Quaker Valley's Sarah McKendry was seventh in the Class AA girls 3,200.
• South Side Beaver's Cheyenne Winkle was fifth in the Class AA girls javelin throw.
First Published May 31, 2012 12:00 am