Andrew Layton closed his junior track & field season with a golden moment after winning the pole vault competition in mid-June at the 2022 New Balance Outdoor Nationals at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.
The Waynesburg Central vaulter finished first in the Rising Stars division after clearing 4.60 meters (15-1).
Brownsville senior-to-be Jolena Quarzo also had a strong performance in the national meet after finishing second in the 5,000 meters with a time of 16:57.85.
Layton qualified for the meet with his vault of 14-10 at the Baldwin Invitational.
The senior had no issues clearing the bar in the first two heights, 4.15 (13-7¼) and 13-10, but was unable to repeat the early success on his way to first place.
“I needed three attempts at 14-1½ (4.30 meters). I barely tipped it. I needed three attempts at 14-5¼ (4.40 meters),” said Layton.
The bar moved up to 4.50 meters (14-9) with three vaulters remaining. Layton passed to the next height, while Jason Olivia Jr., of Plantation, Fla., and George Garrett, of Sherborn, Mass., both cleared and joined Layton at 4.60 meters (15-1).
“I barely nipped it on my first attempt. I knew I would make it on my next attempt, and I did,” said Layton.
With the gold medal secured, Layton moved the bar to 15-6¼ for an attempt to top his personal-best vault of 15-6.
“On my first attempt, I ran through it. The wind knocked the pole out of my hands,” explained Layton.
Layton then experienced something he never had, but an event pole vaulters fear.
“On my way up, about three feet, my pole broke. It snapped a couple feet up on the pole. One piece shot straight up in the air. The bigger piece hit me in my quad. I have a nice bruise,” said Layton. “After that, I was done. My quad was numb. I was done after that.
“If the pole hadn’t snapped, I knew I was going to get it.”
Layton added, “That’s the first time I broke a pole and it was the first time on that pole.”
Layton plans to compete in at least one more competition during the summer. He’ll travel to Rochester, N.Y., for the 13th annual Rockback Beach Vault & Club Championship on Aug. 6.
While competing at historic Franklin Field was new to Layton, the oval was a familiar track to Quarzo after competing in the Penn Relays in late April when she placed ninth in the 3,000 meters.
Quarzo was in the lead pack at the finish with Carly Wilkes, of Salem, Va., crossing the finish line first in 16:48.10 and Sydney Leitner, of Yorktown, N.Y., placing third in 17:01.49.
Quarzo is used to running 5,000 meters throughout the cross country season, but the 12½-lap race on the track was her first.
“(Running 5,000 meters on a track) is very, very different. For Pennsylvania courses, they are very hilly and hard courses,” Quarzo said of the difference between running a 5K around the track compared to a cross country course. “When I race on a track, I pace myself and pick it up.
“Running 12½ laps is weird.”
Quarzo did just that in her first 5K on the track.
“The first 1½, 2 miles, there was little separation. The last mile, me and four other girls separated. I was third going into the last 800 meters (two laps),” explained Quarzo. “I focused on the scoreboard clock and on the girl I thought would win.”
Quarzo was a bit disappointed with her time.
“I wanted to run under 17 (minutes). I was hoping to run a little faster,” said Quarzo. “I try to hit my splits evenly, if I can.
“I regret that I didn’t to out harder in the first mile. I’ll take my first mile out faster next time.”
The competition schedule is over for Quarzo. The two-time WPIAL Class AA cross country champion will focus on her training with the hope of a three-peat in the district final.