Gionna Quarzo took a breather after successfully defending her gold medal in the 3,200 in record-breaking time last Thursday at the WPIAL Class AA Track & Field Championship before her attention turned to the defense of her state title.
One competitor repeatedly popped up as the Brownsville junior talked of defending her gold medal in Saturday’s 3,200 at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium: Loyalsock Township’s Isabel Sagar.
“I have a lot of pressure. People will say ‘You won last year,’ and Isabel is pretty fast,” said Quarzo.
The two premier distance runners met earlier this spring in the 3,000 meters at the Penn Relays with Sagar gaining the upper hand with her third-place finish in 9:37.70. Quarzo placed 13th in 9:54.14.
The two jockeyed back-and-forth in last year’s state final before Quarzo was able to gain space in the last of the eight laps to finish in 10:48.19.
However, Quarzo won’t have Sagar to battle on Saturday because the Loyalsock distance runner did not qualify for the state meet.
“She finished seventh in her district meet in 12 something. She had her legged wrapped. Obviously, there was something wrong,” said Quarzo. “My mom found a video online and (Sagar’s) face said it all.”
Quarzo had a theory what might’ve happened to Sagar.
“I think she ran in the 10:30s every meet. She ran 4:55 in the 1,600. I think she ran too hard,” said Quarzo.
Quarzo enters the 3,200 final after posting 10:34.15 in last week’s district meet. North Schuylkill’s Cori McCormick (11:12.46) and Northern Lehigh’s Reagan Pender (11:13.60) have the next fastest times.
Quarzo not only wants to successfully defend her state gold medal, but has the PIAA record in her sights. Central Cambria’s Carly Seymour holds the mark of 10:31.85 set in 2008.
Quarzo’s personal-best time is 10:29.29 from the South Hills Classic back in early April.
“I’d rather (Sagar) be there. I’d be pushed. I want to win by beating the best or have her beat me because she was so good,” explained Quarzo, adding, “But, there are still some pretty good runners. I still want that record, anyway.”
Waynesburg Central teammates Daniel Layton and Taylor Shriver also enter the state meet as the top seeds.
Layton has the fastest time in the Class AA 110 high hurdles of 14.58 seconds, while Shriver’s WPIAL record-breaking height of 12-7 is the best in the pole vault.
Layton has had his travails in the hurdles as the William & Mary recruit enters his final state meet.
The senior had the fastest time entering the state final last year, but clipped the first hurdle, tumbled to the track, regained his feet and finished eighth.
His status in the hurdles was in doubt last week due to a clerical error, but the PIAA ruled in favor of his appeal. Layton came through with a convincing gold medal run.
Layton has also qualified in pole vault, although his WPIAL gold medal-winning vault of 13-6 is five inches off Lakeview’s Isaac Lightcap. Layton only vaulted once last week in the district final, making the height on his third and final attempt after suffering a shoulder injury in warmups.
Layton recovered from his tumble the hurdles final last year to win the silver medal in the pole vault.
Shriver holds a slim ¾-inch advantage over Loyalsock’s Hailey Zurich. The sophomore cleared only 10 feet last year.
Elizabeth Forward senior Bri Spirnak successfully defended her WPIAL gold medal in the Class AA javelin, and won silver last year at the state meet.
The Pitt recruit has her eyes set on a record-breaking day.
“I’m going for 162-9 (the school record). That’s been my goal for the end of the year. It’s crunch time now,” said Spirnak.
Belle Vernon’s Hannah Seitzinger finished seventh in the Class AAA 400-meter dash last year.
Beth-Center’s Sydney Urbine received a late nod into the Class AA 800-meter run after a runner or two dropped the event for the state meet. Urbine placed seventh in the district meet and did not automatically qualify.
Frazier’s Skye Eicher was tantalizingly close to advancing to the finals of the Class AA 100-meter dash last year, missing out on time qualifying by .02 seconds. The junior has the third-fastest qualifying time. Eicher also earned a berth into the 200.
Several other local athletes just missed qualifying for the final round last year.
The top nine advance to the finals in the throws and jumps, and Connellsville’s Aden Bruich (shot put), Beth-Center’s Jordan Blackburn (discus), and Elizabeth Forward’s Hannah Hughes (shot put) all finished 10th, while Southmoreland’s Chase Calhoun (shot put) placed 11th.
Should Waynesburg Central’s Juliana Fowler meet her desired distance in the Class AA long jump, the junior will likely not only gain a record, but also a medal.
“My goal is 17-2, at least. I want the school record so bad,” Fowler said after the WPIAL meet.
Monessen’s Darnel Howell is seeded eighth in the Class AA high jump with his WPIAL gold medal-winning jump of 6-3, but the senior cleared 6-8 earlier in the spring.
California’s Jelani Stafford, the district Class AA gold medalist in the shot put, has the eighth-best qualifying distance in the event.