The seeding made Jonathan Weybrecht scoff a bit.
His hard-charging, District 2 champion Holy Redeemer 3,200 relay team was slotted at No. 19 among boys Class 2A competition in the state. And although those seedings for the PIAA Track and Field Championships are based on performances in district championships around the state, Weybrecht was convinced the Royals would finish much higher than that.
“We were seeded (19th), because we weren’t really pushed all year,” the senior said. “We knew we were better.”
But among the best?
None of the Royals relayers could be certain of that.
Yet, when Redeemer anchor Dominic Capaci brought the Royals a fourth-place medal by holding off a handful of runners trying to pass him at the end of the relay, it only continued a string of level-raising success for athletes from the WVC.
It seemed state competition at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium brought them to levels they never knew they could reach.
Take Lake-Lehman’s two-time District 2 3,200 girls championship relay team of Jace Garnick, Jade Fry, Olivia Vasey and Hailey Kubiski, for example.
Those same girls who finished 20th in last year’s PIAA Championships not only put up the best time among Class 2A girls teams in the state during preliminaries to reach the finals, they came from a No. 15 seed to finish with a fourth-place state medal in 9:36.70.
“Last year, we did the same time at districts as we did today,” Kubiski, the only senior on Lehman’s relay team, said with a state reward dangling from her neck Saturday. “This year, we started off slower. We peaked at the right time.
“This time, it was perfect timing.”
Pittston Area pole vaulter Abby Norwillo timed it right once again.
For the second straight year, she saved her best for the state field while finishing with a silver medal in the girls Class 3A vault.
Norwillo moved up a couple spots from her No. 4 seed to claim second by clearing 12-feet, 6 inches, matching her personal best of her outdoor career. And while that wasn’t as eye-popping as her rise from a No. 18 seed to a fifth-place finish at states last year, the performance left Norwillo jumping for joy.
“That 12-6 was in the back of my head, because I haven’t hit it with consistency,”the junior said. “It was just exhilarating.”
It was just as exciting for Pittston Area seniors Taryn Ashby and Paul Moska, who earned their first state medals after years of trying.
Ashby placed fifth in the girls Class 3A javelin with a throw of 137-11 to make a sweet trip to the medal stand, after coming up a place (9th) short last year.
“It’s awesome,” said Ashby who is headed to Villanova on a partial track scholarship. “It’s a privilege and an honor to make it to states.”
Meanwhile, a career of hard work paid off for Moska with his first trip to the PIAA championships. And he brought home something to show for it — a bronze medal in the boys Class 3A high jump when he cleared 6-4. That was his second-best height of the season — and put Moska into a four-way tie for third place in the state.
“Really, first time here, I just wanted to get on the medal stand,” said Moska, a No. 8 seed in the event. “It feels good.”
Berwick’s Payden Montana felt on top of the world after she won the girls Class 3A shot put to bring home the WVC’s only gold medal. As the favorite going in, she matched her expectations, along with Meyers sophomore Nazir Dunell — a No. 3 seed in the boys Class 2A 110 hurdles who finished with a bronze medal in that event.
Meyers senior Je’Vondrea McClair moved up from a No. 14 seed to finish with a silver medal in the boys Class 2A long jump. And Hanover Area’s Brandon Brueckner made a move from a No. 12 seed to earn a seventh-place medal in the boys Class 2A 300 hurdles, after finishing 25th in last year’s triple jump during his only other state appearance.
“With all the practice I went through,” Brueckner said, “it gave me the opportunity to finally get up here and get a medal.”
But the biggest hurdle was cleared by the Holy Redeemer two-mile relay team of Nick Brown, Lukas Volpetti, Weybrecht and Capaci.
The first two legs of that relay had the Royals in third place halfway through the event, and Weybrecht kept the lead.
But a pack of six competitors was closing quickly, and they were all challenging Capaci at the end.
“If they all passed me, we don’t get a medal,” Capaci said.
But he held off all challengers but one, leaving the surprising Royals running to fourth place in the state.
“That’s nerve-racking, the last straightaway,” Capaci said. “You’re completely dead by that point and you can hear them coming up behind you. That’s a lot of stress there. All I wanted to do is what I’ve done before.”
And maybe a little extra.
“Nick and Lukas put us in a good spot,” Weybrecht said. “I just kept us where we were. Dominic finished it for us.”