Like her older sister Regan, Tori Atkins is a multi-talented athlete who excels in basketball and track and field for Laurel.
It was a big day for the older Atkins sister, as Regan announced her commitment to play basketball at Slippery Rock University next year. Coincidentally, younger sister Tori now has put on a show in two years in a row at SRU — and she’s only a sophomore in high school.
Tori Atkins won Class 2A titles in the 200 and 400 meters for the second year in a row Wednesday at the WPIAL track and field championships at Slippery Rock, giving her four gold medals in only two years of competition. She also added two more events this year, taking home a total of four medals after a second-place finish in the 100 and a fifth-place finish for the Spartans in the 400 relay. She lowered her personal-best times in the 100 and 200 in the process, while narrowly missing a PR in the 400.
“It’s hard, because I came into track season late because of basketball, so my training was cut short,” Atkins said. “It’s hard being a multi-sport athlete. … Right now, I’m leaning more toward doing track in college. I think I can be more successful in that.”
The sophomore started her day with a personal-best time of 12.20 in the 100 for a second-place finish, then cruised to victory by more than 2 seconds with a time of 57.28 in the 400 — only 0.11 seconds off her personal record. Atkins finished the day by avenging her 100-meter defeat against Avonworth’s Hayzes Robinson, beating Robinson by 0.75 seconds with a time of 24.89 in the 200. She set her personal record in the 200 semifinals with a time of 24.75.
Atkins beat both of her times from last year’s event, when she won the 200 in 26.10 and the 400 in 57.34.
“[Robinson] is a great runner, so it was fun to compete against her and see what I could do,” Atkins said.
Avonworth’s Hayzes Robinson adds to family sprinting legacy
For the past seven years, the Class 2A crown in the girls 100 meters has spent most of its time residing under the same roof at the Robinson household.
In 2016, Avonworth’s Hayden Robinson won the Class 2A title in the 100, then her older sister, Hunter, won it in 2017. Hayden then won the 100 again in 2018 and 2019, and the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 2020 season. And although it has been four years since a Robinson sister won the title, Avonworth junior Hayzes Robinson brought the crown back home with a personal-best time of 12.01 to win her first WPIAL championship.
“This means they can’t make fun of me anymore for not having won,” Robinson said about her older sisters. “I don’t know what [time] I thought I ran. I just didn’t want to see the girls to my left or my right.”
Hayzes Robinson finished second in the 200 with a time of 25.64 after running a personal-best 25.52 in the 200 semis, and she also helped Avonworth to a fourth-place finish in the 400 relay.
“I’m hoping to win states in the 100 and get under 12, and then in the 200, to get top-three and under 25,” Robinson said.
Quaker Valley’s Nora Johns completes hurdling three-peat
Like the Atkins sisters, Nora Johns is also an accomplished basketball player who helped Quaker Valley to a successful season on the hardwood, but the track is where she specializes.
A two-time PIAA champion in the 300 hurdles, Johns became a three-time WPIAL champion in the event with a time of 46.58. She never even competed in the 300 hurdles until her sophomore year of high school, and she has yet to lose a championship race in the event since.
“I never thought I’d even make it to WPIALs,” Johns said with a laugh. “Now, I think it’s more just like a want. I want that three-peat [at states]. It’s going to come down to whether I want it more than everyone else.”
Although she was unable to approach her personal-best time Wednesday, Johns’ main focus lies on saving her best for last at the upcoming PIAA championships next week. There, Johns will look to complete an even more historic three-peat as she tries to become the first girl in 15 years to win three consecutive state titles in the 300 hurdles.
“I strained my quad on Sunday, and I haven’t been able to run the past two or three days,” Johns said. “I knew I wasn’t going to run my PR. The goal was just to qualify for states. … Just the opportunity to run and try to defend [my title] is what I really want.”
Other top performers
Freeport senior Reese Skiba edged Mount Pleasant’s Tiffany Zelmore to claim a gold medal in the discus with a throw of 120-2. Another accomplished basketball player who enjoyed a great day on the track, Zelmore finished second with a throw of 117-1 while also taking fourth place in the shot put.
For Skiba, her WPIAL title-winning throw came as a bit of a surprise after a sixth-place finish in the shot put. Still, she couldn’t be happier with her performance after winning her first WPIAL title.
“I knew what I wanted to do today. My goal all year has been to go to states,” Skiba said. “I knew one of my biggest competitors today would be Tiffany Zelmore. She was ranked first. We were only a few inches off each other for our PR. She came out and threw a great distance today.
“I’m just glad that I won it.”
Brownsville senior Jolena Quarzo continued to follow in her older sister Gianna’s footsteps as a dominant distance-running champion, winning the 1,600 for the second year in a row while capturing her third consecutive title in the 3,200. After missing out on the chance to run alongside Gionna as a freshman due to the canceled season in 2020, Quarzo will join her older sister at N.C. State next year.
In the 800, Eden Christian sophomore Hope Haring won with a time of 2:20.33, and her sophomore teammate Lara DeFazio won the long jump with a distance of 17-3. Meanwhile, South Park senior Joyce Martin cruised to the 100 hurdles crown in 15.03 — winning by nearly a full second even while each of the top seven finishers in the race set new personal records.
Elsewhere, Beaver Falls junior Mikayla Anderson won the shot put with a throw of 38-7, and the javelin title went to Derry sophomore Sophia Mazzoni at 140-5. In the triple jump, Keystone Oaks senior Sydney Taylor won with a personal-best 36-10.5, and Beaver junior Elizabeth Michael won the pole vault at 10-6.