SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — Jolena Quarzo’s nickname is JoJo.

But on Friday, “GoGo” might have been more fitting, as there was no stopping the Brownsville star from repeating as PIAA Class 2A champion in the 1,600-meter run. Not even the fact that it was only her third time running the race this season.

Quarzo made it back-to-back titles in the 1,600, as she breezed to a comfortable win in the very first event of the PIAA track and field championships at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium. Quarzo, a senior who will continue her career at N.C. State, finished in 4 minutes, 55.45 seconds, five seconds better than runner-up Addie Cohen of Wyomissing (5:00.51).

“It was a little hard because I don’t really race the mile a lot,” said Quarzo, one of two WPIAL girls to claim titles Friday. “I haven’t really raced that much this season. To be here and get to race these girls, it’s cool.”

Quarzo’s top event is the 3,200. She set a championship record last season when she ran a 10:19.41, and on Saturday will shoot for a third consecutive PIAA title in the race and fifth state gold medal overall. So, as good as Quarzo is in the 1,600, it still plays second fiddle to the 3,200 in her mind. Quarzo didn’t want to burn herself out this season, so she elected to run the 1,600 only three times — a regular-season invitational in April, the WPIAL championships and PIAA championships.

“Cross country season and indoor season, I just did a lot of races,” she said. “I’m a senior already. I’m like, ‘I don’t want to do too much. Get myself tired. Or even get hurt.’ So I was like, ‘If you can just train really hard throughout the season and you have good workouts and just focus on WPIAL’s and states.’ That was the biggest thing for me.”

Quarzo was challenged for about a lap Friday, but by the time she was three laps in and there was only one to go, her lead had ballooned to 10 seconds. She then coasted from there, falling just short of her PR of 4:54.08 set at last year’s PIAA championships.

Said Quarzo, “I don’t think of the 1,600 as my main event, but I did win it last year, so it was a goal coming into this year.”

Tapper halfway to another double

As expected, Hempfield senior Liz Tapper captured the Class 3A shot put title, putting her a win in the discus away from doubling in the throws for the second year in a row. But that’s not to say this Michigan recruit was pleased with her top heave of 45 feet, 2 inches, which was short of the marks she tossed at WPIAL’s (46-1¾) and at last year’s PIAA finals (46-4¼).

“Not really. No,” Tapper said with a laugh. “It was my opening throw, so I was happy that I opened up strong. I definitely had more. It’s upsetting, but I’m still happy that I did what I was supposed to do and defended that title.”

Tapper, whose PR is 48-7, was about 2 feet better than anyone else Friday. Strath Haven’s Alexa Brown was the runner-up after producing a top mark of 43-2½. 

Next up for Tapper is the discus Saturday morning. Tapper, whose personal-best of 164-4 ranks second in WPIAL history, is actually the No. 2 seed. Tapper’s top throw at the WPIAL championships was 152-8, putting her behind Warwick senior Ella Lucas, a South Carolina recruit who threw 157-7 at the District 3 championships. Ellis was the runner-up last year when Tapper out-tossed her by 11 feet.

“I’m excited,” Tapper said. “Ella Lucas, she’s giving me a run for my money. I’m excited to have a little bit of competition this year.”

Up-and-down day for Kuchera

Day 1 of the championships was a mixed bag for Canon-McMillan junior Rose Kuchera, who won four gold medals at the WPIAL Class 3A championships. Kuchera bagged a second-place finish in the triple jump and was the eighth and final qualifier for Saturday’s final in the 100 hurdles. She also ran a leg on Canon-McMillan’s 400 relay team that fell short of qualifying for the final after winning the event at WPIAL’s.

“I’m pretty upset with the 4×1 just because we had really high expectations, but it happens. I’m really excited for the hurdles final tomorrow and I’m very happy with triple jump,” Kuchera said.

Kuchera, one of only two girls in WPIAL history to reach 40 feet in the triple jump, grabbed a silver medal in the event courtesy of a top leap of 40-6¼. West Chester Rustin’s Ava Alexander, a Kentucky recruit, jumped 41-5½ to claim gold. Butler’s Megan Baggetta finished third (39-8¼). Earlier in the day, Kuchera placed third in her heat in the 100 hurdles, but still qualified for the final via her time of 14.92.

It’s now three PIAA career top-three finishes for Kuchera, the runner-up in the 100 hurdles and third-place finisher in the triple jump last season. Saturday, she’ll compete in the 100 hurdles final and long jump. Kuchera’s PR in the long jump is 19-6¼, which is not far behind the WPIAL record of 20-1 set by Hempfield’s Maddie Holmberg in 2014.

“I’m very hungry [for a title], for the long jump especially,” she said. “I’m hoping to go 20 [feet].”

100-meter qualifiers

Avonworth/Northgate junior Hayzes Robinson moved a step closer to joining her two older sisters as PIAA sprint champions. Robinson ran a 12.33 to win her preliminary heat in the Class 2A 100, fourth fastest among the eight finalists. Joining the WPIAL champion in Saturday’s final will be Carlynton sophomore Jordynn Carter (12.36) and Greensburg Central Catholic sophomore Eva Denis (12.37). Robinson’s sisters, Hunter and Hayden, combined to win six PIAA sprint titles, including the 100 one time apiece. Hayzes also advanced to Saturday’s final in the 200.

In Class 3A, a WPIAL senior and freshman advanced to the final of the 100. Upper St. Clair senior Dani Prunzik, a three-time WPIAL champion in the event, finished in 12.00, while Franklin Regional freshman Monroe Law ran a 12.13. Prunzik has the No. 4 qualifying time and Law No. 6. Both will have their hands full in the final, as Spring Grove’s Laila Campbell is the two-time defending champion and ran the top qualifying time of 11.63 seconds. Prunzik was the runner-up to Campbell last season.

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at