SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — Our Lady of the Sacred Heart’s Antonio Votour is a teen from a basketball family who attends a school well known for its basketball success.
“I don’t play, but my whole family did,” said Votour, a senior whose parents and a brother played collegiately.
Votour, though, has gone a different route. Instead of starring on the hardwood — last season, the OLSH boys set a state record for consecutive wins — Votour has showcased his talent on the rubber track.
And what took place Saturday, the High Point recruit said, was the high point of his high school career.
Votour became the first OLSH boy to win a state track and field title after winning the Class 2A 110-meter hurdles at the PIAA championships at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium.
“It’s so relieving to come in here, all the work that’s put into it and to finally come out on top,” said Votour, the No. 1 seed who placed fifth a season ago.
Votour had little difficulty sprinting to the title Saturday as he finished in a personal-record time of 14.28 seconds. He’s the first WPIAL Class 2A runner since 2019 to claim a title in the event. Central Cambria’s Jon Wess (14.44) was the runner-up, while Freeport’s Isaac Wetzel (15.11) placed seventh.
It was another record-breaking performance for Votour, who ran a WPIAL championship record time of 14.30 to win a WPIAL title.
“It’s honestly awesome,” he said. “Setting records is what I like to do.”
Murray joins special club
You could say Hempfield’s Peyton Murray had the perfect ending to his junior season. Murray used a PR and the top discus throw in the state this season to capture his first PIAA title, adding to the long list of Hempfield throwers to win state titles over the years. Murray’s winning throw in the Class 3A discus was 185-9, a distance he reached on the second of his six throws.
“I kind of felt like I had a bad WPIAL meet because of the wind, so I wanted to hit a few marks today,” Murray said. “I definitely wanted to PR first and win first. And then I went 185 and I was trying to hit 190, but just came up short.”
Murray, who won a WPIAL title with a top throw of 169-5, became the eighth PIAA discus champion from Hempfield. Hempfield’s longtime throws coach is Dave Murray, Peyton’s father.
“He gave me a hug. We just had a moment. It was good,” Peyton said.
Matt Arnold (177-0) of York County School of Technology finished second, while Penn-Trafford’s Matt Sarnowski (175-4) placed third and Kiski Area’s Jack Crider (158-8) eighth.
Amberson the first
Riverview’s Amberson Bauer has a unique first name, one he shares with three other family members. While there may be four Ambersons, only one is a PIAA champion.
“Oh yeah, first one,” Bauer said, laughing.
A senior, Bauer followed up winning his first WPIAL title by claiming his first PIAA title. Bauer captured first place in the Class 2A 800 with a winning time of 1:54.93, faster than the 1:57.33 he ran to win WPIAL’s.
“It feels so good,” said Bauer, who placed third last season. “Just all the pressure. It’s a relief.”
Bauer said he was encouraged by his performance a day earlier when he ran a PR of 4:17.05 to place fourth in the 1,600.
“That was such a good start,” he said. “Even after I finished it was like, “All right, that felt good. I can run fast again tomorrow.’ So I came back and ran fast.”
Against doctor’s orders
Due to a foot injury, Waynesburg’s Drew Layton wasn’t even supposed to compete in the Class 2A pole vault Saturday. Those were doctor’s orders.
“Well, my doctor said I should not be doing this at all. I should be resting,” Layton said. “I have a stress fracture in the metacarpal of my take-off foot, so it hurts a lot every time I take off. When I’m not vaulting, I’m in a boot. That’s how I’ve been trying to manage it.”
But despite being in pain, the two-time WPIAL pole vault champion managed to win his first state title after a slew of near misses. Layton, a senior, topped the field by soaring 15-3, an outdoor career best. Richland’s Logan Gossard and Pen Argyl’s Taylor LaBarre tied for second after jumping 14-9.
Making the moment even more special is that Layton joined his brother as a PIAA champion. Daniel Layton captured a title in the 110 hurdles in 2019. Daniel now runs at William & Mary, but was there Saturday to award Drew the gold medal.
“It’s incredible,” said Drew, a Slippery Rock recruit. “I’ve been a state runner-up three times and I’ve been this close every time. To finish it like this my senior year and win a state championship like my brother, it’s a feeling you could never imagine. It’s amazing.”
It was a bittersweet day for Ringgold junior Ryan Pajak and Butler junior Drew Griffith. Each of them broke the PIAA record in the 3,200, but neither claimed the Class 3A title.
There were actually three record breakers in the race, with Hatboro Horsham’s Brian DiCola taking gold with a time of 8:47.39. That broke the record of 8:54.87 set two seasons ago by Archbishop Wood’s Gary Martin. Pajak, the WPIAL runner-up, and Griffith, the WPIAL champion, both ran excellent races, but neither was the best. Pajak finished second in 8:48.20 and Griffith third in 8:52.20. Both shattered their previous PRs by more than 10 seconds.
No gold rush
This was not a great year for local athletes at the two-day PIAA championships, at least not from a golden point of view. Athletes from the WPIAL and City League collected nine gold medals. That number was 14 the previous two years and 10 in 2019 (there was no 2020 season due to the pandemic), while the highest in the past 30 years was 28 in 1998.