Some items that fell off my laptop after I dropped it trying to jump over a high hurdle …

• More than 400. That’s how many WPIAL and City League athletes competed at the PIAA track and field championships. That’s quite a large number when you think about it. The PIAA championship experience is special, and it’s awesome seeing so many kids get to be a part of it.

• Mia Cochran was undoubtedly the local MVP of last year’s championships. This year that honor has to go to Brownsville’s Jolena “JoJo” Quarzo, who increased her career gold medal count to five after rolling to wins in the Class 2A 1,600– and 3,200-meter runs. Quarzo has won three 3,200 titles in a row and the Quarzo sisters have now won the past five.

• One of my personal MVP’s was Mother Nature. The weather at state’s was miserable the previous two years, as it was cold, windy and rainy. But this year there were no rain drops, and the temperature was in the 60s and 70s. Good conditions often lead to record-breaking performances, and that was the case with several meet records and lots of PRs being broken.

• Speaking of the Quarzo sisters, former Brownsville star and current N.C. State runner Gionna Quarzo was there at the podium Saturday to present Jolena with her 3,200 gold medal. It was a cool moment, as was former Waynesburg standout Daniel Layton putting a gold medal around the neck of his brother, Drew, who like his older brother is now a state champion. Drew won the Class 2A pole vault after producing a school-record leap of 15 feet, 3 inches.

• How gutsy of a kid is Layton, who went against doctor’s orders and competed Saturday? He has been dealing with a stress fracture in his foot and has been wearing a boot when not competing. But the senior said nothing was stopping him from giving one final try of winning state gold. And wouldn’t you know, Layton made the most by propelling himself to the title.

• Making Layton’s win all the more special is that his father, Rick, is Waynesburg’s coach. What a special moment that had to have been for those two. Likewise with Hempfield star thrower Peyton Murray and his dad, Dave. the longtime throws coach at Hempfield. Peyton claimed a silver medal in the Class 3A shot put Friday before winning the discus Saturday for his first state title. Dave Murray called it his “happiest day,” adding that “No son has ever given a father a better gift.” So, does Peyton still have to give his dad a Father’s Day present next month?

• Also showing a lot of grit was Quaker Valley’s Nora Johns. Johns has been dealing with a bad muscle pull recently, which clearly affected her in her attempt to win a third consecutive Class 2A 300 hurdles title. Johns didn’t go down without a fight, though, qualifying for the final in Friday’s preliminaries before finishing seventh a day later. She finished in 46.81 seconds, while Midd-West’s Camryn Pyle won with a time of 44.80. But if Johns had been healthy, she would have had a good shot to three-peat. Her winning time last year was 44.78.

• The WPIAL continues to churn out highly successful distance runners. There was once again star power and impressive depth. Of the eight total 1,600 and 3,200 races, WPIAL athletes captured four titles. A season ago, there were seven local champions in those events. This year, the top five finishers in the girls Class 3A 3,200 were from the WPIAL. I asked Quarzo about the district’s distance success. Said Quarzo, “It just feels like the WPIAL, around the Pittsburgh area, it just seems like there is a really tough group of PA girls. And I think that’s how it’s been for so many years. It just seems like the 1,600 and the 3,200 have been very hard events that we’ve hit in the WPIAL.”

• One of those distance champs was Hampton junior Dale Hall, who seemingly came out of nowhere to win gold in the Class 3A 1,600. After finishing third at WPIAL’s, Hall stunningly claimed the title in a loaded field that included runners headed to compete in the SEC, ACC and Big Ten. Hall said afterward, “I don’t think anyone expected that. I think that was a big surprise.” Indeed it was, Dale. Indeed it was.

• For the second year in a row, no WPIAL sprinters won titles in the 100 or 200. But we knew it was going to be a tall task this year with the likes of Laila Campbell and Ethan Black competing. Neither disappointed. Campbell, a junior who attends Spring Grove, is a big-time talent who comfortably three-peated as Class 3A girls champion in both events. Campbell won the 200 by nearly a second. Meanwhile, Black, a senior at Conemaugh Township, was golden once again as he three-peated in the Class 2A boys 100 and 200. Not only that, but the 10.39 he ran in 100 prelims and the 21.07 he ran in the 200 final were PIAA records. Black plans on walking on the Penn State football team this fall. He’ll immediately be one of the fastest players on a top-10 team.

• The PIAA does a tremendous job putting on the track championships. Executive director Bob Lombardi and pals have it running like a well-oiled machine. The events themselves are the big draw, of course, but there are also a lot of neat traditions such as the PIAA officials singing “America the Beautiful” and the national anthem, as well as former champions returning to be inducted into the PA Track and Field Hall of Fame.

• And just like that, it’s a wrap on the 2023 high school track and field season. There are so many great people who play a part in showcasing the sport locally. Veterans Ed Helbig and Rich Wright of Baldwin are two of the best in the business. Upper St. Clair coach Doug Petrick has been so helpful over the years, and I always enjoy running into two of my old West Mifflin teachers at many of the big meets — Mr. Maz (Mike Mazzarese) and Mr. Roz (Greg Rozgonyi). Also, shout out to Karlon Nixon, a former Wash High sprinter who has done an excellent job of promoting the sport on Twitter. This sport needs more exposure, and “Coach Nixon” (@CoachNixonTF) is among those at the forefront of those efforts locally.

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