As the skies opened up and rain began to pour down toward the end of the 50th annual Baldwin Invitational on Friday, South Fayette’s Olivia Renk would have been content to simply win her final heat of the 200 meters and find some shelter.

Needless to say, she wasn’t expecting to break her personal record in those conditions — let alone finish in under 25 seconds for the first time. Turns out, it’s going to take a little bit more than some rain showers and a wet track to slow this star sprinter down.

A Saint Francis recruit, Renk blew past Winchester Thurston’s Monroe Law and Upper St. Clair’s Sadie Tomczyk to take home the 100-meter crown in the early evening with a time of 12.18 seconds, only 0.09 seconds off her personal-best. Then, in the rain-soaked 200-meter finals, Renk eviscerated her previous PR by a quarter of a second, posting a blistering time of 24.81 to beat out Norwin’s Melani Schmidt by more than half a second.

“I was kind of nervous for the 200 with the conditions,” Renk said. “It’s great having a good push from other competitors. It honestly just helps me do better in all my races.”

Renk is following in a long line of standout sprinters to come through South Fayette in recent years, including Rachel Helbling, Amy Allen, Amanda Marquis and Melana Schumaker. And after finishing third in both the 100 and the 200 at last year’s WPIAL Class 3A championships, Renk appears to be the front-runner to reach the top of the podium in both events at this year’s WPIAL championships on May 15.

“I think having those great sprinters push me in my early years has helped me now,” Renk said. “Now I’m in a good place.”

Joining Renk with a double haul of gold medals on Friday was Hempfield senior Peyton Murray, who swept the discus and shot put titles for the second year in a row. A Notre Dame recruit, Murray was unsatisfied with his performance after failing to PR in either event, but there were still plenty of positives to take away from both events — along with plenty of room for improvement heading into the postseason.

Murray’s winning discus throw traveled 178-5, clearing his next-closest competitor by more than 10 feet, while his winning shot put throw went 52-10½ — good enough to edge Gateway’s Dino Nadarevic by seven inches. Nadarevic took home silver in both events.

“I opened bad [in the discus]. It was really hot, but that’s no excuse,” Murray said. “Then when finals came around, I did much better. I thought it was definitely a PR, but the wind switched up, and it was just falling out of the air super quickly.

“In the discus, I need to be more consistent. I need to open up better and just go faster and get a big mark. In the shot put, out of the back, I’m really bad right now. … I’m more worried about fixing my shot-put technique right now.”

Norwin’s Brozeski beats out South Fayette’s Schumaker in 100 hurdles

Many expected South Fayette sophomore Delaney Schumaker to join Renk in bringing home a pair of gold medals in the 100 and 300 hurdles, as Schumaker is the school record-holder in both events and one of the top hurdlers in the state.

Schumaker cruised to the 300 hurdles title with a time of 45.28, beating out teammate Evabella Cox by 0.8 seconds. But it was Norwin junior Brandi Brozeski who stole the show in the 100 hurdles, lowering her previous personal-best time by more than half a second to claim the gold with a time of 15.01. Schumaker finished second with a time of 15.20.

“It feels so rewarding,” Brozeski said. “I didn’t really think that it would actually happen.”

Brozeski is the niece of Knights girls basketball coach Brian Brozeski, and her older sister, Emily, is the school record-holder in the 100 hurdles and is now a standout heptathlete at Duquesne.

“I just really want to beat [my sister]’s record before I graduate,” Brozeski said.

‘X-Man’ leaps to top of podium for Central Catholic

One of the most impressive multi-sport athletes in the WPIAL, Central Catholic junior Xxavier Thomas put on a show in the triple jump and long jump with his whole family in attendance — including older brother Rodney Thomas, now a defensive back with the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL.

A Penn State football recruit, Thomas put his rare athletic ability on full display on Friday, taking home first place in the triple jump with a mark of 45-5½ and second place in the long jump with a personal-best mark of 22-9. Thomas has already exceeded his older brother’s career-best triple jump, and he came just short of surpassing his brother’s long jump PR of 22-9½.

“My triple jump could have been better, but overall it was a pretty good day,” Thomas said. “In the long jump, I definitely feel like I improved a lot, because I improved my final phase. … Whenever [my family] is around me and supporting me, I always try to do well by them.

“Having [my brother] here definitely gave me more of a speed boost and a lot more confidence.”

Thomas is the defending WPIAL Class 3A triple-jump champion, and he looks to be a leading contender for this year’s long jump title as well. North Allegheny’s Nicholas Humphries took home the long jump title on Friday with a mark of 23-2.

“I have to hone in on all my phases,” Thomas said. “I’ve got to make sure I’m not popping up too high and keeping a good level going outward.”

Other top performers

In arguably the most exciting race of the evening, Canon-McMillan junior Colton Dean surged ahead just before the finish line to win the 100 meters with a time of 10.90, narrowly beating out Neighborhood Academy’s DeJuan Croumbles and Mt. Lebanon’s Matt Nguyen, who finished second and third while each crossing the finish line in 10.94.

Meanwhile, in the ceremonial “McKinney Mile,” West Allegheny sophomore Grace Fritzman finished strong to take home first place with a time of 5:01.74, followed by Peters Township teammates Grace Senneway and Meagan McKenna, who finished second and third with times of 5:03.62 and 5:04.66. Fritzman also finished second in the 3200 with a time of 10:51.86, while North Allegheny senior Eva Kynaston finished first in 10:46.00.

“Running means so much to me,” Fritzman said. “It just makes me really happy and grateful that I get to participate in this sport and compete at the level that I’m at now.”

Legendary Baldwin coach Ed Helbig still going strong

This year’s Baldwin Invitational was a historic event for a multitude of reasons. To mark the 50-year anniversary of the meet, the event’s founder, Chuck McKinney, was on hand to take part in the festivities, greeting each competitor in the “McKinney Mile” with a handshake before taking their marks.

But the best part of all was the presence of longtime Baldwin coach Ed Helbig, who does a tremendous job as an ambassador for the sport of track and field while overseeing the prestigious invitational year in and year out. Helbig has spent the past 10-plus months battling esophageal cancer, but nothing was going to stop him from taking part in the meet’s golden anniversary — and with how spry Helbig is looking these days, you never would have guessed he was fighting such a life-threatening disease if you didn’t know it.

Helbig has spent 49 years coaching track and field at Baldwin — 19 as an assistant and the last 30 as head coach. He and fellow Highlanders coach Rich Wright were each inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in February.

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

Steve Rotstein

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