100 and 200 meters
Cierra White, Engineering and Science
White defended her PIAA Class AA titles in the 100- and 200-meter dashes as a senior. In winning Public League championships in both races, the Texas Tech recruit turned in Pennsylvania's top marks of the season, running 11.79 and 23.95 seconds in the 100 and 200, respectively. White carried a heavy load for the Engineers, also anchoring their 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams that medaled at the state meet. To boot, she took home District 12 Class AA crowns in both sprint events.
Taylor Ellis-Watson, Springside
After several years in which nagging injuries kept Ellis-Watson out of the discussion of the area's elite, she shined as a senior. The Pittsburgh signee was the state's best in the 400 all season, capping her terrific year with a Pennsylvania-best time of 54.76 to bring home the state Independent Schools crown. The clip would have won both PIAA state races had she been eligible to compete. Keep an eye on Watson in college: She very well could turn into one of the nation's best.
Emma Keenan, Gwynedd-Mercy Academy
Keenan doubled as both the District 1 Class AAA and PIAA champion in the 800, taking home the state crown with more than a second to spare over the second-place finisher. The 2 minutes, 11.82 seconds she turned in at districts was the third-best time across the state this season. Keenan now might get to defend her crown, and perhaps set records, for two more seasons. What more could you ask from a sophomore?
Maria Seykora, Notre Dame Academy
Seykora elected to compete in the 3,200 at the Pennsylvania Independent Schools championships, a race she won by nearly 40 seconds, but she also was the area's best in the 1,600. A junior, she placed fifth in the Penn Relays high school girls' 1,600 championship with a personal-record 4 minutes, 53.89 seconds against some of the nation's best. She won her third consecutive Delco championship in the 1,600, and even claimed her second consecutive 3,200 title there. The time that won the PIAA Class AAA state title (4:55.72 by Margo Malone of North Hills) is about two seconds shy of Seykora's best.
Tori Gerlach, Pennridge
Gerlach's spirited victory at the PIAA championships, where she bested defending champ Sara Sargent of Pennsbury, was gutsy. After jockeying with Sargent for most of the race, Gerlach kicked into high gear down the final stretch, boxing in Sargent, and went on to the title with Pennsylvania's best mark of the year (10 minutes, 36 seconds). She'll be back in a year to defend that title as a senior against Sargent in what could be another race for the ages.
Emerald Walden, Plymouth Whitemarsh
Though Walden, a senior, fell just shy of the PIAA title she coveted, the Villanova recruit proved to be dominant at the local level. Her Suburban One National championship-winning time of 14.05 seconds was the second-best in Pennsylvania this season, edging Abington standout Leah Nugent. Walden went on to win the District 1 title and take silver at the state meet.
Leah Nugent, Abington
The senior's talent can't be understated. A Virginia Tech recruit, Nugent won her second career PIAA Class AAA title in the 300 hurdles (her first came in 2009 as a sophomore) in 41.10 seconds, breaking the state record she had held a share of. Not only was that the best time in state history, but it was also the third-best time in the nation this season - and just 0.16 of a second off the top time overall. Nugent also anchored the Ghosts' 4x100 relay team that won the state title in record time.
Spring Gamble, Girls High
Gamble won the District 12 Class AAA title by about three feet with a throw of 41 feet, 8 inches, a mark that would have earned her the District 1 crown by more than a foot. In late March, at the Brother Jerome Benway Memorial Invitational, she notched the state's sixth-best overall mark of the year, 41-11. Gamble capped the season with a fifth place at states. The senior will compete at Division II Bloomsburg next season.
Mercedes Vaughn, Academy Park
After placing second at the District 1 Class AAA championships - two inches short of the winning throw of 118 feet, 4 inches by Unionville's Susan Pancoast - the senior earned a silver medal at the state meet with a mark of 130-10. She outthrew not only Pancoast but also Cardinal O'Hara's Anna McCloskey, who had won the District 12 Class AAA crown.
Mel Leszcynski, Methacton
Leszcynski, a senior and Penn State recruit, nabbed the District 1 title with a throw of 129 feet, 1 inch. At the state meet, she fell seven inches short of a medal. She also was the Pioneer Athletic Conference champion, going 125-4. Her finish at the state meet, ninth place, was the highest of any area girls' javelin thrower.
Haley Gorenflo, Plymouth Whitemarsh
The junior won the District 1 Class AAA title with a personal-best vault of 11 feet, 6 inches to edge Villa Maria's Grace Giampetro. Gorenflo also won her third consecutive Suburban One American pole-vault title, and had four other first-place finishes at local meets: Lower Merion Invitational, Plymouth Whitemarsh's Colonial Classic and Colonial Relays, and the Pennsylvania Track Classic.
Anne Holland, Pennridge
Though Holland arrived at the PIAA championships as the defending AAA high-jump champ, it wasn't easy for the senior to repeat. Her main competition: Ambridge's India McCoy, who, at the District 7 championships, had leaped a state-best 5 feet, 9 inches. Holland proved up to the task. The Penn recruit equaled McCoy in the finals, jumping 5-7, but took fewer attempts to clear the threshold, giving her the tiebreaker and a second consecutive state title. It was the third-highest jump in the state this year. Holland had jumped that same distance to win the District 1 title a week prior.
Jordan Matthews, Abington
Matthews' career is following a path similar to that of teammate Leah Nugent. After winning a PIAA Class AAA state title in the long jump as a sophomore, Matthews failed to repeat as a junior, instead placing second - just as Nugent had done in the 300 hurdles in 2010. She was still the District 1 champion and turned in the state's longest jump of the year, 19 feet, 1 inch, at the Montgomery Memorial Meet. As a senior, Matthews will hope to follow the script that Nugent authored this year: claim her second state championship.
Gabby Becattini, Methacton
Becattini, a senior and St. Joseph's recruit, jumped what was then the state's longest distance - 38 feet, 71/4 inches - to win the District 1 Class AAA title. The mark ended the year as the state's second-best performance. She was also the Pioneer Athletic Conference champion, and the indoor state champ, in the event. But she did not compete in the outdoor state meet because of school disciplinary reasons, said Methacton coach Rob Ronzano, who did not elaborate.
Norristown (Ciara Heath, Rowanna Watson, Alexis Bell, Zayna Milligan)
Talk about a surprise. With a team that featured three sophomores - Heath is a senior - this relay dominated competition this season. First, the four claimed the tristate championship at the Penn Relays in 48.24 seconds. Then they took the District 1 Class AAA title in 47.63. To top it all off, they went to the state meet at Shippensburg University and ran the fastest race in the state this season, taking home the gold medal in 47.13. In returning three of the four legs of this relay, Norristown could well repeat the feats next year.
Abington (Rachel Strother, Jordan Matthews, Nicole Grasty, Leah Nugent)
Abington sprint coach Karl Gaines called it icing on the cake. Over the last year, this 4x400 relay has been unbeatable in Pennsylvania. First, the four won the indoor state title this past winter. Then they went to the Penn Relays and won the Philadelphia Area title by more than seven seconds, in 3 minutes, 47.16 seconds. They ventured to the District 1 Class AAA championships and edged Central Bucks West, helping the Ghosts win the team title. Then, that icing: a record-breaking, state-title-winning race of 3:46.20 at the PIAA championships. Matthews and Strother will return to the relay as seniors next year.
West Chester Henderson (Janie Augustyn, Michelle Tracy, Suzanne Sanders, Natalie Deacon)
This Warriors quartet ran the race of the year at the PIAA championships. In winning the gold medal, Henderson not only beat a talented Strath Haven relay but also won a state championship, broke the PIAA record, and ran the fastest 4x800 time of any high school team in the country this season, 8 minutes, 55.43 seconds. Only one other team in the nation has come within four seconds of that time this year. The previous PIAA record was 8:58.43 and had stood since 1982. The Warriors also won the District 1 Class AAA title. Sanders is the lone senior.