TRACK & FIELD: Dallas Girls Maintain Winning Tradition

May 11, 2019

There’s a quote for whatever situation Dallas track & field finds itself in.

Coach Ed Radzinski has made it tradition to hand out quote sheets to his athletes before meets. They’re always relatable in some way or another, like a recent one that mentioned wind before a gusty meet at Berwick.

They might draw laughter or serve as inspiration. Either way, members of the Mountaineers’ girls team say they’re memorable enough to save them afterwards.

“There was one quote, I think it was, ‘If the key to success is hard work, most people would rather pick the lock,’” sophomore Shelby Pocono recited off the top of her head at a practice Wednesday.

With the way the 2019 season has been going for Dallas’ girls, Radzinski might find himself digging up lines from championship speeches soon.

The Mountaineers’ girls team once again beat the rest of its Wyoming Valley Conference competition.

Now, a handful of athletes have their eyes on District 2 gold at Tuesday’s Class 3A state-qualifying meet.

“I think even at districts last year when we got second (in the 4x100 relay), we were upset with it,” junior Ali Francis said. “Through the whole offseason, we were thinking about getting first this year.”

This could have easily been a rebuilding year for Dallas. The team lost 300 hurdles champion and 100 hurdles finalist Abby Zolner, 100 bronze medalist and 4x100 anchor Samantha Mazula, discus bronze medalist Alicia Langan and other key competitors.

Plenty of young talent returned this spring, but so did only one senior.

Instead of falling back, though, Dallas’ girls repeated as the WVC’s unbeaten Division 1 champions. It was the Mounts’ ninth league title in the past 12 years and the eighth undefeated season in that span. They’ve been nearly untouchable the last five seasons, only losing a pair of league meets (both in 2017).

That winning tradition has given the Mounts valuable confidence despite their age.

Pocono, one of the WVC’s better hurdlers all season, said she learned from having Zolner in her events in 2018. The other three legs of the 4x100 relay brought back the camaraderie of running hard for each other. Claudia Carver bought into a suggestion to try out the 800 mid-season, and she’s seen the seconds melt off her time in the event.

“I feel like I have more endurance than speed, so a longer race is just better for me,” said Carver, who started out in the 400. “I really want to place in (the 800), and I think I might be able to.”

Radzinski’s motivational tactics at practices and meets only add fuel to their fire.

“It really makes us want to try harder and just make him proud,” Bella Hill said.

“He’s always yelling at me, and then he sprints over here,” Church said near the 100 meters starting line. “In my head, I’m like, ‘I’m doing it for coach Rad.’ Even out loud in my relay, I was like, ‘Rad, Rad.’ He keeps us going.”

The pieces all fell into place for the Mountaineers, who have turned their success into high seeds across the board at districts. They’ll be a team to watch as overall scores begin to add up.

Church has a shot to run in the district finals of the 100; her 12.84 seed time is eighth-best in Class 3A. Even better, she’s one of four entries to crack the 1-minute mark in the 400 this season (she’s third-best at 59.27).

Church, Francis and Hill all have the 200 finals in their sights, too. Church’s 26.06-second best puts her second in the preliminaries. Francis (26.54) is fourth, and Hill is sixth (26.74).

Hill, Celia Reabuck, Francis and Church combine to make Dallas one of three 4x100 relays that shouldn’t surprise anyone with a first-place finish. They set a Mountaineers record this year and might be part of a thrilling finish as the third seed (50.14) alongside Scranton (49.90) and Pittston Area (50.27).

“Beating our school record has really set a standard for us,” Church said. “I feel like we are the strongest 4-by-1 team, not only with our strength and our speed. But also as a group of girls, we’re such great friends.”

The Mountaineers will also be dangerous in the 4x400, where Francis, HIll, Calli Ogurkis, Church, Pocono and Carver are options on a team fourth at 4:12.84, three-plus seconds off Pittston Area’s top mark.

Other top district competitors include Olivia Maniskas, who has cleared 5 feet in the high jump and is three inches short of state qualification; Melissa Leonard, ninth in the 800 (2:28.93) but three seconds from fourth; and Kaitlyn Hodakowski, the fifth seed and WVC’s second-fastest 3200 runner (12:11.88).

Any of those key performers can keep another impressive run going for Dallas.

At least one Mountaineer girl has qualified for states at five of the last six District 2 championship meets. The team’s also had a D2 champion in four of the last five years, including three in 2015 (Lindsey Oremus in the 1600, Ally Rome in the 3200, Katie Kravitsky in the high jump).

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