They worked so hard to get to the top last season.
All for the right to wear a bull’s-eye on their backs this year.
Now that Wyoming Area is done with the difficult feat of winning a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2 championship in both boys and girls track and field in the same season, the Warriors may have an even greater task trying to defend those titles.
Because opposing teams will be trying to close the gap fast.
“We’re just going to have to keep getting better and better,” said Vanessa Shedlock, a senior returner to Wyoming Area’s state-qualifying 400-meter relay team. “Practice makes perfect, right?”
Both Wyoming Area teams ran through a perfect regular season in 2015, finishing 7-0 to double up on league titles for the first time in Joe Pizano’s 18 years of coaching the Warriors.
“It was one thing to win the conference,” said Wyoming Area boys sprinter Michael Murphy. “It was just incredible to go undefeated.”
The Wyoming Area girls were even more amazing, winning the league championship for the first time in at least two decades.
“It was a very big accomplishment for all of us,” said senior sprinter Bree Bednarski, also a member of the state 400 relay. “I really hope we can accomplish that again this year.”
It won’t be easy — for either Wyoming Area squad.
In the boys division, Meyers is charging hard behind state runner-up hurdler Raheem Twyman, who joins Mark Robinson to bring back half of the state championship 400-meter relay team. Lake-Lehman returns two-time defending state champion Dominic Hockenbury in the 3,200-meter run. And Hanover Area picked up premier point machine Muhammad Chesson as a sprinter and jumper who led Coughlin to the WVC Division 1 title as a sophomore last season before moving.
“I think the target on our backs will just motivate us to make everything better,” said Ryan Murphy, Michael’s brother who is also a sprinter. “I think we can do it. I don’t see why not.”
On the girls side, Lake-Lehman’s still stinging after finishing 6-1 and in second place last season. The Black Knights bring back state medalist Emily Johns in the discus and shot put, have speed in the sprints and feature mid distance phenom Jade Fry. Holy Redeemer, which lost a league meet for the first time since 2010 last season, comes back loaded with firepower — starting with state bronze medalist Caroline Banas in the high jump. And Hanover Area is looking to make a leap behind star junior jumpers Gillian Barber and Khabriyah Moore.
They’ll all be chasing the defending champs, which means the road to a league title may run through Wyoming Area again on both sides of the track as the Warriors set their sights on postseason success.
“I don’t think other schools put a target on your back,” Pizano said. “I’m not sure, in track and field, if that’s how schools look at it. We don’t go into it saying we’re going to win the division. Our goal is to get kids to districts and also have them make it to states.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski