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Avon Grove’s O’Connor, Rustin’s Alexander lead flock of Chesco athletes who soar at states

Avon Grove’s Molly O’Connor finished second at states on Saturday in the 100 meter dash. (Pete Bannan — MNG FILE)

Ava Alexander of West Chester Rustin won gold in the triple jump at states on Saturday. (PETE BANNAN – MNG FILE)

Although the weather was cold and wet at the PIAA Class 3A Track & Field Championships Saturday at Shippensburg University, some of Chester County’s athletes felt a particularly warm glow when it was over.

For Avon Grove senior Molly O’Connor, it was a memorable day. O’Connor finished second in the girls 100 meter dash, with a PR clocking of 12.09, and placed third in the girls 200 meter dash (25.01), breaking her own school record time.

This was O’Connor’s first time at States, after missing qualifying as a sophomore in the 200 by just two places.

“It was cold and misty today, which I like – I’d rather it be cold than hot,” said O’Connor. “It feels awesome to finish second in the 100 at States after being ranked eighth, and breaking my school record in the 200. I’ve never been more proud.”

O’Connor, who will run track for College of the Holy Cross, is the daughter of Avon Grove girls basketball head coach Bart O’Connor.

“Molly is one of the easiest athletes I’ve ever had to coach,” said Avon Grove track coach Eric Broadbent. “What separates her from a lot of other talented individuals is all of the little things she does that often go unnoticed. She eats right, gets good sleep, keeps relaxed and even has a smile on her face before big races. She is also very receptive to feedback and motivated to be the best version of herself without comparing herself to others. She’s just an amazing person.”

Another Chesco girl who shone brightly Saturday was West Chester Rustin sophomore Ava Alexander, who finished first in the girls triple jump with a mark of 38-09, ahead of runner-up Shannon Mullin of State College (38-01.25).

One week earlier, Alexander placed first at the District 1 3A track & field championships with a mark of 38-11.25. The sophomore was on fire in the weeks leading up to Districts, leaping 37-11.5, 38-7.5 and 38-11.25 in successive meets.

Alexander also finished 15th in the girls long jump at States (16-09.50), and helped the Golden Knights finish seventh in the girls 4×100 relay at Shippensburg.

Two Chesco runners achieved second-place finishes in the distance runs at States Saturday. West Chester Henderson junior Jenna Mulhern finished second in the girls 3200 meter run (10:31.85) to Moon Area junior Mia Cochran (10.20.04). Downingtown West senior Declan Rymer finished second in the boys 1600 meter run (4:09.62), behind champion Gary Martin of Archbishop Wood (4:08.67).

Mulhern said, “Pennsylvania is an extremely competitive state so I am grateful to have come away with a second place finish against a lot of very talented athletes, although I did not have my best performance today. The conditions were pretty rough. It was cold,rainy, and windy. I was far off of my best time so I was a little disappointed.

“I was super excited that my team qualified in the 4×800 meter relay so I was able to compete with my team. They all ran so well and it was fun to be in my first states relay race.

“Overall, I was so happy to just be racing at states after having the entire season canceled last spring. I’ve definitely learned to not take these experiences for granted after everything that has taken place over the last year.”

Downingtown West senior Aiden Barnhill, the Daily Local News 2020 Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, finished third in the boys 3200 meter run (8:59.57) Saturday. The first-place finisher was Archbishop Wood junior Gary Martin (8:54.57) and Weber Long of Greencastle placed second.

“I feel good about my performance today,” said Barnhill. “I think Martin and Long had really good races today. They are tough guys to beat and Pennsylvania’s depth this year is crazy, so it feels great to get third in such a stacked field. I was happy with my time of 8:59.57, especially because it was cold and rainy.

“It’s always special to break 9:00 at the state meet, and in most years I’d probably place better, but it’s super great to have a field like that. Especially Devin Comber [who was fourth] because we’ve always had some great races on the district and state level. I’m just excited to start training again and push myself even more than I have and really get to that next level.”


Other performances by Chester County athletes at the PIAA 3A track & field state meet were as follows:

Coatesville tied for 13th place in the boys’ team competition, and had a couple of fine performances in the boys’ relays.

“Our coaching staff is so happy about our performances this weekend,” said Coatesville boys track coach Damien Henry. “All the practices and hard work since November of 2020 paid off today.”

Red Raider junior Lebron Bessick, who finished third in the boys’ 200 meter dash with a clocking of 21.68, was part of two Coatesville relay squads that placed in the top six.

The Red Raiders finished third in the boys 4×100 relay (42.68), with a quartet of freshman Amir Haskett, junior Bryan Lacey, senior Abdul Stewart and Bessick.

Coatesville finished sixth in the boys 4×400 relay (3:24.69), with a quartet of junior Dave Kelly, senior Justin Reed, Bessick and Stewart.

Coatesville junior Rhyel Miles-Eubanks finished 11th in the boys javelin throw, and Red Raider junior Lorelei Eberly finished 21st in the girls long jump (15-09.75).

Unionville had a couple of top-four finishes in the pole vault events. Senior Meghan Hart finished third in the girls pole vault with a mark of 12-0, and senior Jack Miles placed fourth in the boys pole vault (15-0).

Longhorn senior Ethan McIntyre placed sixth in the boys 1600 meter run (4:20.15); junior Alex Pancoast placed eighth (37-10.50) in the girls shot put; and senior Sam Elsen finished 16th in the boys 800 meter run (1:58.03).

West Chester Rustin tied for eighth in the girls’ team competition, led by Ava Alexander’s first-place finish in the girls triple jump. Sophomore Ellie Keefer finished fifth in the girls 3200 meter run (10:53.86), and Rustin finished seventh in the girls 4×100 (49.64), with a quartet of Alexander, sophomore Kayla Stephney, freshman Amelia Foore and sophomore Sidney Sagullo.

Rustin senior Sofia Piccone finished 12th in the girls 1600 meter run (5:08.30).

The Golden Knights had some fine finishes among the boys, too. Senior Drew Gallen, who tore his ACL during football season last fall, finished seventh in the boys 100 meter dash (10.96) Saturday at States. Golden Knight senior John Shallo placed sixth in the boys shot put, with a mark of 52.08.50 and junior Dayshawn Jacobs placed 19th in the boys long jump (20-02.75).

Villa Maria Academy seniors Emma Woodcock and Norah Bice each placed in the top eight in the girls discus throw. Wood cock was fourth (130-07) and Bice placed eighth (120-02). Bice also finished 10th in the girls javelin throw (118-07).

VMA senior Allyson Metzgar finished seventh in the girls long jump (17-02.25), and freshman Maddy Kelley tied for ninth place in the girls pole vault (11-00).

Conestoga senior Benjamin Horner placed seventh in the boys 800 meter run (1:55.95), and the Pioneers finished ninth in the girls 4×800 relay (9:44.07), with a quartet of junior Molly Ryle, junior Karis Blagden, senior Carly Hynd and junior Abigail Klebe.

Pioneer junior Vicente Pena placed 13th in the boys 3200 meter run (9:33.29), and senior Charlie Miller was 16th (9:35.47).

Kennett sophomore Kirstin Hoffman placed fourth in the girls’ pole vault, with a mark of 12-0, and Blue Demon senior Gavin Maxwell finished 13th in the boys 1600 meter run (4:25.29).

Downingtown West finished tied for 13th in the boys’ team competition. D-West senior Holden Betz placed eighth in the boys 1600 meter run (4:20.55), Whippet junior Elijah Ford finished 12th in the boys 400 meter run (50.07) and the Downingtown West boys 4×100 relay of four juniors – Jacob Dixon, Ford, Deonsa Dorsey and John Barry – finished 13th (44.00).

For the D-West girls, senior Maya Tucker finished eighth in the girls 100 meter run (12.55), and sophomore Carolyn Tarpley finished 17th in the girls 3200 meter run (11:17.41).

West Chester Henderson finished 10th in the girls 4×800 relay (9:44.45), with a foursome of junior Jenna Mulhern, senior Lauren Franco, sophomore Weronica Ziemniak and senior Liesl Scherrer.

Henderson sophomore Preston Lubeski placed 16th in the boys 400 meter run (50.90), and Warrior sophomore Ramsey Tarazi was 20th in the boys discus throw (128-00).

Downingtown East junior Caiden Leen finished 10th in the boys 1600 meter run (4:21.09), and Cougar junior Brendan Flynn placed 25th in the boys 3200 meter run (9:49.38).

Avon Grove finished 16th in the girls 4×100 relay (50.40), with a quartet of senior Kaylin Cousin, freshman Eden Veenema, senior Molly O’Connor and junior Payton Smith.

The Red Devils also placed 16th in the boys 4×100 relay (44.11), with a foursome of junior Avinabo Poddar, senior Connor Ruark, senior Daniel Kozel and freshman Connor Carroll.

Great Valley senior Siena Vestri placed 14th in the girls discus throw (106-00).

West Chester East’s Chinonye Moneme finished ninth in the girls 100 meter run (12.54) and WCE junior Sonia Piombino placed 18th in the girls 3200 meter run (11:17.69).



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